Ungrading after 11 weeks

Mathematics professor Robert Talbot reports on his ongoing experiment with ungrading — giving feedback and emphasizing the students’ metacognition, rather than encouraging them to fixate on “marks.” (Students who are less equipped to self-evaluate might actually benefit from the clear signposting provided by grades, so in his experience, removing grading from education does not magically remove inequities in the classroom.)

I think it’s possible to have a hybrid setup in a lower-level course (like I’m teaching this summer) where the work that addresses the lower reaches of Bloom’s Taxonomy is graded using specifications with marks, while the upper levels of Bloom are ungraded (or graded using a Pass/No Pass rubric). I don’t feel like ungrading is the logical conclusion of grading systems — as in, “If you really cared about students, you wouldn’t use grades at all“, as if ungrading was some morally perfected form of specifications grading. I think ungrading is a tool, an approach to assessment that has its own set of pros and cons, and works well in some contexts and less well in others.

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