Grade Descriptors for the Assessment of Key Learning Outcomes


The University has agreed to the following general descriptors for student achievement for the key course-grade bands (A, B, C, and D). These grade descriptors are designed so that both students and faculty can share an understanding of what is necessary to achieve the grade.

The development of grade descriptors reflects the move from norm-referencing, where students are graded with reference to their peers, to criterion-referencing, where student performance is evaluated against the achievement of learning outcomes.

It is not expected that all potential learning outcomes covered by the descriptors will be achieved or assessed in particular courses. Staff will need to consider what weighting across the range of potential outcomes is appropriate for their own course assessments.

Key Learning





Understanding and demonstrating subject knowledge

Comprehensive grasp of the subject matter; study beyond core requirements

Good knowledge and understanding of the main subject matter

Adequate knowledge and understanding of core subject matter

Threshold knowledge of core subject matter

Applying concepts and knowledge– Defining and solving problems; Competence in discipline-specific skills/ skills for professional practice

Expertise in problem solving and skills for professional practice

Competence in problem solving and skills for professional practice

Competence in dealing with familiar, well-defined problems; adequate skills for professional practice

Threshold ability to deal with familiar, well-defined problems; potential to achieve key professional skills

Demonstration of higher cognitive skills– Creativity; Analysis and synthesis; Making comparisons, judgments and evaluations

Demonstrated creativity and significantly high ability to think critically in analyzing and evaluating issues

Demonstrated capacity for analyzing and evaluating issues; makes well-grounded judgments

Some capacity for analysis, critical thinking, and making judgments in familiar situations

Ability to make basic comparisons, connections, and judgments, but work is generally descriptive and reproduces content

Ability to learn– Setting goals; Motivation, reflection and accountability; Aptitude for working with others on learning goals

Demonstrated capacity for scholarship and cooperation with others to achieve goals

High motivation to learn, persistent effort, and an ability to work with others

Evidence of persistence and effort to achieve broadly defined learning goals

Has benefited from the course and has the potential to develop in the discipline