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Ungrading: Adding Learning Intensive Writing Assignments Without Increasing Grading Load

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.454.1 - 2.454.7



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Paper Authors

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Julie E. Sharp

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2647


Julie E. Sharp Vanderbilt University

Abstract This paper presents five examples of ungraded yet effective writing assignments that can be added to engineering classes. These examples are freewriting, analysis/response papers, sample paper revision with comparison to a model, draft with an individual conference, and journals. Various "ungrading" techniques for handling these assignments and for giving feedback are described. Students write to learn and to improve writing without the professor's extensive written evaluation.

Many engineering educators are interested in including more and better writing assignments in their classes. Perhaps with numerous graded assignments already required, professors may wonder if more writing assignments will enhance students' learning enough to warrant increasing an already heavy grading load. Adding learning intensive writing assignments to engineering classes is possible, however, without adding extra grading, thus achieving learning gain without grading pain.

In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass,1 Humpty Dumpty tells Alice that he has received an "unbirthday" present. If I remember correctly, one movie version even has a song with the words "a very merry unbirthday to you." Humpty's coining of that word allows him to have 364 days for presents rather than just the one day for a birthday present. Similarly, I coined the phrase "ungrading." Ungrading allows more opportunities to add effective writing assignments without requiring extensive responses and grading.

What are the benefits of ungrading besides avoiding the extra grading load? Writing assignments can help students to learn course content and also to improve their writing skills. The Writing-Across-the-Curriculum movement (WAC) has long touted the benefits of writing to learn.2-4 Writing is a means of thinking; as we write, we formulate ideas and problem solve. Writing can help students remember concepts presented in class and in reading assignments. In addition, writing more often can improve students' writing skills. These benefits for the student can occur without assessment or even feedback. However, when certain feedback techniques are used, the possibilities for writing improvement increase. Feedback techniques can include the following: class discussion small group discussion peer evaluation instructor comments in an individual conference

self evaluation brief, instructor-written comments (e.g., with journals)

Sharp, J. E. (1997, June), Ungrading: Adding Learning Intensive Writing Assignments Without Increasing Grading Load Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6851

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