What is ungrading?
Ungrading is loosely defined as purposefully eliminating or minimizing the use of points or letters to assess student work. Some aspects of ungrading might also include letting students decide their grade or eliminating grades entirely in favor of qualitative evaluation only. Moving away from points or letter grading has been shown to reduce anxiety that may negatively affect students’ physical and mental health and educational achievement.
Ungrading asks us to consider the following questions:
- What do we want grading to do (or not do) in our classes (for students and teachers)?
- Do grades have any intrinsic meaning or is their value purely extrinsic? Does assessment have a different meaning when it is formative and not summative?
- What would happen if instructors didn’t grade? What issues would not grading raise for students and instructors? How would institutions be forced to rethink their evaluation systems?
- Can we imagine an assessment that encourages discovery and learning through the assessment process?
What are the benefits of ungrading?
Oftentimes, conventional grading schemes do not provide accurate information about students’ accomplishments, adequacy, or growth in learning. Point and letter grading might also reinforce extrinsic motivation, fear, and avoidance, which negatively affect students’ writing, thinking, and personal and intellectual development. In response, ungrading can help to support a more equitable and engaged classroom. Ungrading’s process-oriented approach and focus on feedback and conversation between instructors and students can be a more equitable type of assessment. Feedback-centered assessment also reduces student anxiety and stress about grades, which has only intensified during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Non-traditional grading practices also offer an opportunity for students to participate and engage collaboratively in their learning experience.