Ungrading for More/Better Feedback


I don't know how long it will last (?), but Alfie Kohn's brilliant Punished by Rewards has been reissued in a 25th anniversary edition, and it is only $2.99 for the Kindle. You can read a Kindle book on your phone or in your web browser, no need for a Kindle device. If you have not read this book, please read it! I re-read the new edition, and was even more impressed than when I first read it 20 or so years ago... mostly because I have since stopped grading and can confirm from my own experience: Kohn's evidence and arguments are entirely correct; we need to stop grading! Amazon Kindle: $2.99 (checked on October 28 2018)



I've created this post as an omnibus of resources to accompany my guest post for Starr Sackstein's EdWeek blog: (Un)Grading: It Can Be Done in College.

For me, what the students say about (un)grading is the most persuasive evidence there can be. Here is a collection of student comments about grading from their end-of-semester course evaluations. And while you're at it, check out what the students say about creativity too. A big part of ungrading for me is unleashing student creativity!

My assessment approach is all feedback - no grades, and I have collected a wealth of feedback resources, both for my own use and for my students to use here: Feedback Resources. If you have additional resources I should add, let me know. You can also follow my feedback work at my Canvas Community blog.


Starr Sackstein is the author of Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School, which is a FANTASTIC book about alternatives to traditional grading. I highly recommend it! I read the Kindle version from Amazon.


LEARN MORE

Below is a list of articles I've bookmarked on grading/ungrading, and you can find more resources by following the #TTOG hashtag at Twitter. Plus you'll find more articles here: Feedback Resources (there's a specific section there about feedback versus grading).

Why I Don't Grade, by Jesse Stommel. This beautiful piece is a great way to start re-thinking assumptions about grading, showing what damage grades can do and how they get in the way of real learning.


Ungrading, by Susan D. Blum (in Inside Higher Ed). Formal education has led to a lack of learning in a number of ways, argues Susan D. Blum, and the one change that can make a big difference is getting rid of grades.
This is a detailed article which identifies the wide range of problems caused by grading, and the ways in which you can solve these problems by going gradeless.

IHE's John Warner interviews Susan Blum: I Love Learning; I Hate School 
The third [wish] is that there would be no grades. In that way, the measure of success would have to come from elsewhere--from application, satisfaction, from how well the learning actually works. As another of my touchstones, Frank Smith, says in his wonderful The Book of Learning and Forgetting, most learning--aside from in school--is continuous, effortless, independent of rewards and punishments, and never forgotten. It is only in schools that learning becomes so difficult, dependent on rewards and punishments, and easily forgotten.

And also from John Warner about his own teaching: When Students Say Grades "Matter," Give Them a Choice (and check out his other blog posts in his ongoing experiment with contract grading)

Paul Thomas: Not How to Enjoy Grading But Why to Stop Grading (Thomas is a co-editor of De-testing and de-grading schools: Authentic alternatives to accountability and standardization; see the blog post for more about that book)

Mind/Shift's Katrina Schwartz: How Can Students Be Successful in a High Stakes World?  
No grades: Commenting on a piece of work forces students to internalize changes rather than focusing on exclusively on the grade. 

David Nagel: Ditch Grades Now, Focus on Student Learning
(report on a SXSWedu conference organized by Mark Banes)

Mark Oppenheimer: There’s nothing wrong with grade inflation. Grades don't matter anyway. Here's why.
Overall, graded students are less interested in the topic at hand and — and, for obvious, common-sense reasons — more inclined to pick the easiest possible task when given the chance. 

NPR's Anya Kamenetz talking with Todd Rose: Standards, Grades And Tests Are Wildly Outdated, Argues 'End Of Average'
In higher ed we have a brutally standardized system. It doesn't matter what your interests are, what job you want, everyone takes the same courses in roughly the same time and at the end of the course you get ranked.

Jeffrey Young (Chronicle): These Videos Could Change How You Think About Teaching.
Profile of Michael Wesch, including his "not yet" grading; you'll also find his great video, here, "The Sleeper."

Justin Tarte: 10 Signs There's a Grading Problem in Your Classroom. I learned about this one via #OklaEd chat! :-)

No Grading, More Learning. An article in IHE about Cathy Davidson: Her plan? Turn over grading to the students in the course, and get out of the grading business herself. Now that the course is finished, Davidson is giving an A+ to the concept. "It was spectacular, far exceeding my expectations," she said. "It would take a lot to get me back to a conventional form of grading ever again."

John Spencer: What Happens to Student Engagement When You Take Away Grades?
Kids aren't concerned about compliance in a non-graded classroom. Don't get me wrong. There are deadlines. There are creative limitations. There are routines. I believe that limitations can be a part of what makes creativity thrive. However, when grades are gone, students are less likely to worry if they are doing things the "right" way.


And Twitter may give us only 140 characters, Christopher Moore is able to sum it all up in a single tweet: feedback is everything, grades only reveal our anxieties over the system of assessment turning against us.


Lee Skallerup Bessette: Assessment as Care, Assessment of Care. Lee's post offers a beautiful defense of assessment-as-conversation, something the vocabulary of ABCDF obviously does not support very well: Grading and assessment become conversations, instead of two competing monologues. Learning becomes the thing, instead of stand-ins for what learning could superficially look like.


Also, check out this nice article in our student newspaper with remarks from me and from Rob Reynolds (he and I have been trading ideas about grading since we met at OU back in 1999): Test anxiety, grade inflation call traditional grading system into question by Lauren Massing.

This Medium post by Arthur Chiaravalli is extremely useful, including reports on research by Hattie and others:Teachers Going Gradeless. Toward a Future of Growth Not Grades. I especially like the distinction here between gradeless as the decision to "grade less" or, alternatively, to proceed "without grades" entirely.

Great piece by Jennifer Hurley about feedback, writing, and revision... and giving up rubrics: Why I Threw Away My Rubrics: "When we acknowledge our students as individuals, when we read their work with respect and openness, we can let go of the terrible psychic burden of being their judges and “executioners.” I no longer dread reading my students’ work. I am excited to see what they have to say and to see how I can help them. Try a semester without rubrics and grades, and you will never go back."

