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Context: University studies in Norway, master level, to become a teacher at either primary education (barneskole, classes 1-7) or mostly middle school level (ungdomsskole, classes 8-10 and pupils of age about 13-16, but can also teach classes 5-7 from barneskole). I am interested in the first couple of years of mathematics education courses.

The law allows giving the students either letter grades, which amount to numbers 1-5 but use letters for whatever reason, or simple pass/fail as grades.

The contents of the courses are a mix of fairly simple mathematics and a fairly big dose of didactics. Exams are sometimes written, sometimes oral.

What are the effects of having pass/fail or more explicit grades on student learning, stress levels, etc.? My intuition suggests that grades encourage towards short-term instrumental learning to get a good grade and increase stress and anxiety related to the exams, so I would be inclined to think that pass/fail would give more room for learning to master the subject matter and maybe reduce the negative emotional effects of having exams by a bit. But maybe there are studies in a context similar to this, so I don't have to trust my intuition only.

This potentially related question seems to happen in a different context and discusses things like graded homework, which we do not have in any case: Would it make sense for math courses to be pass/fail?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure who "we" is in your last sentence. I'm curious where you are. Norway? Or somewhere else? I doubt that grades vs pass/fail can be compared across cultures, when so much else is so very different. I don't know about Norway, but I've read a lot about Finland's education system, and how respected teachers are there. That would make it hard to compare with the U.S. for example (where I am). $\endgroup$
    – Sue VanHattum
    Sep 6 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ @SueVanHattum Norway is where I am and what I am interested in. $\endgroup$
    – Tommi
    Sep 6 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ When I was in college, pass/fail were used for less important courses, on the other hand passing all of them was a prerequisite to be able to take exams on ANY numerically graded courses. Meaning, if you have a single fail, you are screwed. So much for a positive emotional effect. $\endgroup$
    – Rusty Core
    Sep 6 at 18:34
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Some papers you might be interested in:

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