As the fall semester begins, instructors are finalizing syllabi, including the grading scale. On the first day of class (i.e. syllabus day) students will eagerly flip through (or scroll the LMS) to locate the grading scale. What will they need to do to earn enough points to get the grade they want? We spend hours crafting a well developed course; considering the learning outcomes, vetting materials, designing interesting and worthwhile assignments. Most students will flip over this to get to the “important” information: the grading scale.
Grades are one of the many aspects of education we collectively love to hate. Insurance companies want to see proof of grades for “good student” discounts. Students on the cusp of the grade line try to persuade their instructors for a grade bump. Grading on a curve where only a certain percentage of students are “allowed” a high letter grade still exists in some classrooms. Learning is often discussed in contrast to school with more recognition that the two are not always synonymous.
There is a plethora of research on grades, assessment, feedback, motivation in learning, and related concepts. Reliably the grading research shows grades lower intrinsic interest, create preference for the easiest route, and reduce quality of thinking. Perhaps this is why we begin to see epistemic curiosity decrease in middle school when the focus on grades becomes more explicit. It would provide logic to the question “what’s going to be on the test” or the tasks students will complete for minimal points.
Many instructors are becoming more vocal about the desire for a better way to both encourage and assess student learning. In Ungrading: Why rating students undermines learning (and what to do instead), 15 instructors with a desire to focus on learning, rather than sorting or judging, share their experiences going gradeless. Experiences are organized into three sections: foundations and models; practice; and reflection. Disciplines reflect humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields within both higher education and K-12 learning environments. Authors share not only what worked about ungrading, but what made it challenging as well.
The Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL) program within CITL will host a virtual fall instructor reading group experience around the book Ungrading. Meetings will be held virtually via Zoom from 9:00-10:30am on the following Tuesdays: September 27, October 18, & November 8, 2022. In addition to receiving a physical copy of the book, participants will have the opportunity to talk with the editor, Susan Blum. If you are an IUB instructor of any rank interested in joining the book group and can commit to attending all three of these meetings, please fill out the brief application form no later than Friday, September 2, 2022.
Learn more about Susan on Twitter @SusanDebraBlum, her website, or through her interviews on Teaching in Higher Ed and Think UDL. You can also preview the e-book via the IU library for all IU campuses.