Check out this great article by Ashley Lamb-Sinclair in The Atlantic: Why Grades Are Not Paramount to Achievement. There's a write-up of her article by Katrina Schwartz at Mind/Shift: Are Grades Diverting Focus From Real Learning?





Grading: What Students Say


Update December 2016: I added student comments from the Fall 2016 evaluations to the list. Plus, I decided to do a similar post to see what students say about creative work.
Update May 2017. I added comments from the Spring 2017 evaluations.
Update December 2017. I added comments from the Fall 2017 evaluations.
Update May 2018. I added comments from the Spring 2018 evaluations.

I have been thinking a lot about grading this weekend in order to write up a guest blog post (more about that here), and a friend suggested that I use student comments as part of that review: what a great idea!

To search for comments, I went to the online evaluation system we use for classes at the end of the semester. The ratings (numbers) are made public through our Provost's website, but the really useful stuff — the students' actual comments — are not released publicly; only the instructors and university administrators can see them. So, what I did was to look through those comments, going back through the evaluations since Fall 2010 (that's when we went digital) to find comments specifically about grading in the classes. There's nothing fancy: I just did a simple Control-F search in my browser for "grad" (grade, grades, grading, etc.) to see what turned up.

The results were really intriguing, and very encouraging too. Most importantly, there really weren't very many comments about grades compared to other things, which is part of my goal! On the other hand, you can see from some comments here that students are so used to the teacher "grading" things that they would sometimes refer to my feedback as grades — so when they said I was prompt in grading, they mean I was prompt in giving them feedback on their writing. That's not surprising: the word "grade" is all over the place in education, and we don't talk about "feedback" very much by comparison. My goal, of course, is to change that, so that we are focused on feedback instead of the grading!

Anyway, without further ado, here are their comments:

It was so nice to have certainty about what my grade would be. This course was ideal in that you get out of it what you put into it. If you work hard and put the effort in, you'll get the grade you want.

I loved everything about this course; the online assignments, the completion grades, the ability to write blogs on our own and actually get better at writing, everything!

Grades were entirely based on completion, so long as you put in the work you didn't have to stress about grades.

There was an emphasis on learning the course material rather than worrying about grades.

I love how the course is formatted and the grading. I learned so much from this course.

It was nice to be able to follow the class and miss assignments without trashing our grades.

This is one of the best classes I have taken at the University of Oklahoma. I learned so much and never had to stress about my grade. I always knew where I stood in the course, the organization made me feel comfortable by the first week.

It was very fun and I learned a lot! I really liked that I had the freedom to write just to write rather than for a grade.

This was the most unique course I have ever taken as far as how it was managed and graded. This unique format gave me the ability to learn and express my understanding in a way that didn't come along with anxiety about grades. This is the first time I have ever taken a course and was not stressed about grades so I purely learned the material. It was amazing and I think I learned more in this course than I have in any other in a long time.

Very quick grader, open schedule, fun material, great feedback

I loved that you could pace yourself throughout the whole semester and you had control over how you wanted to schedule assignments. There were many different kind of opportunities/assignments we could choose from so it was easy to choose something that we were interested it. Laura did a wonderful job at grading assignments and offering personalized grading.

I like that we were in charge of our grades based on how much effort we put in.

Laura is great! She has put a lot of work to make this online class fun for students and she is so prompt about grading items and giving awesome feedback to students over their writing!

I had never taken an online course up until this point in my career, but this turned out to be one of my favorite classes I've ever had. You have the ability to learn as much as you would like to about the subject and the grading style was a welcome refreshment.

The self-grading was definitely a nice feature. Also the ability to work at your own pace and the freedom to choose your own readings. This class afforded me freedoms that I was not granted in any other class. I felt like I was being treated like an adult for once.

I liked not having to worry about my grade. I got to work as hard as I want to achieve my desired letter grade. She was very upfront about everything from the very beginning. SO SO organized.

One of my favorite classes I've taken at OU. The content, structure, and grading of the course was terrific!

Choosing the grade I wanted and being able to map out what I wanted to do to get there on my own schedule was really useful and lowered my stress significantly in this course.

I really liked it. It was fun and was all about learning not just a grade.

The way the class is set up and graded was very fair.

I loved the class because of the felxibility and the way it is graded.

The declarations were a really good idea. Even if I forgot to do it, I could email the professor to get the points. It was like self grading.

This was the first class that had a grading method like this. I really liked the way this course was laid out.

Grading yourself was very convenient, not having to wait weeks for grades was nice.

If I could take it again, I would. I cannot express enough what a great class this ended up being. It gets an unfair rap for being easy, when in actuality, it's exactly as difficult as you make it. You can glide through and do the bare minimum and still probably get an A, or you can rise to your own standards and push yourself and earn the grade you get.

I really liked how there were a lot of assignments and grades were given based on participation. I felt that I learned much more this way because the emphasis was on learning and creativity rather than a test.

We were able to choose what we wanted to read each week. The choices I had in the class was the best part. It made me feel as though I had control over my grade and my learning.

I liked the near instant grade feedback that was provided by Professor Gibbs.

I like how it was self graded.

It was great! I enjoyed it so much! I loved being able to read and write for a grade!

Everything is completion based, so the grading is fair.

Even though the workload seemed like a lot, she made it possible to still achieve the grade you want by offering extra credit every week.

I feel the strongest point of this class is the very self-paced, self-set tactics. You pick the readings. You set your schedule. You report your grades. The work is engaging and the professor is always available for assistance and support.

Very fairly graded, professor did an excellent job making sure we improved our writing.

I like that I was able to take control of my own grade.

Grading system is the best I have seen.

the grading was based on whether or not you did the work, so that was nice in the sense that we didn't have to worry about doing every little thing right.

Laura was an effective instructor and gave more than enough opportunities to improve grade.

The self grading bit was really strange.

