August 19, 2020

Demystifying Ungrading: How to Empower Student Learning Beyond Grades

Room: ESLC 053


The appeal of an “ungrading” approach can be irresistible: studies show that students pay less attention to feedback accompanied by a letter grade than feedback given without a grade attached. In addition, ungrading techniques can minimize the gatekeeping or punitive side-effects of grades that unfairly limit first-generation and marginalized students. However, implementing a strategy that asks students to reorient their relationship with grades can be–putting it mildly–daunting. In this session, four USU instructors reflect on their ungrading experiences and share implementable techniques and philosophical rationale for the approach.

One of the challenges of ungrading can be the disciplinary specificities of grading norms. When academia shut down and went virtual in March 2020, instructors had to reconsider their grading practices. Our panel explores how four instructors reimagined our instructional technique; what we learned, what we kept, and the future of ungrading. Through a blend of qualitative and quantitative methods, we examine four ungrading perspectives. We discuss ungrading techniques that empower student autonomy, free instructors from unnecessary restrictions, enable collaboration, and reward students for fostering curiosity over rote memorization. Attendees will leave with concrete strategies for implementing ungrading, communicating ungrading to students, and familiarity with ungrading’s social justice approach to assessment.

*Participants will learn why traditional grading often has negative impacts on learning and internal motivation.
*Participants will learn how to implement "ungrading" in various classes.
*Participants will learn how to talk to students about "ungrading".
*Participants will learn how to address the need to maintain certain standards, rigor, and also reduce student anxiety

Lisa GabbertJulie Lamarra

Assistant Professor of Practice

Dr. Julie Lamarra teaches within the Outdoor Product Design and Development program. Her teaching philosophy is rooted in experiential learning and gaining an understanding of the individual. Her primary focus is on student-centered learning with connections to career and technical skills for the outdoor industry.

Timothy Chenette

Lisa Gabbert

Associate Professor of Music

Dr. Tim Chenette teaches music theory and aural skills at USU. His research seeks to improve aural skills instruction through a better understanding of the brain and a quest for broader accessibility.

Sharon Lyman

Lisa Gabbert

Learning Specialist

Sharon Lyman works as a learning specialist to support student learning and the integration of learning strategies in general education courses. She teaches USU Habits of Mind courses on learning, reading, and planning.

Adena Rivera-Dundas

Lisa Gabbert

Assistant Professor

Dr. Adena Rivera-Dundas teaches 20th and 21st century African American literature. Her research examines how Black American scholars, poets, and novelists deploy personal archives to disrupt oppressive epistemologies