An important aspect of “ungrading” for me in my Old English class this semester is giving students tests & homework that they grade themselves. I highly, highly recommend this strategy for any course that relies on tests, problem sets, translations, and other activities with “right” and “wrong” answers.
Here’s how this works for me
When I post a “test” on Blackboard, or assign an exercise/translation for homework, I give students the answers right away. They can check their work as they go, and then they submit their corrected work to me, along with whatever questions or comments they have about the process. This way, the students get instant feedback when they are focused on that assignment (rather than days later), and I don’t have to spend a bunch of time meticulously correcting mistakes – instead, I spend my time in conversation with the student about sticky points in their learning. It’s a much better use of everyone’s time. 🙂
Logistics for Blackboard tests
I create a “test” like normal, including feedback for incorrect answers (such as what page in the textbook they should review to see why they missed that question). Before deploying the test, choose “modify options” from the arrow next to the test title, and then in “show test results and feedback to students,” select all the checkboxes so that students can see their answer, the correct answer, and your feedback for any missed questions.
When the student takes the “test” (which is, of course 100% open-book, open-note for me), they get immediate feedback on what they missed and know exactly where to go to review the points they do not understand. All I need to do is review each test, see what was missed, and plan what we need to review either in individual conferences or as a whole class.
Logistics for language exercises & translations
I post an answer key (or my own translation of the passage they are working on) either at the same time as I post the assignment, or a couple of days later if I want them to have some time to work before seeing the answers. I encourage my students to work through all of the exercise or passage on their own before checking the answer key, but that is 100% on the honor system. I trust my students to do what’s best for their own learning, and we have lots of conversations about all the different ways they can choose to be accountable to themselves.
When the assignment is due, students upload their corrected work to Blackboard, including questions or comments that they would like for me to address. In my feedback to them, I answer their questions, provide help and examples, and so on.
How it’s going
So far, I’m loving this system. I have very few classes in which my assignments have a “right” or “wrong” answer – I never quiz students on names of characters or authors or dates, for example. But when you’re teaching and learning a language, it’s important that everyone understands each step along the way so no one falls behind. Especially because this is a hybrid class that only meets once per week for 75 minutes, we can’t use our valuable class time “correcting” work, and I never, ever want students to have to wait for me to find out “how they did” on an assignment.
My students have told me that they appreciate this approach too. They feel empowered to find the answers they need and figure out the “whys” for themselves before asking me, and I can already see that they are retaining the material well and know exactly where to look up what they don’t know. not to mention that it’s a great feeling to see a question in the margin of a student’s work, and then a note next to that question saying, “Never mind! I figured it out for myself!!” 🙂
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