Ungrading

This course adheres to PSU’s Fair Grading Policy.

For most college courses, you’re graded on both the labor of your work (how much time you’ve spent to produce work) and the quality of your work (whether something you’ve produced is “A-quality” or “B-quality.” However, such quality can be subjective, as it changes from course to course, assumes that all students enter the classroom with the same knowledge and abilities, and assumes that all assignments work equally well for all students.

For all my courses, I’m going to only grade the labor of your work. This approach is often called “ungrading.” I take my lead from Jesse Stommel’s work on ungrading, as well as the work of Asao Inoue. For me, ungrading means that if you complete enough work, you’ll get an A for the course. Incomplete assignments take away from your final grade according to the following chart.

You won’t receive any letter or number grades for this course beyond the 6-week grades and the end of the term. No assignments will be graded in a “traditional” way. Instead will use a points system to keep track of your labor, as laid out in Projects and Posts (Questions, Collaborations, and Reflections). See the Assignments page for details.

For ease of use and familiarity, I’ve weighted the points for assignments to fit on a traditional grade scale of 100. Projects are worth 12.5 points each. Posts are worth 1.5 points each. 92.5 points worth of Projects and Posts earns an A in the course.

Letter Grade Percent Grade 4.0 Scale 
A92.5-1004.0
A-89.5-92.53.7
B+86.5-89.53.3
B82.5-86.53.0
B-79.5-82.52.7
C+76.5-79.52.3
C72.5-76.52.0
C-69.5-72.51.7
D+66.5-69.51.3
D64.5-66.51.0
FBelow 64.50.0
Adapted from GPA scale used by The College Board

Green Lights and Projects

You will submit all posts, including Unessay Projects, to this WordPress site. Daily posts (Questions, Collaborations, and Reflections) receive full points if they meet all of the assignment requirements (word count, inclusion of quotations and hyperlinks). Daily posts that fall short of the requirements may earn half or no points. (For example, a 75-word post would earn half points. An empty post would earn no points.)

Unessay Projects need to receive a Green Light to earn full points. I will review Unessay Projects and “green-light” them if your work process is visible and the Project completes the assignment requirements. If I do not green-light your work, I’ll let you know what I think you need to revise or keep working on. You can continue working on an Unessay Project until you get a Green Light (up until the Thursday of Finals Week). Projects without a green-light only count for half points. Please notify me when you complete revisions and would like for me to reevaluate a Project.

Projects submitted by the appropriate deadlines listed on this course site will receive written feedback. If these assignments do not receive the green-light, we will negotiate a new deadline and the work may be revised.

Due Dates and Deadlines

Even when we’re not living through a global pandemic, life is difficult. College is difficult, and deadlines can create a false sense of adrenaline-fueled urgency that forces us to finish work out of panic rather than out of curiosity and the desire to learn.

In my ongoing efforts to foster Self-Regulated Learning, one of PSU’s Habits of Mind, I’m implementing a Due Dates and Deadlines policy to try to break this cycle of procrastination and panic. All assignments for our class have explicit Due Dates (when an assignment is expected to be completed) and accompanying Deadlines (when an assignment must be completed for credit). Deadlines are always one week after Due Dates. After a deadline has passed, no late work is accepted.

For example, Questions posts are due the day before each given class session. If we’re reading the first few chapters of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on a Tuesday, your Questions post is due to WordPress by Monday evening. This gives everyone a chance to read your post before class on Tuesday, and it makes your work part of our ongoing class conversation. But since that conversation is ongoing, there’s still a window of time when you can turn in your Questions post and join that conversation! If you post by the following Monday, you’ve made the Deadline and you’ve contributed in that window when your work has the most value to our ongoing course.

As noted on our Assignments page, there are six opportunities for posts each week (Questions, Collaborations, and Reflections), but only four posts are due each week. You choose which four you’ll do. And you may do all six if you’d like! I would not recommend this on a weekly basis, as it’s going above and beyond the expectations for the course. However, if you’ve missed deadlines already in the semester, you can make that up by doing extra work for the current week of the course. In other words, while there’s no catching up on missed deadlines, there are ample opportunities to put in the work required for this course on any given week.

In the same manner, Projects have a deadline one week after the due date listed on our course schedule. This ensures that I have ample time to give every Project the feedback you deserve, and that ongoing Projects don’t distract from our other class work. Since Projects and Posts are both worth points toward your course grade, a missed Project can be made up by additional posts in the same way that missed posts can be made up.

Academic Honesty, Deadlines, and Extensions

This course adheres to PSU’s Academic Integrity Policy. While cheating, plagiarism, and other types of academic misconduct are serious issues, in my teaching experience such issues arise because students have been backed into a corner by stress, by unexpected life events, and by deadlines.

As such, deadlines for all assignments are flexible rather than ironclad. This means they may be negotiated on a case by case basis.

If you find yourself in a position where a deadline has arrived and you have not done much of the required work, just wash your hands of that assignment and move on with the course. There will be many opportunities to do the work of this course!

If, however, you find yourself in a position where you’re already deep into a post or project and you feel you cannot honestly complete the work by the deadline, please email me. I am happy to renegotiate assignment deadlines and parameters to fit your situation and your interests. In this sense, it is much better to ask for permission than for forgiveness. When you email me, send me all your work to date on the assignment and we’ll go from there. And if the deadline passes after you email me but before I get back in touch with you, don’t panic! We can always continue the conversation tomorrow, or next Monday, or after the holiday break.

Legacy Ungrading (Past Semesters)

In past semesters, I’ve used a chart rather than a points-based system. We won’t be using this in Spring 2022. I include it only as an example of where I’ve been with Ungrading, and to preserve this information for any past students still working on an Incomplete from a previous iteration of this course.

GradeRequired ProjectsRequired Weekly PostsRequired Weekly CommentsRequired ConferencesGPA
Total in Course3
assigned
11
assigned
40
assigned
3
assigned
A282814 . 0
B172413 . 0
C162002 . 0
D051601
F0< 5<1600
Ungrading for Dr. Helms’s courses

(In other words, to receive a B in past versions of this course, one would complete at least one project, at least seven blog posts, at least 24 comments, and at least one one-on-one conferences.)