Human Restoration Project

Share

54: Making the Switch to Ungrading (feat. Abigail French, Dr. Susan Blum, and Dr. Laura Gibbs)

Ep. 54

Today, we're deep diving into ungrading. In episode 5, we looked at the gradeless movement and the pedagogy that surrounds it, and now we're looking at how it's incorporated, and the non-academic benefits of implementing it. To be clear, when I say "ungrading" - I'm referring to the movement away from grades. This doesn't necessarily mean that the class does not issue at grade at all. Typically, this means that grades are as limited as possible, as in one final grade at the end of a year, with opportunities to redo assignments or reach that goal in multiple ways.

Almost every classroom one visits today will have a chart on the syllabus which breaks down grades.

  • Homework: 30%
  • Tests: 40%
  • Classwork: 20%
  • Participation: 10%
  • With opportunities for extra credit.

First, I don't blame educators for setting things up this way - it's the way it's almost always done. It's the dominant way of thinking about grading. But there are a litany of issues with categorical grades. Does a student who never completes homework really not understand the content, or are they just disobeying instructions to do work at home? If a student never passes a test, but does great in their classwork, are we grading their content knowledge or their anxiety levels?

And further, in addition to all the pedagogical issues with assigning grades, what we're actually grading, and how this affects intrinsic motivation, we're also enacting barriers. When we place these systems within our classroom, we're presenting one more step between us, as educators, working with students to help them learn. Because now, the conversation isn't about helping someone get better, it's about ensuring that the categories are adhered to and scored properly.

This system causes a breakdown of the relationship between all of us. I distinctly remember being horrified in an English class, one of my better subjects, because although I did great on tests and assignments, a huge portion of our grade was participation. My teacher met with me with the advice..."talk more" - which for someone like me is easier said than done. The anxiety and fear I felt within that room meant not only that I'd achieve a lower grade than others, but I simply didn't enjoy the class, nor did I trust the teacher, nor did I learn as much as I could have.

When my Spanish teacher assigned extra credit to make back our points from tests, which I was doing very poorly on, I would always do the extra work - which took a considerable amount of time. I remember turning in one of the longer assignments, only to have it lost by him - leading to an argument that resulted in me receiving a detention.

The point is that when we create systems where there are barriers to learning, we're demotivating students as well as making a hierarchical structure that harms our relationships. The teacher becomes an enforcer rather than a coach. And these experiences are commonplace. Most people have some fond memories of school, but certainly negative ones that harmed them mentally and emotionally. Some of my worst memories are those that happened at school as a result of teachers.






GUESTS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE

Abigail French, a veteran public school teacher focusing on sixth grade, whose beginning her journey into ungrading after unrest with the traditional system.

Dr. Susan Blum, an anthropology professor at the University of Notre Dame, author of I Love Learning; I Hate School": An Anthropology of College, who utilizes ungrading in the classroom and is soon publishing a work on gradeless learning.

Dr. Laura Gibbs, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, who teaches mythology and folklore and epics of ancient India . Laura has been teaching these classes online since 2002 which have always been ungraded.






RESOURCES

FURTHER LISTENING

More Episodes

4/10/2021

90: Equity-Centered, Trauma-Informed Teaching w/ Alex Venet

Ep. 90
Transcripts can be found via our website, humanrestorationproject.org.In today's conversation, we are joined by Alex Venet. Alex teaches undergraduate students at the Community College of Vermont, graduate classes at Castleton Center for Schools and Antioch University New England, creates PD, is a community facilitator for Edutopia, co-organizes Edcamp Vermont and Trauma Informed Educators Network Conference, and is soon releasing her new book Equity-Centered, Trauma-Informed Education, releasing May 25th, 2021. A link is in the show notes.We received an advanced copy, and I cannot emphasize enough how much this book is needed, and how much it resonated with my own practice. Alex not only perfectly outlines trauma-informed education, but places reflections, challenges, and paramount questions for us to rethink systems in education toward including and advocating for all students. In this conversation, Alex and I talk about shifting the system toward fostering critical wellness and systemic change for equity. Enjoy this listen!GUESTSAlex Venet,educator at Community College of Vermont, teaches graduate classes at Castleton Center for Schools and Antioch University New England, creates PD, is a community facilitator for Edutopia, co-organizes Edcamp Vermont and Trauma Informed Educators Network Conference, and author of Equity-Centered, Trauma-Informed EducationRESOURCESEquity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education (Releasing May 2021); Phoenix BooksUnconditional Learning (Alex Venet's Website)FURTHER LISTENINGTrauma Informed Educators Network Podcast: Episode 34: Alex Shevrin Venet
3/28/2021

89: Rebuilding After 2020-2021 w/ Dr. Ilana Horn

Ep. 89
Transcripts can be found via our website, humanrestorationproject.org.In today's conversation, we are joined by Dr. Ilana Horn. Dr. Horn is a professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College, who focuses on serving disenfranchised youth through authentic mathematics. She leads the Teacher Learning Laboratory, which focuses on sense-making of schools, how teachers and students interact. Further, she is the author of Strength in Numbers: Collaborative Learning in Secondary Mathematics and Motivated: Designing Math Classrooms Where Students Want to Join In.In our conversation, Dr. Horn and I discuss how teachers can wrap up the 2020-2021 school year through reflection. How can we build a better system after seeing the inequities, problems, and challenges that this school year has highlighted? And, how do we build a classroom in spite of a system that often demotivates and disenfranchises educators?GUESTSDr. Ilana Horn, professor of mathematics education at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College, director of Teacher Learning Laboratory, and author of Strength in Numbers: Collaborative Learning in Secondary Mathematics and Motivated: Designing Math Classrooms Where Students Want to Join In. RESOURCESTeacher Learning LaboratoryStrength in Numbers: Collaborative Learning in Secondary MathematicsMotivated: Designing Math Classrooms Where Students Want to Join InFURTHER LISTENINGTeachLab - Dr. Ilana Horn82: Build a New Future: Teaching Action and Coalition Building w/ Dr. Kevin Gannon