Over the past several years, our team of teachers has been on a journey to find more equitable ways to assess our students and to help make meaning of students’ grades. In addition, we have been motivated to find ways to help students focus less on grades and more on their learning. After participating in some trainings with Starr Sackstein and Constance Boro, learning more about the ways in which teachers were going gradeless in a traditional grades school, and reading about ungrading and the history of our traditional grading system, we were inspired to create our own Feedback First approach.

Feedback First is grounded in the notion that students can grow as learners when they take ownership for their learning by engaging with feedback and using it to identify areas of strength and growth. They can therefore target their studying in the areas where they need the most focus. Students don’t need to keep practicing things they are already good at, but should instead focus on learning from mistakes and improving their understanding over time.

Feedback First honors the fact that students all learn at different rates. Not everyone understands things the first time. Some students need multiple opportunities to show what they know and can do. This approach allows for that growth and also encourages consistency from students who demonstrate competency earlier in the term.


Feedback First promotes a greater sense of agency in our students. The process places less emphasis on any one assessment, encourages more ownership for student learning, and establishes clear standards for how students can improve. The approach utilizes a process of reflection and revision to improve understanding and identify areas for continued growth and improvement.


Adapting to a rubric-based and goals-based system of feedback and assessment is a challenge for some students who are used to a more traditional points-based grading system. The Feedback First approach is also dependent on students engaging in the reflection and revision process authentically.

Feedback First allowed me to learn from my mistakes and understand the best way I learn.
Andover math student

Takeaways & Best Practices

Students report that not having numerical grades allows them to prioritize understanding of content rather than focusing solely on grades.

Feedback First encourages more self-aware learners. Rubric-based feedback helps students understand what competencies they need in order to be successful in their learning journey.

The process goals emphasize skills that are transferable to other courses and disciplines.

Bottom Line

Feedback First helps students identify topics of growth on their own, enriches students with a sense of agency over their learning, and reduces stress related to grades.

I no longer feel pressured to understand something in time for an exam and am able to take my time and be patient with myself.
Andover math student

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