Day 4 (2021)

Aug 4, 2021

Today is the day to discuss what topic y'all voted on in the initial survey - alternative assessments. While several pedagogical practices that we collect under the umbrella of alternative assessments can be used to great effect in the classroom, alternative assessments are typically operationalized as ways of assessing student learning by requiring students’ performance to yield a product. Grading and ungrading practices evaluate those products. I think the scholarly literature (yes, I'm going to get super scholarly super quickly here) is a little muddy on what exactly constitutes assessment vs. evaluation when it comes to educational contexts. Also, teachers and students alike seem to regularly confound these two ideas as well (Brookhart, 1993; Pulfrey et al., 2011).

While I think of assessments as a different beast than evaluation, I think we have conflated the two already in the chat, so I'm going to define and expand upon the kinds of assessment and evaluation I've seen mentioned on Yellowdig, including authentic assessments, formative assessments, and ungrading.

Gulikers et al. (2004, p. 69) defines an authentic assessment as "an assessment requiring students to use the same competencies, or combinations of knowledge, skills, and attitudes, that they need to apply in the criterion situation in professional life". We can "improve authenticity in assessment methods through promoting realism, cognitive challenge and evaluative judgement during the planning, administering and following up of assessment tasks" (Villarroel et al., 2019, p. 38)

Formative assessment "is to be interpreted as encompassing all those activities undertaken by teachers, and/or by their students, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged" (Black & Wiliam, 1998, pp. 7-8). Formative assessments are iterative and are usually graded in the final iteration.

Defining ungrading is harder than you might expect. Because the currency of formal education is grades, systems have been put in place to reinforce grading (Blum, 2020b; Kirschenbaum et al., 1971; Kohn, 2013; Tannock, 2017). So ungrading is not just the opposite of grading; it encompasses a spectrum of evidence-based evaluation practices that try to undermine grades and thereby uproot the systems that rely on grading practices (Blum, 2020a). Ungrading has also been described as a transformative pedagogical practice (Stommel, 2020) and as a mindset (Sackstein, 2020). I define ungrading as an umbrella term that encompasses several different forms of alternative evaluative practices. (Future article that Rissa is gonna write in 2021/2022)

Ok - with those ideas in place, we need to discuss the business of today. The theme of the day is alternative assessments. The page of resources for today can be found here: We have a synchronous chat at 11am EDT (UTC-4) on Yellowdig and a Zoom session (invitation is the same for every Zoom session and is on Yellowdig and on email) at 7pm EDT (UTC-4). Please feel free to go to one or the other or both. You are always welcome to contribute on Yellowdig anytime you feel like doing so as well.

References (all firewalled...let me know if you need these)

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and Classroom Learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5(1), 7–74.

Blum, S. (2020a). Introduction: Why ungrade? Why grade? In S. Blum (Ed.), Ungrading: Why rating students undermines learning (and what to do instead) (pp. 1–24). West Virginia University Press.

Blum, S. (Ed.). (2020b). Ungrading: Why rating students undermines learning (and what to do instead). West Virginia University Press.

Brookhart, S. M. (1993). Teachers’ Grading Practices: Meaning and Values. Journal of Educational Measurement, 30(2), 123–142.

Gulikers, J. T. M., Bastiaens, T. J., & Kirschner, P. A. (2004). A five-dimensional framework for authentic assessment. Educational Technology Research and Development, 52(3), 67–86.

Kirschenbaum, H., Napier, R., & Simon, S. B. (1971). Wad-Ja-Get? The grading game in American education (50th Anniversary). Maize Books.

Kohn, A. (2013). The Case Against Grades. Counterpoints, 451, 143–153.

Pulfrey, C., Buchs, C., & Butera, F. (2011). Why grades engender performance-avoidance goals: The mediating role of autonomous motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(3), 683–700.

Sackstein, S. (2020). Shifting the grading mindset. In Ungrading: Why rating students undermines learning (and what to do instead) (pp. 74–81). West Virginia University Press.

Stommel, J. (2020). How to ungrade. In S. Blum (Ed.), Ungrading: Why rating students undermines learning (and what to do instead) (pp. 25–41). West Virginia University Press.

Tannock, S. (2017). No grades in higher education now! Revisiting the place of graded assessment in the reimagination of the public university. Studies in Higher Education, 42(8), 1345–1357.

Villarroel, V., Boud, D., Bloxham, S., Bruna, D., & Bruna, C. (2019). Using principles of authentic assessment to redesign written examinations and tests. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 1–12.

Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh

Learning/Teaching Enthusiast | #Chem & #Stats prof @CNMOnline | New MS Stats @UNM | #STEMEd researcher | @ChemEdX 2YC Lead | @DigPedLab Faculty | @VConnecting Buddy | #LGTBQi 🏳️‍🌈| She/Her | 😈

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.