Equitable Assessment Inquiry Continues with Ungrading in the Classroom Design Lab


In “The Trouble with Rubrics,” Alfie Kohn writes, “Research shows three reliable effects when students are graded: They tend to think less deeply, avoid taking risks, and lose interest in the learning itself.”

image of a person holding an oversized pencil in one hand and an oversized paper in the other. The paper has a red x in the middle.

 Traditional grading methods can be barriers to students, particularly those who are historically underrepresented, in staying on the path and persisting from year one to year two. 

With this in mind, we continued our inquiry surrounding equitable assessment methods and building more inclusive classrooms begun in our “Hello, Is it Me You’re Looking For?: Designing an ePortfolio-Centered Course” with our second design lab of the summer,  “Ungrading in the Classroom.”

37 educators from 25 colleges across the state joined Jennifer Escobar (3CSN BSILI alum, Moreno Valley College) for this three-part lab, held from July 7th through 9th.  These consecutive 90-minute sessions provided another equitable way to assess student learning and build a more inclusive classroom, Ungrading.  Represented colleges included Antelope Valley College, Cerritos College, Chabot College, College of the Canyons, Cypress College, De Anza College, East Los Angeles College, Fresno City College, Gavilan College, Glendale Community College, Las Positas College, Long Beach City College, Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Pierce College, Miracosta College, Mission College, Moreno Valley College, Mt. San Antonio College, Norco College, Orange Coast College, San Diego Miramar College, Shasta College, Victor Valley College, West Valley College, and Yuba College.

Sessions included ungrading syllabi, ungrading classroom assignments, and discussing ungrading/grading with students and colleagues.

The design lab objectives were to: 

  • Reflect on the role of grading and the potential role of ungrading in your classroom
  • Read and reflect to enhance your own learning about ungrading
  • Apply an ungrading lens to an assignment (one you typically grade)
  • Deepen understanding of grading/ungrading in your own classroom by reading about and listening to different scholars’ and practitioners’ approaches to ungrading
  • Apply ungrading to your grading policy and syllabus
  • Reflect on and develop strategies (including how this session is organized as a synchronous, online workshop) for your own classroom practices, especially (un)grading
  • Engage with and in different activities and readings/resources that you can use with students and colleagues

In session 1, participants focused on understanding what ungrading is and how instructors can apply ungrading to classroom assessments and assignments.  In session 2 they moved more deeply into exploring how other instructors have applied ungrading to their grading policies and syllabi as well as the benefits for students and instructors of applying this ungrading approach.  Session 3 provided ideas and opportunities for dialogue about how to share ungrading with students and colleagues as well as the common questions and concerns students and instructors have about this approach.  All sessions provided opportunities to read, reflect, and explore the material as well as to dialogue with one another.  Jennifer generously shared her own Ungrading journey in the sessions which added incredible richness to the lab.

We will continue to offer community hours throughout the fall to provide a space for participants to share their experiences and serve as thought partners to one another as they apply their learning in the classroom.  

Check out participant projects and read what they had to say about the design lab in our slideshow below.

Ungrading in the Classroom design lab participants share their experience by Kelan Koning