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UT Grad Students Pioneer Assessment Model

Megan Von Bergen and Allie JohnstonMegan Von Bergen and Allie Johnston, two PhD students in English, pioneered an innovative assessment model while teaching ENGL 101 for the Summer 2020 Involve program. 

While Involve is usually taught as an intense, face-to-face course over five weeks, the pandemic pushed the program online. Von Bergen and Johnston used this opportunity as a time to employ ungrading, an alternative mode of assessment that creatively supports student learning. 

Pioneered as an anti-racist assessment measure by scholars such as Asao Inoue, ungrading has also surged in popularity during the pandemic. Ungrading, a good-faith approach emphasizing complete/incomplete assessment, self-reflection, and collaboration, provided flexibility for students and established trust and agency among teachers and students.

Emergency online teaching called for more flexible, less stressful grading practices, while the Black Lives Matter movement demanded assessment that recognized linguistic and racial diversity. 

As Von Bergen and Johnston describe, their goal for ungrading was to move away from traditional authoritative, punitive models. 

“Ungrading emphasizes individual growth and reflection while also ensuring that as teachers we don’t harm our students by causing further stress at this current moment,” said Von Bergen.

Eric, a student in the class, said that ungrading is “actually about learning” and let him “think about the grades second.” 

“It was an opportunity . . .  to be able to express myself and still get a good grade,” Eric said.

The English Department continues to offer workshops on ungrading to help its instructors and students thrive, while we continue to meet the needs of diverse students as we continue to teach, both online and in the classroom.