I really appreciated the way our assignments were graded. This class focused so much more on growth than grades, and that made the class feel like a much more positive environment than others I've taken before. When I fell behind in this class, I knew I could catch back up, because the focus was so much more on growing in my writing.

Also, the course was graded fairly and always had a fair amount of work for the grade.

Very fair grader.

I loved the grading system.

I also enjoyed having the freedom to work ahead, self-grade and get the course done early, as well as the freedom to choose the readings and the direction of the stories.

a good way to do an online course. very easy to do and get a good grade, but you do have to do the work and think about it.

I liked the ability to work at my own pace and the structure of the syllabus. The assignments were consistent each week, and challenged us to explore the creative side of our brains. The grading was always fair.

I loved being able to write what I wanted and not be graded subjectively. It made it easy for me to be creative!

I just love everything about Dr. Gibbs format of this course - it really allowed me to use my own creative ideas, gather up points for my desired grade, and receive feedback from her and students in the class.

Being graded based on completion rather than content encouraged me to be creative with my writing.

 I love that the course was graded on accumulated credit instead of percentage of credit; it encouraged exploratory learning that was perfect for the material.

I love how Dr. Gibbs is so hands off and lets the students learn by discussing things with each other, while at the same time being there when we need her. She is absolutely wonderful at grading storybooks. When she likes something she lets you know. This is really encouraging, especially for people who don't have much confidence in their writing. I loved the positive feedback she gave me.

Laura always grades extremely fairly.

You could work at your own pace, and the grading was very fair.

I really loved how interesting she made this class and how fairly she graded everything. You knew what to expect when going into the semester and that is what I like. If you worked hard you got a good grade and that is how I think classes should be. Also I liked how one bad grade did not screw you over like other classes.

I love the concept of grade declarations rather than waiting for each assignment to be looked at and put in by the instructor, and the grading system in general was one of my favorite things about this course. Everything was very clearly outlined from the beginning and it was easy to see where I was at points-wise I at any time I chose.

In many of my online classes I feel like I don't learn that much, but that was not the case whatsoever for this course. I also really enjoyed the grading system and the control we had over which assignments to do each week.

I know that this is an online course and you have to do more work in order to get a good grade but the workload amount seemed a little excessive. This still did not affect how much I liked the course though.

I learned a ton about topics I did not know. The grading was primarily completion which is great as long as you stay on top of things. Also, the assignments were fun and I learned a lot at the same time.

The grading system used in this class was very effective for the type of work completed.

Being able to work at your own pace was a godsend. It really helped to be able to anticipate busy weeks and get this course's work done ahead of time. My grades in my other classes were definitely better because of this.

I liked the freedom to work ahead. Access to most of the coursework allows students hold students accountable for their own grade. I enjoyed diversity of the material and the quality of the content.

I love that each week the student has the choice in which readings to complete. I liked the grading system being point based and up to the student.

I really enjoyed how prompt the grades were posted and the ability to manage time personally and control your grade from the start.

I am always worried about taking online courses because they are difficult to keep up with sometimes, but Ms. Gibbs does a fantastic job of not only being fair with grading, but providing feedback with all of the work that I did and helping me reach the grade that I wanted/deserved at the end of the semester.

I learned a lot and felt that it was graded fairly.

She designed the course in such a way that the students could work at their own pace and design their own grades. The motivation for this was high for me, encouraging me to want to learn more and do my best.

Easy to finish class early and graded based on completion. I also liked not having tests.

I like the way the class is graded. I find it really contributes to learning vs memorizing.

I love her grading system and her teaching methods. I was learning things without even realizing it!

I would say that the load is too high, but the grading is more than fair.

I really liked how reasonable Laura was. The work wasn't hard or too heavy, but she always made a point to be understanding if it was time for midterms, etc. She said she understood if we couldn't get something done and gave us a link to see about how much we could not do to still get the desired grade.

The grading system was really great; convenient, easy to figure out, and always felt like it reflected the work I'd done. The wide range of topics and enthusiasm of the instructor for the course material were the best parts; getting personalized feedback was really encouraging.

I like how we had the opportunity to think for ourselves. Our writing could be about whatever we felt like and were read without judgement. I also like the improvement in my proof reading skills. I felt like I was pushed in this area and therefore I was able to grow. I thank Laura for helping keep this course interesting but also challenging our learning but giving us multiple opportunities to make the grade that we desire.

It had a fabulous structure that included a good amount of work but allowed the student to complete the assignments and the course early. Through this course, I feel as though I was able to really improve my writing more so than I have in any of my honors college courses. Perhaps because this class was less pressure? I'm not sure, but I believe the structure and the grade upon completion with comments from peers allowed me to be more confident in my writing.

I loved the way this course was graded.

I thought this course was awesome because it gave us so much freedom to do the work whenever we wanted to. It was also good because as long as we did the readings and the writings we would get a good grade. This was new for me because usually everything in previous classes was graded hard. This took the pressure off worring about getting an A or B and actually learning the material.

Laura is very organized. Her students always know what to expect in the course and can work for the grades they want.

Despite the workload, it was very enjoyable. Also, since we had a lot of control over our grade, it felt much less stressful.

I loved how you could work at your own pace. There were so many points and opportunities for you to get the desired grade. It was great to know that you had a goal and it motivated me to do the work for the class.

It was enjoyable and creative. It was also easy to know where I stood in the class and how my grades would turn out.

Laura was extremely organized. The course was organized in a manner that was conducive to students' schedule. You are able to pick your grade. You get the grade you work for.

All students knew exactly how much work was required to obtain their desired letter grade.

I loved the course. The material is intersting, there is plenty of chances to earn the grade that you want.

It emphasized much more creativity than most courses that I have taken. It was a very nontraditional course but set up very well. Laura Gibbs did an excellent job of managing the course and grading fairly.

Laura did a great job managing the class, was always prompt with grading and questions.

The instructor had an extremely fast turn around time for graded assignments and was also very prompt answering questions.

