Pass/Fail Grading and Educational Practices in Computer Science

  • Torstein J. F. Strømme


Binary (pass/fail) grading have been shown to have benefits with respect to mental health and collaboration, and is argued to promote a deep approach to learning. However, diverging results with respect to academic achievement suggests that the full benefits of binary grading are contingent on underlying factors, such as how the teaching and learning activities in the course are designed. We here present experiences and student feedback for an intermediate level course in computer science that is graded using pass/fail, and which is highly successful both in terms of of student enjoyment and academic achievement. Survey results also indicate that students apply a deeper learning approach towards the course than average. Drawing on examples and findings from this course, we argue that the following three practices makes a binary graded course in computer science successful: a) a sufficiently high bar for passing, b) clear course requirements, and c) the use of formative assessment.

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