Ungrading for Equity: Developing assessment strategies that support learning for all students

Thursday 1:30pm-4:00pm Science Village 2
Afternoon Mini Workshop


Katharine Johanesen, Juniata College
Lily Claiborne, Vanderbilt University
Gabrielle Brown, Northern Vermont University - Lyndon
Easton Maxey, Vanderbilt University

Ungrading is the practice of decentering or removing grades from the learning process to better support diverse student needs. It can help to reduce student stress and anxiety, stimulate more meaningful reflection and discussion around learning, and better engage students in their learning. Participants in this workshop will explore different styles of ungrading and develop an ungrading plan for one of their classes.

This workshop focuses on using alternative grading practices called ungrading to help students focus on learning and better support students with diverse needs. Ungrading is the practice of reducing or removing grades from the learning process. Grades reduce intrinsic motivation to learn, incentivize cheating, reinforce inequities, and discourage individual success by prioritizing standardized "rubric achievement". Ungrading has helped to reduce student stress and anxiety, stimulate more meaningful reflection and discussion around learning, and better engage students in their learning.


By the end of this workshop, participants will:

  • explore a variety of strategies used in ungrading
  • explore evidence that traditional grading is a barrier to learning
  • develop an ungrading plan for their class
  • discuss challenges associated with this method

Tentative Program

1:30 Welcome and introductions

1:45 What is Ungrading? Overview and resources

2:10 Small-group discussions exploring ungrading reasons and methods

2:40 Break

2:50 Whole-group share-out and identification of working groups

3:10 Working groups to develop ungrading plans

3:40 Share-out plans so far

3:50 Wrap-up and workshop evaluation

4:00 Adjourn


Through the workshop, we will introduce participants to a variety of resources to dig deeper into ungrading. The program materials, links, and reccomended readings here provide multiple entry points to understanding alternative assessment and considering how you might apply it to your own classes. We will share the basic ideas and access to resources to get the conversation started, but encourage you to continue delving into these materials after the workshop. If you find other resources you think should be added, email us (either Katharine or Lily)!

Workshop Handouts and slides

Articles and books about alternative grading and ungrading



  • Grading for Growth book by David Clark and Robert Talbert will be coming out this month (July 2023)!
  • Blum, S. D. (2020). Ungrading: Why rating students undermines learning (and what to do instead). West Virginia University Press.
  • Kohn, Alfie (2018) Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, and Praise  Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. 
  • Covington, M. V., von Hoene, L. M., & Voge, D. J. (2017). Life beyond grades: Designing college courses to promote intrinsic motivation. Cambridge University Press.
  • Kirschenbaum, H., Napier, R., & Simon, S.B. (2021) Wad-Ja-Get: The Grading Game in American Education
  • Buck, D. (2022) Crowdsourcing Ungrading

Journal Articles

  • Ash & Clayton (2009). Generating, Deepening, and Documenting Learning: The Power of Critical Reflection in Applied Learning. Journal of Applied Learning in Higher Education, vol. 1, p. 25-48.
  • Barbayannis, G., Bandari, M., Zheng, X., Baquerizo, H., Pecor, K. W., & Ming, X. (2022). Academic stress and mental well-being in college students: correlations, affected groups, and COVID-19. Frontiers in psychology13, 2464. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.886344/full
  • Butler, R. (1987). Task-involving and ego-involving properties of evaluation: Effects of different feedback conditions on motivational perceptions, interest, and performance. Journal of educational psychology79(4), 474.
  • Butler, R. (1988). Enhancing and undermining intrinsic motivation: The effects of task‐involving and ego‐involving evaluation on interest and performance. British journal of educational psychology, 58(1), 1-14.
  • Grant, D. & Green, W. B., (2013). Grades as incentives. Empirical Economics, 44(3), 1563-1592.
  • Hatfield, N., Brown, N., Topaz, C.M., (2022) Do introductory courses disproportionately drive minoritized students out of STEM pathways?  Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences Nexus, 1, 1-10.

Examples and student testimonials from our classes

Ungrading communities