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Feedback and Grading: Ungrading


Ungrading is an innovative assessment approach which challenges traditional grading systems by minimizing or entirely removing grades from the learning process. This method focuses on feedback-driven learning, where the emphasis is placed on the developmental aspects of education rather than on numerical or letter grades. The primary goal of ungrading is to shift the motivation from extrinsic rewards, like grades, to intrinsic growth, fostering a deeper engagement with the material and promoting a growth mindset among students.

For faculty members considering ungrading, the approach involves restructuring how students receive feedback. Instead of grades, students receive detailed comments and critiques that guide their learning and help them reflect on their progress. This often includes self-assessments and peer reviews, encouraging students to critically engage with their own work and that of their peers. Ungrading can help reduce students' anxiety related to performance, making the classroom a more inclusive and supportive environment that prioritizes learning and understanding over competition. While ungrading represents a significant shift from conventional educational models and requires careful implementation, it holds the potential to create a more meaningful and empowering educational experience for both students and educators.


Ungrading seeks to enhance learning by focusing less on scores and more on substantive feedback and student self-reflection. Here are five strategies that can help educators implement ungrading effectively in their courses:

  • Implement Reflective Writing Assignments: Incorporate regular self-assessment and reflective writing assignments where students analyze their own learning, challenges, and progress. This practice helps students understand their own educational journeys and think critically about their work and learning processes. It encourages them to take responsibility for their own learning and identify areas for improvement.

  • Use Detailed Feedback Instead of Grades: Replace grades with detailed, constructive feedback. Focus on providing comments that guide improvements, highlight strengths, and gently address weaknesses. This approach helps students focus on learning and growth without the pressure of grades. Feedback should be timely and specific to encourage students to engage deeply with the content.

  • Encourage Peer Review: Facilitate peer review sessions where students evaluate each other’s work based on specific criteria. This helps create a collaborative learning environment and allows students to learn from their peers. Peer review can enhance understanding and provide diverse perspectives on the same work, broadening the learning experience.

  • Hold Student Conferences: Schedule individual or small group meetings with students to discuss their progress, challenges, and goals. These conferences can provide a space for personalized guidance and support, helping students reflect on their learning and plan their future learning strategies. This personal interaction also strengthens the educator-student relationship, enhancing student engagement and motivation.

  • Adopt Portfolio-Based Assessment: Have students compile portfolios of their work throughout the course or semester. A portfolio approach allows students to demonstrate their learning and improvement over time and provides a holistic view of their achievements. It also serves as a practical tool for both self-assessment and instructor assessment in an ungraded framework.


Undoing the Grade: Why We Grade, and How to Stop - Jesse Stommel
This collection represents over 20 years of thinking and writing about grades and ungrading. The word “ungrading" means raising an eyebrow at grades as a systemic practice, distinct from simply “not grading.” The word is a present participle, an ongoing process, not a static set of practices.

(Un)Grading: It Can Be Done in College - EducationWeek
I’m an instructor at the University of Oklahoma, teaching General Education courses in the Humanities. In this post, I’ll explain my (un)grading system: the students do the grading, while I focus on feedback. I developed this approach based on my students’ needs and my own belief that I can do a better job as a teacher if I take myself out of the grading loop. Here’s how it works...

Empowering Your Students’ Agency Through Ungrading Practices - The Scholarly Teacher (7 min read)
Ungrading emphasizes formative feedback over summative judgment, promoting intrinsic motivation and student agency. While implementing ungrading requires effort, the benefit to students and teachers is significant.

The (Un)grading Spectrum - Teachers Going Gradeless
Jesse Stommel states that “‘ungrading’ means raising an eyebrow at grades as a systemic practice, distinct from simply ‘not grading.’ The word is a present participle, an ongoing process, not a static set of practices.” Reading articles from this site or similar ungrading websites and you’ll see that no two ungrading stories are alike and no two ungrading classrooms are alike either. Ungrading is more of a philosophy than a single model that says “do this and your students will learn.” This has led me to see ungrading as a spectrum of possibilities that moves us away from that harmful traditional events-based grading that most of us grew up with.

Ungrading: The Misconceptions, the Research, and the Strategies - Faculty Focus Live (13 min)
In this episode, we’ll cover what ungrading actually is, some of the research behind it, and how it can be brought to any classroom by having an honest conversation with your students. And then we’ll take a few minutes to dispel some misconceptions about ungrading, because ungrading doesn’t mean you have to completely eliminate grades in all forms from your classroom. Lastly, we’ll cover a few ungrading assessment strategies that you can implement into your own course.

The Life and Death Consequences of Grading - Unmaking the Grade (6 min read)
Is ungrading appropriate for fields lik emedicine and engineering? "When people sarcastically ask me if I would want my surgeon to have gone through school with no grades, I would say yes, absolutely. And I would counter with another question: “Would you want your surgeon to have spent their time in school trying to game the GPA system or would you want them to have focused their energies on actually gaining the knowledge and skills they would need to excel in their field or serve their community?” Because that is, in part, what I’m trying to accomplish by minimizing grades."

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  • Last Updated: May 2, 2024 1:40 PM
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