I also appreciate the feedback from the instructor. She paid individual attention and feedback on my assignments and I felt like she spent as much effort grading my assignments as I did writing them.

I really enjoyed that she allowed for us to submit assignments on our own time and that we could stop working when we got the grade that we wanted.

You put a lot of time into the course but you get out what you put in. I also liked that you basically decided what grade you got based on how much work you wanted to do. You knew that as long as you did the work, you would get a 100. This doesn't mean it was easy though!!

I love that it was a "work at your own pace" kind of class. I love classes where I don't have to really worry about my grade. Therefore I was glad to do the assignments, because I was actually interested in them.

I always knew what grade I had and what I needed to complete in order to get the grade I wanted.


Open your mind with a new perspective.



Creativity: What Students Say


Update May 2017. I added comments from the Spring 2017 evaluations.
Update December 2017. I added comments from the Fall 2017 evaluations.
Update May 2018. I added comments from the Spring 2018 evaluations.

In order to provide support for my (un)grading system, I collected student comments from my course evaluations about grading, and I decided to do the same thing this time for "creativity" since that is way more important. In fact, one of the main reasons I won't put grades on anything is because I don't want students to feel like their creativity is constrained by my judgment in any way.

So, I grabbed all the comments for the course evaluations going back to 2010 (when my school went digital with the evaluations), and I did a Control-F to find every reference to creating and creativity. Here is what I came up with: you can see that students put a high value on the opportunity to be more creative, and it sure looks like they would welcome more creative opportunities in their other classes too!

The numbers refer to these prompts in the evaluation form:
1. What were the strong points of the course?
2. What were the weak points of the course?
3. What should the instructor do to improve their teaching?
4. What is your overall opinion of this course?


1. I feel like the course helped me improve my creative writing, and it was cool to come out of it with a shiny portfolio website displaying my work.

1. Ability to be creative and express yourself through stories.

1. channeling creativity

1. Great feedback Develops writing and creative skills

4. This is my favorite course! I really like working on my creative writing and love that I could do it on my own schedule.

1. It allowed students to be creative and also learn about writing.

1. The specific strong points of this course was how Laura encouraged everyone to have fun with the subjects and be creative.

4. This course was incredible! I had so much fun being creative and writing in this course.

4. It was a very good class that exposes the student to numerous Indian epics and characters. It also incourages creativity and exploration which are gernerally discouraged in other classes.

1. The core curriculum gave a great foundation, but the real learning happened in the process of creative writing (researching people, places, and stories encountered). There was encouragement and highly effective feedback on the development of my project, and I had more fun in this class than I have in years at school.

1. Allowing the student creative freedom.

1. the creative writing aspects

4. I loved this class. It allowed a lot of creativity from the student.

1. the creativeness

2. i learned a lot of skills about creating websites and useful internet skills

1. It was so much fun. It enhances creativity and thinking outside the box.

1. The class demanded creativity which was fun and kept it fresh.

1. Readings and storybook/portfolio assignments. These assignments encouraged creativity and learning to use tech-based tools to put together a very fun project.

1. I really loved the creative aspect of it. The semester long project was my favorite part.

4. I loved this class. I really enjoyed the different readings as well as being able to use my creativity in recreating the many stories we read every week.

1. This course encouraged critical thinking about the reading assignments and allowed for creativity on the part of the students.

4. I loved this course. I really enjoyed getting to use my creativity and was definitely a nice break from my regular classes.

4. This course is an excellent way to learn about the stories of the world while having an outlet to express my own creativity. It is very well-designed, and I had so much fun reading and telling stories that I hope to continue.

1. The professor engages very well with the students and allows room for improvement, as well as, room for creativity and adaptability.

1. Allowing us to write creative stories was very different from other classes.

1. I just love everything about Dr. Gibbs format of this course - it really allowed me to use my own creative ideas, gather up points for my desired grade, and receive feedback from her and students in the class.

4. This class is a great way to learn to be creative with writing.

4. One of my favorite courses I have taken! It was so refreshing to be challenged in a more creative way.

4. Very engaging and liberal in allowing students to express creativity.

1. I love that it was online and that it was based off of participation and our creative thinking skills! I loved writing stories every week and expanding my writing skills, as well as knowledge about different Indian Epics.

1. I absolutely loved everything about this course! I loved the format, the readings, the assignments, and the group assignments that allowed classmates to get to know each other. I had so much fun being creative this semester and enjoyed letting myself have fun with a class for once.

4. Incredibly happy I took this course. It allowed me to try creative writing without too much pressure.

1. This was one of my favorite courses at the University. The entire concept of using blogging and retelling of stories really helped me understand what I was learning. The format of the course inspired creative learning and imagination.

4. This was a very different class compared to other OU courses and I really loved it. It encouraged creative writing, discussion among peers, and personal growth. I would definitely retake this if I had to or recommend it to others. I enjoyed the flexibility of it and was challenged, but I was never stressed by the course despite the coursework.

1. The class really encouraged creativity and gave students the freedom to express themselves through their assignments.

1. Laura Gibbs has a gift for making each student feel important. Not only was this a creative writing class over the Epics of India, but our instructor taught us a multitude of applications on the computer.

1. It encouraged creative thinking and improved my style. It challenged me to push myself as a writer and go out of my comfort zone.

1. This course had a lot of open options available for a person to express their creativity or just explore a new style.

1. I love this course! As a science major student, I am glad to have taken this course because it is like a little extra break I have from all the science courses. I was able to improve my createive writings through this course and I really enjoy most of the reading materials since they are super interesting to read!

1. She allowed you to express your creativity through many different outlets. i really appreciated this, as i learn in different ways.

1. I think the best part of this class was the fact that it pushed you to get out of your comfort zone sometimes and explore your creative output.

4. I really enjoyed the course and loved the learning style compared to other courses that provide a basic outlook. This course was creative and enough to help engage me. As a student that struggles to read and write as well as remain focused and seek the outcome of any assignment, this class helped alleviate the stress and allowed me to have fun as I learned and appreciate the progress along the way.

