Building an Inclusive Mineralogy Classroom through Alternative Assessment

Monday 2:15pm Tate 105


Katharine Johanesen, Juniata College
In the spring of 2021, I made a drastic change to my teaching: I dumped grades. I stopped giving numerical or letter-grades on assignments and tests. Instead, I provided only written feedback and asked students to reflect about their learning periodically throughout the semester. The student reflections are followed by one-on-one conferences to discuss and negotiate their grade in the course. Students expressed some apprehension early in the semester, but most of this transitioned to appreciation for ungrading by mid-term. They stated that they were better able to focus on learning and/or it took some pressure off. Through reflections and conferences, I gained a better understanding of why students missed or performed poorly on assignments. By removing numerical grades, I was able to adjust assignments and expectations according to student needs. I was able to shift my focus to supporting students learning rather than measuring them against some hypothetical standard.
In the spring of 2022, I used the same reflection-based assessment structure but with a few changes: instead of using the terms exams and quizzes, I revised the language in my course to better describe the purpose of the activity while avoiding some of the anxiety produced by testing. The use of new terminology has prompted deliberate discussions about the purpose of various assignments, which further engages students in thinking about and reflecting on their learning. Student feedback has again been positive and I've noticed more frequent use of words like "engage" and "practice" rather than the more passive phrases associated with "getting" a grade.

Presentation Media

Presentation Powerpoint (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 242kB Jul11 22)
Mineralogy Syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 93kB Jul11 22)
Reflection Prompts (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 289kB Jul11 22)