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Ungrading

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Separating grades (values, numbers, percentages, levels, letters) from feedback (verbal or written comments, directions on where to improve, outlining strengths, suggestions for next steps) is the first step in ‘ungrading’ your course. Ungrading meaning rethinking the way we are putting values on student learning and critically reflecting on what grades are doing to student learning – are they helping? are they fostering the right context and culture of growth and development?

Once you see this separation and understand how grades (putting a value on learning) doesn’t aid in the learning process, ungrading practices and pedagogies will become more clear.

Ungrading: Separating Grades from Feedback – PDF Handout
This handout provides ideas on how to separate grades from feedback and build more student reflection, metacognition and ongoing feedback into the student learning experience.

An Alternative Grading GlossaryLink

The following is a curated collection of readings, blogs, books, research articles and other writings that explore what ungrading means from various viewpoints and disciplines and how it can be applied in the post-secondary classroom (and still give a letter or number for student transcripts!)

Research Articles

For more research see the references section in the three books written on this topic and shown above and listed below in the next section.

  • Chamberlin, K., Yasué, M. & Chiang, I. A. (2018). The Impact of Grades on Student Motivation. Active Learning in Higher Education pp. 1-16. DOI: 10.1177/1469787418819728 (not freely available online, through libraries)
  • Guberman, Daniel. 2021. Student Perceptions of an Online Ungraded Course. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 9 (1):86-98. | PDF
  • Rojstaczer, S. & Healy, C. (2012). Where A is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading, 1940-2009. Teachers College Record, 114. Available: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/016146811211400707
  • Schinske, J. & Tanner, K. (2014). Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently). CBE Life Sciences Education, Vol 13, 159-166, Summer 2014 | Webpage or PDF
  • Williams, H. (2020). Will Students Engage If There are No Grades? A Review of the Evidence, and an Experiment in Ungrading | ResearchGate Conference Paper – Full-Text

 

Blog POsts, Books, Articles and Helpful Resources
  • Teachers Going Gradeless – Blog, Interviews etc. | Website
  • ATI Open Education Webinar Series (2019-2020). Ungrading: Pedagogical Possibilities | Slidedeck PDF
  • BCcampus (2022) Ungrading: Unpacked – Video Recording and Summary of a BCcampus Session – Link
  • Blum. S. (2020). Ed. Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to do Instead)?| Forward by Alfie Kohn | Book from West Virginia Press
  • Buck, D. (n.d.). Crowdsourcing Ungrading produced by the #UNgrading Virtual Book Club | Open Book
  • Burtis, M. (2019). Ungrading: a chapbook (quotes from people about ungrading) | Website
  • Clark, D. & Talbert, R. (2023). Grading for Growth. Stylus Publishing. Announcement
  • Eyler, J. (March 7 2022). Grades are at the centre of the student mental health crisis | Inside Higher Ed Article
  • Flaherty, C. (2019). When Grading Less is More | Inside Higher Ed Web Article
  • Jarvis, C. L. (April 26, 2020). Chemistry educators try ‘ungrading’ techniques to help students learn. | Article on Chemical and Engineering News
  • Gannon, K. (2017). How to Escape Grading Jail. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Webpage
  • Human Restoration Project (2018). Grading =/ Assessment: A Collection of Gradeless, Scoreless, Assessment Techniques | PDF
  • Human Restoration Project (n.d.). Ungrading Handbook (fillable handbook to guide work on ungrading) | PDF
  • Kohn, A. (2011). The Case Against Grades. | Blog Post. An expanded version of article in Educational Leadership.
  • Oregon State University – ECampus Course Development & Training (2022). Assessment Design Considerations for Ungrading | Blog Part 1Blog Part 2 (Strategies)
  • Stommel, J. (2023). Undoing the Grade: Why We Grade, and How to Stop. Hybrid Pedagogy Inc., Denver, CO. Overview Post and Open Version
  • Toor, R. (April 26, 2021). The Controversial but Useful Practice of “Ungrading” in Teaching Writing | Chronicle of Higher Education Article
  • Whysel, B. (December 7, 2022). Can we Improve Grading by Collaborating with Students? | Faculty Focus Article

Ungrading Slow Chat (on Twitter)
A slow chat happens on X platform over a period of time rather than at a specific time and place. Check out the Ungrading Slow Chat questions or check out the X responses via the hashtag.

 

Instructors Who Have Ungraded

Many instructors have completely switched to ungrading/unmarking their classes. These are just a few of the stories of those who have written about it. They come from all disciplines and most often with some length of time in the classroom (doing grading for decades) and make the switch forever. Check out their stories.