4. I enjoyed the class and material. I am not usually a writer or creative person so this was a fun way to explore that side of me.

1. Being creative and using good feedback to improve your own work.

1. The course really encouraged creativity and exposed the students to a variety of world literature.

4. The course was very good. It successfully encouraged creative thinking.

1. Creative assignments and usage of blogging, as well as exposing students to website design and story writing.

1. This course is probably the best I have ever taken at OU. Wow! It required a lot of work, effort, and time, but I learned SO MUCH. Laura makes it very easy to be successful in this class, but has structured the course so that one must put in the work and time. She also encourages independent thinking and ownership over the work by giving us the freedom to choose topics for our projects and allowing us our own creative liberties.

4. This class was so engaging, fun, interesting, creative, and meaningful! I LOVED it!

1. allows creativity

1. It was enjoyable and creative.

1. absolutely loved the creative writing aspect also, there were many varied assignments, utilizing different strengths and weaknesses, some creative, some analytical. The variety made the class even better.

4. I thought it was a very creative course. I am not usually using my creative side because I am an accounting major.

1. I loved the course! The epics were great reads and I learned a lot about another culture. The storybook project allowed us to be creative and unique.

1. It really forced me to think creatively and be independent and organized.

1. Great format, creative writing assignments, instructor's passion

1. It emphasized much more creativity than most courses that I have taken. It was a very nontraditional course but set up very well.

1. It was interesting and creative.

1. Laura is a fun teacher. Encourages our creative side, which I haven't found often in many of my classes at OU. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the content and format of this class.

4. Awesome. There was a lot of creative writing for this class and Laura took the time to read it all and give feedback. She really believes in her teacher goal and that makes the learning experience more unique and fun.

1. The diversity of the material as well as the creative assignments.

1. Lots of creativity was encouraged. The teacher did a great job of improving my writing skills.

1. This course is what online courses should be. And then the fact that we must read, analyze and rewrite the stories in each unit on our own forces us into a critical thinking mode we could never reach if the stories were being interpreted for us in a traditional setting. This way, our first introduction to the material is only our own initial thoughts and interpretation, and we're forced to create something with that knowledge which requires us to really examine, dissect and understand these stories. And then we are exposed to other students' interpretations, which broadens and challenges our understanding. And the storybook projects teach us both technical skills we may never have been exposed to and literary skills.

1. I love the design of this course. It encourages creativity yet calls for responsibility.

1. I think the strongest point of this course is that is encourages students to be creative. With all the storytelling we get to do, it really allows us to reach into our imagination and come up with something really fun.

1. This course was very interesting, I really enjoyed all of the different readings and creating my own story book was fun too. This class was unlike any class I have taken at OU.

1. Really wide range of subjects was great. The creative writing was also very useful to try again. Great course.

1. I like how the course had many different assignments that allows the student to be creative in their writing. It also gives the students the chance to read other student's work as well.

1. The professor wanted us to expand our knowledge and get better at using the internet and the technology. The professor also wanted us to be creative and use our imagination when it comes to writing stories.

1. The course really encouraged creativity on the students part which I don't get from many other courses.

4. Loved the class. I was able to be creative and she was very good at critiquing our writings.

1. I think this might be the first class I have ever taken that I knew absolutely nothing about the subject matter going into the class. I really enjoyed everything we learned and I was also able to have the freedom to delve into specific topics within the class that interested me. I consider myself to be a highly creative individual and I usually don't learn best in the status quo university situation, so I really thrived on the format of Laura's class.

1. I really enjoyed all the creative writing opportunities because I was able to work outside of my comfort zone (very little creative writing has been encouraged in my schooling) and make associations that furthered my understanding of the subject matter.

4. I loved this class, it was the perfect combination of reading and creative writing! I really loved regaining my creative voice. Thank you!

1. I love the way the course is set up, it encourages creativity well!

1. I really loved that, after reading the required texts, Laura gave us the chance to stretch our creativity by giving us assignments that let us use our imagination.

4. I have been able to be more creative in the class then any other class, which is good, because I like to consider myself somewhat of a writer!

4. I really liked this class. It takes time and effort, it's not an "easy A" or a "blowoff" class. I really appreciate that Laura lets us be so creative in our assignments. In fact, the more creative the better! That's difficult to find on a college campus!

1. Despite the workload, it was very enjoyable. The whole format of the course was very creative and engaging, especially for an online course. Overall, I think the course gave us an opportunity to express our creativity in a way not many other courses on campus do.

1. Flexibility and creative opportunities

1. Laura's classes (I've taken 2 now) are SO creative. They have been a breath of fresh air compared to all of my other college courses. She allows for creativity and flexibility while still sticking to the course objectives.

4. I think the course is excellent! It allows you to be creative which you just don't get in a lot of college courses---unless of course you are taking art classes. This class is excellent.

1. The course was creative and allowed students to get outside of the class room and actually do something creative, fun, interesting and learn at the same time. She goes out of her way to encourage the students to enjoy learning and I know I did.

4. I absolutely loved the course. I'm a creative mind so her class was right up my alley. I enjoyed the challenges her assignments presented to me, and I can honestly say out of all my time at both ECU and OU, I've never enjoyed a course like I loved hers.

1. There is a wide range of classes taught here at the University, but this class is very unique. The learning experience I had in this class was far beyond what was expected. Not only did I learn a lot from the wide range of readings, but I also learned how to write and think more creatively.

1. it allowed the student to be very creative

4. I really enjoyed the class. It was fun to be creative and read and learn about different cultures and their stories.

1. I really enjoyed being able to work at my own pace and the creativity involved in the storybook.

1. Being an art major, all the different stories we got to read really helped aid in my creativity. The way her course is set up is perfect, I really got the most out of her class more than any other class I have taken.

1. The instructor is one of the best in the world. I liked having flexibility in chosing between creative and analytical writing assignments. It was fun!

1. Allowing students to recreate the stories was wonderful.

1. Being offered the freedom of taking the course online as well as the freedom to be creative added to the course

4. It was a really interesting and unique course. Laura is creative and extremely encouraging.

1. There was a lot ways to do well in this course. It was filled with really creative and helpful assignments for the course.

