“Ungrading”: Students assigning their own grades

The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a look at Louis Epstein’s “ungrading” experiment:

Louis Epstein has long been frustrated by grades. Grading systems are somewhat arbitrary, says Epstein, an assistant professor of music at St. Olaf College, “even if we bend over backward to try to make them transparent and objective and fair.” Students, meanwhile, are conditioned to pay a lot of attention to their grades, sometimes at the expense of their learning.

In the beginning, students were anxious about assigning their own grades, Melby says — something I’ve heard from other professors who’ve tried ungrading. They asked questions, Epstein says, like: “How will I know what number I should give myself?” — a reminder that they’re accustomed to external evaluation. Throughout the course, the instructors emphasized that evaluating one’s own work is a useful skill in the professional world.

What isn’t mentioned is how the students’ self assigned grades deviated at all from what Epstein might have given anyway or if his university’s administration had any objections or concerns about ungrading. Still, I’m curious to try this.

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