  • Black, Heather Mitchell (April 14, 2019). Adventures in Ungrading | Blog post (English and digital learning instructor)
  • Cangialosi, K. (January 29, 2020). A Special Kind of Hell | Blog Post (Biology instructor)
  • Cheney, M. (December 20, 2018). Pass No Pass | Blog post (Interdisciplinary studies instructor)
  • Cordell, R. (December 7, 2019). How I Contract Grade | Blog Post (English instructor)
  • Hurley, J. (2018). Is Throwing out Grades too Idealistic? | Blog Post (Composition, literature and critical thinking instructor)
  • Johanesen, K. (2021). Feedback rather than ranking: how to start ungrading in order to improve learning. Times Higher Education (geology instructor)
  • Morris, S. M. (June 9, 2021). When we Talk About Grades, We Are Talking About PeopleBlog Post (English, digital pedagogies instructor)
  • Rosenblatt, A. (March 26, 2020). Committing to ungrading, in an emergency and after | Duke Chronicle Guest Article (International comparative studies)
  • Skimore, J. (November 20, 2020). Ungrading. | Blog Post (German instructor)
  • Talbert, R. (2021). Grading and assessment | Personal Site (Math instructor) Into the Ungrading Universe | Blog Post
  • Talbert, R. (April 27, 2022). What I’ve Learned from Ungrading | Article Insider Higher Education
  • Thomas, P.L., (2016). Not How to Enjoy Grading But Why to Stop Grading | Blog Post (Education instructor)
  • Zeller, J. (August 16, 2020). Pedagogy for End Times: Ungrading and the Importance of Arson | Blog Post (Dance instructor)

 

Maha Bali

Maha is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Learning & Teaching at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. She is a full-time faculty developer and educator teaching digital literacies and intercultural learning.

  • Bali, M. et. al. (January 5, 2021) Alternative Approaches to Grading | Video
  • Bali, M. (March 23, 2019). Reflections on Ungrading for the Fourth Time | Blog post
  • Bali, M. (March 20, 2018). Ungrading My Class – Reflections on a Second Iteration | Chronicle of Higher Education Article

 

Susan Blum

Susan is a professor of anthropology at University of Notre Dame. She’s been teaching college students for over 30 years and for much of that time she was a conventional grader. Since around 2106 she has given up grading except for handing in grades at the end of term.

  • Blum. S. (December, 2020). Ed. Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to do Instead)?| Forward by Alfie Kohn | Book from West Virginia Press
  • Blum story within article by Supiano, B. ( July 19, 2019). Grades Can Hinder Learning. What Should Professors Use Instead? | Web Page
  • Blum, S. (November 14, 2017). Ungrading: The significant learning benefits of getting rid of grades. Inside Higher Ed. | Web Page
  • Blum, S. (December 20, 2016). Living and Learning with Risk: Against Rubrics and Grades. How “Ungrading” Allowed my Students to Try Some New Things | Blog post

 

Cate Denial

Cate Denial is the Bright Distinguished Professor of American History, Chair of the History department, and Director of the Bright Institute at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.

  • Denial, C. (November 9, 2020). Ungrading in a Pandemic | Blog Post
  • Denial, C. (December 11, 2019). More Thoughts About Grades | Blog Post
  • Denial, C. (October 16, 2017). Making the Grade | Blog Post

 

Laura Gibbs 

Laura is an instructor at the University of Oklahoma where she joined in 1999. She’s been teaching fully online courses since 2002. She teaches general education courses in the humanities.

  • Gibbs, L. (2020). Getting Rid of Grades | Book chapter in “Ungrading Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead)”  | Blog Post
  • Gibbs, L. (2016). (Un) Grading: It can be done in college | Guest post on Education Week Teacher | Blog Post
  • Gibbs, L. (2016). Teaching: Ungrading for More Feedback. Personal Blog Post found on site Anatomy of an Online Course | Blog Post

 

Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh

Since 2002, Clarissa has been a full-time chemistry instructor at Central New Mexico Community College. In her classes she uses ungrading, blogs and encourages open and engaged pedagogies. The story of all of her ungrading experiences are found on her main blog website at: https://clarissasorensenunruh.com/ungrading/

  • Sorensen-Unruh, C. (January 14, 2020). Ungrading: What is it and why should we use it | Blog post on ChemEd XChange
  • Sorensen-Unruh, C. (January 3, 2020). Ungrading: Prototype II (General Chemistry II) | Blog Post
  • Sorensen-Unruh, C. (Feburary 10, 2019). Ungrading: A Series (Part 1) | Blog Post

 

Jesse Stommel

Jesse Stommel has written some seminal blog posts on this topic over the past few years and has ungraded his English, digital humanities, film and communications courses for decades. He is co-founder of Digital Pedagogy Lab and Hybrid Pedagogy. Jesse has been an educator since 1999.

  • Stommel, J. (2023). Undoing the Grade: Why We Grade, and How to Stop. Hybrid Pedagogy Inc., Denver, CO. Overview Post and Open Version
  • Stommel, J. (May 9, 2022). Ungrading and Alternative Assessment | YouTube video of Presentation
  • Stommel, J. (January 3, 2022). Compassionate Grading Policies | Blog Post
  • Stommel, J. (June 11, 2021). Ungrading: An Introduction | Blog Post
  • Stommel, J. (June 2, 2021). Grades are Dehumanizing: Ungrading is no Simple Solution | Blog Post
  • Stommel, J.  (March 3, 2020). What if We Didn’t Grade? A Bibliography.  | Blog Post
  • Stommel, J. (February 6, 2020). Ungrading: an FAQ.  | Blog Post
  • Stommel, J. (March 11, 2018). How to Ungrade.| Blog Post
  • Stommel, J. (October 26, 2017). Why I Don’t Grade.  | Blog Post