So you wanna #ungrade? The Practical Guide

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for awhile. Maybe even years. Time is difficult to conceptualize now in the same way we did before COVID-19 isolation. But what I know is this – this blog has been on my to-do list for awhile.

And it doesn’t come a minute too soon. Remote learning is a perfect pedagogical space to implement ungrading.

So when folks ask me for focused practical information on how I implement ungrading, here’s what I send:

I add all of this information with the hope that it will help them understand what I did and why I did it.

I also include the body of the email I’ve sent to my Gen Chem II blended class to clarify and expand the ungrading stuff on my syllabus. This particular email is from Spring 2020 as well.
<beginning of email>

Hi everyone,

By now, you should have received your copy of exam 1 from me during class. If you did not, please ask me for it ASAP.

We are doing ungrading to determine our grades in class.

We’re going to do ungrading with the following mandatory requirements (which are due by Tuesday, February 25th at 10:30am):

  1. Doing corrections for every question you missed (marked with an X on your exam), which means getting the correct answer for all problems you missed and for mathematical problems, showing your work. USE THE CLASS FEEDBACK word document attached to try to figure out what you did wrong and what the correct answer is. You can also workshop the corrections with each other or on the Slack channel.
  2. Writing what you think you should receive in terms of points for each question or each question part on the attached template.
  3. Reflection (can be per question (answer a and b below for EVERY QUESTION or QUESTION PART on the ungrading template) or per exam and if written per exam, this can count as a blog)
    1. Why did you get the missed problem wrong?
    2. How are you going to correct whatever it was that made you get the question wrong (was it a misconception? did you have the wrong formula? was you note card lacking) for the final exam

The following is OPTIONAL: If you felt a question was confusing, you may make a logical argument to try to earn back full credit on that question. But you must provide two citations to back up your argument and those citations need to be scholarly and peer reviewed. Your book can function as one of these citations. The other should be obtained from a scholarly journal. Possible places to find such journal articles include: (the preprint server for chemistry), (NIH’s Pub Med), and google scholar (

Your ungrading work should be done on separate sheets of paper from your exam or on the blank exam attached. You can also pick up your exam (if you want a physical copy (and your notecard)) during my office hours Monday (10am-12:30pm) or special bonus office hours I’ll hold tomorrow from 10:30am-11:30am). You must hand in complete and correct work on time by either handing this packet of work (parts 1-3) to me in person (during office hours, lab, etc.) or via a scanned submission sent to me at No exceptions are made for late work.

However, you are allowed to use every resource you can find on this ungrading assignment. The point here is to learn the material, and if you can find someone in the class or in the tutoring online or in the tutoring centers on CNM campuses to help you, that’s awesome.

If you fail to do the ungrading for this exam, I will just grade the exam and count whatever grade I determine. It will not have a curve and will not be debatable.

<end of email>

So that’s how I do it when I implement this version of ungrading. My experience is that this version works rather nicely for STEM classes, but it’s definitely not as far as many of my #ungrading colleagues go in their ungrading. For more information on their (as well as my) approaches, this bibliography by Jesse Stommel is very helpful and I highly recommend this book:

A picture of the front cover of Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (And What to Do Instead) by Susan Blum

Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead)

coming out in December, 2020.

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