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In the forward to her edited volume Ungrading, Susan Blum quotes one of her undergraduate students from her grade-free (until the end) class from Fall of 2018:
“Instead of focusing on getting a good grade, I focused on actually learning the material. I was less stressed out, and more interested in the actual class content.”
I feel a sense of connection with this quote. When I think about past experiences I had as a college student with pedagogical practices that we today would likely put under the “ungrading” umbrella, I feel like such a quote is the kind of thing that I might even say myself.
Yet, when I get the opportunity to teach undergraduate students I can struggle to incorporate ungrading practices. Some students can be skeptical and unnerved by new approaches to assessment. I find that this is an opportunity for me to build trust with students but to also help them think critically about what success looks like – for them.
In my work at the Hub I get questions about ungrading sometimes and so I point faculty to resources and talk about approaches that I’ve seen work. A really great resource, right here on our Hub Blog, is Sarah Silverman’s interview of Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh about how Ungrading Can Work in STEM Courses – which is great for everyone, not just those teaching in STEM.
Talking about ungrading is always a negotiation. Questions of fairness and what we really mean by “learning” always come up. This is a topic that requires ongoing conversation and unpacking of complex ideas.
So I’m very excited that this year we are starting to offer more opportunities to engage with ungrading. Emily Luxon, Associate Professor of Political Science, is starting an ungrading learning community for UM-D professors, in conjunction with the Hub! This fall’s inaugural kick off of the community is focusing on reading Blum’s Ungrading and the Hub has some (limited) funds to purchase books for those who sign up.
The community is already a pretty good size (about 20 people) but we are open for more to join. We are hoping to meet monthly as a cohort over the fall term for conversation. Consider signing up to learn more, together in community, about this provocative topic.