University writing instructors are no longer grading students' writing

Two writing program lecturers at Boston University recently wrote about the 'ungrading' practices they and their colleagues are following.

Campus Reform has previously reported on the rise of nontraditional grading methods in higher education.

At Boston University, students are no longer graded on their writing, as Marisa Milanese and Gwen Kordonowy, explain in a recent article on the school’s writing program’s “‘ungrading’ movement.” 

According to Milanese and Kordonowy in a recent column, out of 100 instructors in the Boston University program, “nearly half employed contract grading in some form this semester.”

Milanese and Kordonowy, a master lecturer and senior lecture, respectively, say they still comment on students’ writing, although, they “…no longer place a letter or number on anything they write. No As and Bs. No 82s or 94s.”

[RELATED: No more letter grades? Higher ed is promoting these alternative grading systems.]

The pair refer to their technique as “contract grading,” which “typically involves minimum expectations for students to earn a final course grade.”

The explanation goes on to suggest, “These expectations are unrelated to performance: Attend class and participate, meet due dates, fulfill the criteria of every assignment, make substantive revisions and so on.”

[RELATED: Satire or ‘antiracist’ teaching? Professor says he is ‘ungrading,’ letting students teach each other]

Campus Reform has also reported on the “ungrading” movement, which gained popularity during the pandemic. 

Alternative grading methods have become increasingly popular in higher education, including labor and competency-based grades.

Boston University professors Milanese and Kordonowy defend the “ungrading” movement and labor-based grading by suggesting the method inspires students and creates equity. 

Their article does reference an anonymous conservative student, who “finally felt comfortable writing about her beliefs without getting dinged.”

Campus Reform reached out to Milanese, Kordonowy, and Boston University. This article will be updated accordingly. 

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