2 Grading Versus Ungrading

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What does Ungrading Mean?

Not all the student’s work needs to be assigned a grade. Grades are currently used for feedback on performance, a motivator of student effort, a tool for comparing students and an objective evaluation of student knowledge (Schinske, J., & Tanner, K. (2014)). However, using assessments is not the only way to provides students with detailed feedback and motivation. Chapter 7 of this eBook delves further into student engagement and motivation.

There is an important distinction many believe that ungrading is just no grading, but that is far from the truth. As mentioned in the video, ungrading is a form of grading where the instructor can grade less and grade differently by using alternative assessments other than just assignments and tests.


Grade Less

  • Grade less means not all the student’s work needs to be graded. If the goal is to provide feedback to the student, it can be beneficial to receive comments on the student’s learning rather than assigning a grade at the end of the task.
  • Examples of grading less can be:
    • Example 1: Students submit a draft of their essay for ungraded feedback.
    • Example 2: Students submit partial answers when they are stuck on a challenging math/physics question for feedback on what next steps to take to solve the question.
  • In both examples, students submit an assignment for feedback and the feedback is given during the learning process of the assignment. Also, the feedback does not contribute to the final grade.


Grade Differently

Grading differently refers to alternative ways of evaluating student knowledge. When one evaluation method is used, not all students can demonstrate their competencies using that method. By using alternative methods such as the four methods listed below, a wider range of students have the ability to demonstrate their competencies.

  • Self-Assessment Grading: Students oversee evaluation and reflection on their own work, then provide the reflection to the professor to be graded on effort. This can be in the form of exam reflections or learning journals.
  • Peer Review: Students evaluate each other’s work and provide feedback to each other.
  • Mastery Learning: There are different levels of learning a skill, and the student cannot move on until they have mastered the current skill level.
  • Backwards Grading: The students start with 0% in a course, and they earn their advancement in the course through demonstration of mastery skills and learning standards.

The impact of the typical tests and assignments encourages students to reduce negative stress from the evaluation process. Using a different approach, such as self-reflection, can reduce some of the stress, thus creating an environment more appropriate for learning.

Graded Learning Experience

Ungraded Learning Experience

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Schinske, J., & Tanner, K. (2014). Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently). CBE Life Sciences Education, 13(2), 159–166. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.CBE-14-03-0054


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Online Learning: A Student Perspective Copyright © by Madicyn Anderson, Trevor Winchester, Aidan Burns, Rana Kilani, Collin Campbell, Steven Shilmoon, Sawyer King, Lakshdeep Singh, and Dave Cormier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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