OpenEd19 – Roundtable on Ungrading

Roundtable submission for #OpenEd19

Work in Progress

Please feel free to contribute, suggest planning for this, let me know if you would like to participate onsite or remotely. This is not my roundtable, I’m just providing a space to have this discussion during the #OpenEd19 conference if this roundtable is accepted.

Context

I have personally been working in an #Ungrading (or #AbolishGrading) environment in my classes since January 2016. I’ve written some about this after my initial inspiration of the late Joe Bower and the “Abolish Grading” section of his still active website “for the love of learning”. My practice at this has evolved during these three years and I have documented a little of my practice on my personal blog. Links to those provided in the references section.

There is an active community on Twitter of educators practicing #Ungrading and a recent article on April 1st in “Inside Higher Ed” titled “When Grading Less is More” gave more visibility to the teachers actively working on this in their classrooms and their research.  I was invited to submit a last minute contribution to that “Insider Higher Ed” article along with educators with much more experience than myself writing about this topic. Dr. Susan Blum is currently editing a book on this subject which includes a chapter contributed by Laura Gibbs. Laura shared her chapter with me and I did a critical reading of that chapter with my current semester students.

There are varied definitions of the term #ungrading (or as Joe Bower preferred to call this #AbolishGrading) and a varied mix of practices across teachers practicing this.  The day after the publication of the “Insider Higher Ed” article, Yishay Mor sent a call out on Twitter to create an “Ungrading Manifesto” which is the early stages. There is much work to be done and I believe that a roundtable to work on this topic would be relevant to the OpenEd19 community.

Goals

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#Ungrading, Rest and Reboot.

edit (April 2, 2019): This post was linked from an excellent article authored by Colleen Flaherty at Insider Higher Ed, “When Grading Less Is More“. I thank Colleen for reaching out and including text from this post.

or Subterranean Homesick Blues

This is a post about work in progress, I have been thinking deeply on this over these past two semesters since I went back towards “traditional grading”. I am formulating a plan for the pendulum to shift more towards what my colleague Laura Gibbs calls: “all-feedback-no-grades”. You can read about this in much more detail in her upcoming book chapter “Getting Rid of Grades“.

Just this weekend, this arrive in my Twitter DM inbox. My DMs are open on Twitter, I receive much more good than bad so it stays that way. I redacted the identifying information and it will remain that way unless I get permission to put that back.

Hi Ken, I hope you’re well. I’m working on a piece on ungrading <redacted>. I saw your tweet about going back to traditional grading this year — can you tell me more about that decision? What caused the shift? Thanks in advance for any insight you can spare!

So, again this is in draft form, but here is the answer to that one question for now below. If one wants some history, there is a bunch on my blog (old location) but the three most important posts can be found via the search for “abolishgrading”.

So much of my work is wrapped up around connected learning, not just ungrading. This is all part of a critical digital pedagogy and I invite the readers to look at the work of Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris for a much better definition of that term. In fact, just go read their writings put into a book format, it is free or you can pay for the book to support them. More on that at the webpage for the book: “An Urgency of Teachers“.

Many others in this field influence me deeply, this sketch below (viz notes) by Giulia Forsythe of a talk by Bonnie Stewart speaks to that as well.

Networked Educators & Learners @bonstewart #canedu13 [viz Notes]
“Networked Educators & Learners @bonstewart #canedu13 [viz Notes]” flickr photo by giulia.forsythe https://flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/8717211019 shared into the public domain using (CC0)

What Caused the Shift? or Yes, I finally answer your question

I would put the cause of the shift directly on me. I believe that students need freedom to learn, grading is often used to coerce students to do “what we want” and kills the creativity of our students. I perhaps went “too far” in giving the freedom and putting my role as 99.9% “the guide and mentor”. Sure, I gave some guidance with a list of topics for my students to research, explore and write about (in code, in making and in writing) with the intent to give them the freedom to explore. Often the choices were larger as they could choose which topics to explore. I thought this was good. My first grading period (we have two partial grading periods before a final), I simply asked students on the exam to write about a selection of topics in the course so far and to give themselves a numeric grade on a scale of 1-100 (our official grading system).

They freaked out. Well, most of them.

Continue reading “#Ungrading, Rest and Reboot.”

Looking Back, Objects in the Rear View Mirror

Looking Back

I truly believe that reflection or looking back is an important part of our learning process. Taking time for reflection allows me to connect what I’ve learned in the past with my plans going forward.  I’m reminded again of why I changed the title of my blog to “Connecting is Learning” and will once again give credit to that change to my good friend Laura Goglia who has been a key influencer on my this past year. Follow through her tweet to her post and you can even read my comment on that blog post or you can just go straight to her post “Lessons Learned 2016”.

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