“Grading and GPA at Middlebury over these years has snuffed out so much of my authentic interests and my genuine desire to learn that inspired me to go to college. Instead I’ve become significantly more anxious and depressed, I experience at times crippling imposter syndrome and insecurity, and I’m not sure I’m proud of much of anything I’ve done over these four years.” – Anonymous student response from survey

When the pandemic struck in the Spring of my first year at Middlebury, I never could have predicted that classes would be conducted remotely for nearly half of my time at college. Like many other students and teachers, I began to question the value of a Middlebury education, especially once I had lost all of the in-person experiences that brought me to this college in the first place. I became increasingly frustrated with zoom classes but was confident that once in-person classes returned, my love for school would too. Fast forward to the Spring of last year, when we were finally able to attend some classes in person. That love and passion for school that I once had was completely absent. In fact, I had never felt more dissatisfied with my education. I did the bare minimum in nearly every class, but knew exactly what to do to get an A. I rarely cared about any of the course material, but I knew what to say to make it seem like I was interested. I came to college with the skills I needed to cheat the system – to come out “on top” despite doing significantly less work than those on the bottom. And finally, I had caught myself. In an effort to make a change, I wrote down all of the classes that I had taken that made me feel motivated and inspired. What was the common factor between these classes? It wasn’t the course material or subject matter, nor the professor, nor the modality. It was the grading model. Each one of these classes took a non-traditional approach to grading, one that made me inspired to learn, to engage with my peers, to take feedback to heart, and to trust my professor.

I approached Dr. Giaimo, a highly respected professor and proponent of alternative grading models, to start this project in an effort to prove that I’m not alone in this experience. We embarked on a mission to gain a clearer understanding of student and faculty perceptions about learning, grading, and academic wellness. Our findings will allow us to share suggestions for student and faculty support and mentorship, as well as to develop interventions with meaningful learning experiences.

Emily Jones (’23)


For questions about our guide, please contact Emily Jones <ekjones@middlebury.edu> and Dr. Genie Giaimo <ggiaimo@middlebury.edu>.