3. Other than find ways to make this class more creative, I would have to say none.

1. The material we read was great. Storytelling is a great way to make sure we understand everything and I loved the creative writing.

1. I really loved that it had a creative component.

1. This course is a dynamic and creative approach to the exploration of myth in various cultures

1. It helped a great deal with my CREATIVE writing

1. The course really let you be independent and creative.

4. I learned a lot in this class and had a great time creating my storybook project.

1. Very interesting course although the course load was extremely heavy I was able to practice skills like blogging, creating a website, and writing

1. This course required a lot of creative thinking and mostly independent work. Every week I was able to provide some of my own work and my own opinion on other people's works.

1. The assignments we had were actually fun and creative. I used the "homework" for this class as a way to relax after the homework in my other classes.

4. I loved this course. I wish all of the online courses, heck all of the courses I have taken at OU, were structured and as much fun as this course. It was a lot of work but it was fun and creative.

1. It was such a great outlet to have a creative exercise, and the grammatical corrections/revisions are spot on. It's really impossible not to learn a thing or two and grow as a writer during this class.

1. The wide range of creativity and ability to work independently was great. I loved creating a storybook and being able to put my own spin on fairy tales.

1. I loved this class because it encouraged independent thinking and creativeness more than any other class I have taken.

1.  I loved how creative I was allowed to be in this class and I did not get docked any points from having differing opinions. I really appreciated being able to develop my own ideas.

4. This was one of my favorite courses of my college career. It was fun and I learned a lot. I also got to expand my writing styles. I am a History major so I wrote mostly about facts and there is not much room to put your own ideas into a paper. This class, however, allowed me to be more creative and really have fun with my writing.

1. This course encouraged a lot of independent and creative thinking.

4. I loved this course! I had so much fun with it and I loved being able to write creatively again.

1. I loved the creative writings, and they were a perfect break from essay writing.

4. I loved the storybook assignments. They were very open, and I could really create a dialogue I wanted about the epics.

1. the assignments encouraged creative thinking and helped keep my writing skills sharp

4. Great course. The teacher allowed me to be creative and really wants the students to enjoy the learning experience.

4. The assignments are combined with one's own creativity and knowledge of the subject which was a breath of fresh air.

1. The great collection of folklore and myths. Also, the way she evaluates comprehension. A great mixture of information based tests along with creative rewriting of the topics. It allows people to absorb the material in many different manners.

4. It was an awesome course with great readings and creative assignments, and I loved it.

1. Gave us the opportunity to be creative in many different writing styles. I really enjoyed doing the blog post and getting to interact with other students through them

1. My favorite assignment is the Storybook. I was able to do whatever I wanted, and it allowed me to be truly creative in a way that I don't get to in other classes.

1. It stimulated creative writing, something which I haven't experienced in any other course I've taken, and I enjoyed that thoroughly. It was challenging, but rewarding at the same time.

1. The strong points of the course were that I could work at my own pace and it made me be creative. SO many college classes are all about regurgitation of material but this class was structured so that I was able to use my mind and learn the material in a way that I will remember.

1. Types of homework (e.g. storytelling assignments) are put together extremely well and allow for creativity - Storybook assignments are perfect for this course because they allow for more study and creativity on a topic of the student's choice

4. I loved the course as a whole. It was constructed so wonderfully and it really sparked my creative abilities.

1. creation of collaborative classroom in an online course -positive nature of professor

4. This course allowed for students to develop and grow with their writing abilities in the funnest and most creative ways possible. The course is writing intensive, but for students who truly enjoy writing, this class is a breath of fresh air from typical textbook/exam-structured courses.

1. Laura uses a lot of the technological capabilities of Google and other services. I've learned how to incorporate these technologies into my life in a very creative way.

1. I like that you allowed and encouraged students to have different opinions and interpretations of the stories we read and that I could be truly creative with the assignments.

1. She really encouraged creative thinking which is very important.

1. Laura did an excellent job in creating structure and staying organized. She allowed the students to work independently and ahead if they so chose to.

1. Instructor enhanced students overall creative writing abilities in addition to course studies.

1. Retelling stories was a good way to practice writing and creativity, as well as to better understand the meanings behind the stories.

4. This has been one of my favorite courses thus far in college! I really loved the storybook project; it challenged my creative ability and my writing skills.

1. I loved this course! It really allowed me, as a science major, to use my creativity. I have never had a class where I just get to write for fun and use my imagination so I really enjoyed doing so in this class.

4. Now I still use Google docs and I had a lot of fun creating stories and reading about different countries myths and folk tales.

4. I loved that I was able to read about different countries' myths and legends and exercise my creative writing skills.

1. broadness of material covered in terms of temporal, thematic, and geographic range; interesting creative writing aspect;

4. I very much enjoyed this course. Through it I improved my creative writing abilities by learning to let my imagination do the work, which I have always wanted to do. I'm not as bad a writer as I thought, and that is comforting and encouraging. :)

1. It develops creativity and writing skills

1. the idea of making a storybook was creative.

1. This course strengthens the students' reading, writing, creativity, tech skills, and time management.

1. I loved how this course worked on an open point system. The interactive and creative assignments were so much fun to accomplish. I felt like I learned so much more by creating instead of taking a test.

1. Allowed my to express myself creatively through writing.

1. Professor Gibbs helped me learn more about grammar than any other teacher I have had. The storybook creativity was my favorite part.

1. Laura Gibbs has established a creative learning environment. We were able to read and write creatively while receiving constructive feedback on our work.

1. A multitude of resources were provided, creativity was highly encouraged

4. I loved this course. It has been quite a bit of work, but it was work that I liked doing and it was not stressful to do. The course has really inspired me to further my leisure reading of mythology and folklore tales. It's also made me realize that there's more creativity in myself than I thought. Anyone is capable of telling fun, interesting stories when they set their minds to it.

