An Argument-Based Approach to the Validity of Interpretation and Use of Chinese High School Students' Grades across Educational Contexts

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Authors
Yan, Wei
Keyword
validity , grading , grades , admission , Chinese students
Abstract
Driven by the recent trend towards globalization and internationalization, grades are not only used locally where they are constructed, but also internationally for high-stakes admission decision-making into tertiary institutions. This dissertation investigates the validity of the interpretation and use of Chinese high school students’ grades for admission into Canadian universities. Inspired by the argument-based approaches to validity (e.g., Kane, 2006, 2013), the structure of validity argument is adopted as a means to systematically collect evidence, coherently analyze evidence, and present an evaluative judgment. Theoretically guided by grading frameworks from McMillan (2003) and Kunnath (2017), I propose a validity framework for grade interpretation and use to guide the research design of this dissertation. Three interrelated studies on Chinese high school grades are designed to collect various validity evidence, and these studies are written as individual manuscripts. The first study uses document analysis to explore the embedded values in documents that potentially influence Chinese high school teachers’ grading practices. The second study adopts a questionnaire to examine how local stakeholders, including teachers, students, and parents, interpret and use Chinese high school students’ grades. The third study adopts semi-structured interviews to understand Canadian university admission decision-makers’ interpretation and use of Chinese high school students’ grades. After a synthesis of the validity evidence collected in the three studies, I believe that overall, the interpretation and use of Chinese high school students’ grades for admission into Canadian universities seems reasonable and appropriate. The conceptualizations of Chinese high school students’ grades by both local stakeholders in China and admission decision-makers in Canada are largely aligned. Admission decision-makers employ various strategies in their use of grades to compensate for the misalignment of interpretation and improve the validity of grade interpretation and use. This dissertation responds to Brookhart’s (2013a) call for theoretically grounded grading research on the meaning and usefulness of grades and extends the validity argument for grade interpretation and use to a cross-cultural level. The research also contributes to the improvement of Chinese high school teachers’ grading practices and helps admission decision-makers in Canadian universities better understand Chinese high school students’ grades.
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