Ungrading online discussions

The fact that we are not graded each week lessens the fear that we might miss a task/quiz/reading and in fact, I think it encourages us to do/read more widely because there is not so much pressure to do perfectly on one assignment. It’s kind of like a buffet (where we have to try everything, but will like some things more than others and can get add’l servings!)

I also tend to like to participate in discussions a lot; sometimes this makes me feel self-conscious because I don’t want people to think I’m contributing so much just for a good grade. But your course isn’t set up that way, so I don’t have to worry about that perception.

participant in an MA TESL course (used with permission)

Two weeks into my ungrading experiment, and things are going quite well. One of the interesting side-effects has been a shift in the way I ask students to engage in online discussions. The go-to method in online teaching is to require a certain number of posts and replies, perhaps with a rubric that differentiates between substantial and superficial responses. But that leads to a checklist attitude, increases stress, and results in very dull discussions. In addition to encouraging minimum effort (what’s the least I have to do to accumulate points?), it also discourages students who actually do want to engage, as seen in the feedback I quoted above. I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective, but it makes complete sense.

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