1. Not only were the topics each week extremely interesting, but the assignments ensured we understood the material while allowing us to be creative.

1. The assignments were consistent each week, and challenged us to explore the creative side of our brains.

1. It challenges you to be creative which is not something that is often seen in my class. It also greatly helped my writing ability.

1. Independent thinking, critical thinking, the teachers knowledge of the subject matter and creativity

1. I loved being able to write what I wanted and not be graded subjectively. It made it easy for me to be creative!

1. Not having exams alleviated a lot of unnecessary stress from the course. Being graded based on completion rather than content encouraged me to be creative with my writing.

4. The content was relevant to the class and I learned so much about perspective and creative thinking from the other students.

1. Truthfully, everything. Every aspect of this course was planned and executed perfectly. I love that the course was graded on accumulated credit instead of percentage of credit; it encouraged exploratory learning that was perfect for the material. I also really liked the storybook project as a semester-long creative expression, inspired by course material.

4. It was great and a lot of fun. I learned a lot about folklore and stories from the past. Everything was super interesting and the writing assignments were fun as well since it was creative writing.

1. Taking this course, you learn to write creatively and manage your time well.

4. I loved it! I absolutely love the format of this class, because it inspires students to be creative and take advantage of their ability to write and create, which is something I haven't done in years, unfortunately. I used to think that having fun in class was not possible, when you're constantly bombarded with heavy science courses and students are mostly suppressing any form of creative thought. But, this class has really revitalized that fossil of me years ago, where having fun, being creative and inspired through writing and reading about other cultures is celebrated. Overall, a wonderful course!

1. Laura is great. She really allows you to think freely and write in creative ways.

1. This was the best class. I loved how I was able to set my own schedule and that I could do my work when I wanted. I also loved that I was able to be creative while improving my writing skills!

1. The Internet setup and the ability to freely voice our opinions and not be criticized for our creativity.

1. Fantastic readings, assignments bring out creative side of students, medium for doing assignments teaches students more computer-based/internet usage skills (indispensable)

1. This class really encouraged creativity and critical thinking.

1. The final storybook project is always my favorite thing. It really allows for my creativity to shine, and I always love moulding the pages into what I want.

1. The freedom to be creative and put our own perspective into the stories was amazing. I've never taken a class like this before, and I loved every minute of it.

1. It allowed for critical and creative thinking and improvement in writing skills.

2. The only weak for me was that I had a hard time thinking outside the box and being creative with my posts. It took me a while to get the hang of it.

1. Definitely encouraged and developed my creative side, all while enhancing my knowledge of a completely different and totally captivating culture.

4. Fantastic! Really loved this course! Professor was accommodating and knowledgeable, and encouraged creativity while fostering learning.

1. VERY VERY organized. Allowed for the students to be creative. Wasn't boring.

1. The Professor was very good at staying engaged with the students. She showed a willingness to adapt to individual students to allow them to strengthen their writing skills and be creative.

1. I also like that some of the course was taken off of D2L and were were given the okay to be as creative as we wanted with out blogs. This made the class enjoyable.

1. The readings and creative writing assignments.

4. Amazing course, really improved my appreciation for writing and stirred up my creativity

1. The material was interesting and fostered creative learning. It helped my learn that I could write creative fiction effectively and that my writing could be interesting. I was able to retain a lot of the information from this course from the learning style fostered by the instructor.

4. I enjoyed this class. It encouraged me to be a more creative writer as well as a more independent thinker.

1. You were able to work well on your own and exert some creativity.

1. She did a fantastic job in promoting creativity and I loved every second of the class.

4. In my entire college experience, this class probably rates in the top 5 of classes I have taken. The way the course is structured and the other educational experiences that are involved with it (not just readings, but learning about social platforms and honing creative writing skills).

4. I loved the storybook that I wrote and had a lot of fun exercising my creativity this semester.

1. I liked that we had to dig into our creative side of our brain and create stories that build off of other stories.

4. Not only was this by far the best online course I've taken at the university, but it is up there with my on-campus classes as well. I learned more than I thought I would, not only about the subject matter but also about things I can apply in my other classes and in my life in general. This class was extremely helpful in learning about technology and expanding myself creatively.

1. This is by far the most amazing course I have taken in my whole college experience. The strong points that stand out to me include: time management choices, extremely well organized, creative, lots of choices, fun, encourages the use of technology, and let's not forget the instructor that created this whole amazing class.

1. There was a lot of activities that required creativity which made the course fun.

1. we created our schedule

1. Creativity

1. My creative writing skills greatly increased along with my storytelling ability. This class provided me with an ample amount of practice in these areas.

1. Being in a STEM major, I never get to write creatively anymore. Being in a class that encouraged me to write every day made me get back in the habit of reading and writing, which was fantastic.

1. Creative writing environment. I felt I grew as a writer and learned about new cultures! Very exciting to me.

1. Schedule available online, ability to write creatively, diversity of reading options, strong support and knowledge from the professor

1. I loved that we were able to break out of our shell and be creative. I also learned a lot.

4. It was very creative and helped with developing my writing skills.

1. I really liked how there were a lot of assignments and grades were given based on participation. I felt that I learned much more this way because the emphasis was on learning and creativity rather than a test.

1. Ability to think creatively, easy grading rubric, great help from the teacher

1. huge amount of creative freedom that made the class very fun

4. I really enjoyed this class and had fun doing the assignments. I felt like it gave me a creative outlet that I didnt have in my other classes.

1. The class encourages creativity and provides many helpful starting points for those creative projects. It's a GREAT tool for aspiring writers, or students who need to sharpen their writing skills, or anyone wanting to broaden their academic horizons.

4. I am very happy I took it! I think I learned a lot more about different cultures and their values than I ever had before, which was cool. I also learned a lot about myself- beliefs, likes, dislikes, etc.- than I thought I would since a lot of the assignments provoked personal thought about how my reactions. I think I also became a more creative writer through the class simply because I was exposed to more styles.

4. I LOVED THIS COURSE! Every student should take it, it teaches time management, organizations, creativity, and how to become a better technical writer with no judgements.

4. Thank you for a wonderful and creative semester!

4. It was amazing! I wish that it could last longer. I feel as if there is more to learn, know, create and dissect.

1. I think the weekly stories are very important in developing creative writing skills.

1. I love this class - it encourages out of the box thinking and creative thinking which i love.

1. I loved the format of the course. I enjoyed taking the readings and synergizing them into a story of my own. It allowed for so much creativity and upper-level thinking about form and topics, it was just a blast

1. Everything! It was a great class to explore one's own creativity and trying our best!

1. I loved the ability to be creative in this course while still learning about Indian epics and culture.

1. Having the option to do what we wanted, when we wanted, how we wanted. I think that she was very encouraging, and that she was very good at nudging us in the right direction. I also think that the free reign on our creativity in the class was very cool. It was a nice break from writing classes that want a regurgitated form of the rhetoric they expect.

4. Very fun and self paced. It really encouraged creativity, something I feel most college courses lack.

1. The subject matter for this class is interesting, and we had the opportunity to express our creativity by writing new stories each week.

4. I loved this class, and I would recommend it to anyone! I had the opportunity to read stories from multiple cultures/areas of the world, and think creatively by writing my own stories. I'm very happy that I took this class because it helped me realize how fun storytelling can be.

4. I really enjoyed the course! I was able to express my creativity and work on my writing skills at the same time.

1. Very fun, got to express myself creatively

4. This was by far my favorite class I have taken at OU. I love that it encourage creative thinking in a fun and interesting way. It also encouraged learning in new technological ways. I had never made a blog before, but I thought that this was the perfect way to learn how. It was a fun and engaging course and I enjoyed it very much.

1. I love that we are able to complete the course more or less on our own time.  I also loved that it gave me the opportunity to work more creatively than most college courses.

1. My favorite part of this course is that I get to be really creative and I'm not writing to please the prof like in other classes. She is always interested!

1. I love how Professor Gibbs allowed us to express our creativity, and she helped us get there with small steps.


(Un)Grading: It Can Be Done in College

This is a guest blog post that will be appearing in Starr Sackstein's Ed Week blog: (Un)Grading: It Can Be Done in College


I'm an instructor at the University of Oklahoma, teaching General Education courses in the Humanities. In this post, I'll explain my (un)grading system: the students do the grading, while I focus on feedback. I developed this approach based on my students' needs and my own belief that I can do a better job as a teacher if I take myself out of the grading loop. Here's how it works:

My Grading Challenge. I meet all kinds of students in my classes. Many are seniors who enroll in whatever Gen. Ed. courses fit their schedule. As a result, some students are interested in the subject; others have no interest at all. Some students want an A; others just need to pass. The courses are writing-intensive, but few of the students see themselves as writers, with majors ranging from accounting to zoology and everything in-between. They might love to read, or they might see reading as a monumental chore. You get the idea: diverse students, diverse goals. So, I need a grading system that respects those differences.

The Solution: Choices and Points. Each week, students choose the assignments they want to complete. They do one or two reading assignments (there are lots of reading options to choose from), they write a story of their own, and they leave comments on other students' work. They also work on their semester-long project. As they finish each assignment, they complete a "Declaration," a true-false quiz consisting of a checklist. When a student answers "true," the points go automatically into the Gradebook. I do no grading; all the points for all the assignments are recorded by the students themselves. Some students may be aiming for an A (more points), or for a B or a C (fewer points); that is all up to them — not me.

My Role: The Coach. Because I put myself outside of the grading loop, I can focus all my efforts on feedback and encouragement — on teaching, not grading. I provide detailed comments each week on the students' writing, and the students use those comments for future revisions. The comments are not a grade; instead, they are meant to help the students become more confident and skilled as writers. The students are also coaches, commenting on each other's work every week. We are all working on our writing, not thinking about grades.

Here are the things I like best about this approach:

1. The grades are objective. Students know exactly why they get the grade that they do: they manage the grading, and they have no grade complaints at the end of the semester. They might complain that the class is a lot of work, or they might complain about some other aspect of the class (which is good: I need their feedback!) — but there are no complaints about the grades, and that is a relief both to the students and to me.

2. The system is simple. Students do the work or not; they get the points or not — it's that simple. At any moment of the semester, students know exactly where they stand.

3. Grades are not a judgment. Students know that they can choose to work towards an A or B or C for their own personal reasons. An "A" student is not a better student than a "C" student, and getting a "C" in the class is not a punishment. A student might decide to take a "C" for their own reasons (heavy workload in their major classes, other life commitments, unforeseen events of all kinds), which is fine. As long as students pass the class, they are making progress towards graduation — and that's the goal!

4. There is no grade anxiety. Grades can be a terrible source of anxiety for college students (just ask them; they'll tell you), and if grades are making students anxious, they are not going to do their best learning. Removing anxiety about grades can refocus their attention on the learning itself. That goes for teachers too: I know I am a better teacher because I don't have to spend time worrying about grades.

5. The system promotes good time management. The assignments are meant to be completed in a single work session; some tasks might require 15-30 minutes while others might take an hour, but not more. I hope that as students see the benefits of this iterative, task-based approach, they can apply that same strategy in other classes where there might be only a few high-stakes assignments which the students must segment and schedule on their own.

Are there drawbacks to this system? Of course there are: if the grade is what goes on the transcript, students will think of the grade first and the learning second. I would far prefer to use a pass/fail grading system combined with portfolios of student work, thus highlighting the work itself, not the letter grade. Realistically speaking, though, I don't expect to see an end to ABCDF in my lifetime. I am just glad that as a college instructor I have the freedom to design a grading system that can minimize the damage grades can do. If you'd like to learn more about my (un)grading system, I've collected some materials at Grading.MythFolklore.net, including comments from my students. And if you have questions, let me know; this is an important topic that I am always glad to talk about! You can find me at Twitter (@OnlineCrsLady) or by email: laura-gibbs@ou.edu.