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Ungrading: What is it?

students ungrading learning

You may have seen the term “ungrading” used recently in news articles or across social media. But what is ungrading, and why would schools use it?

The ungrading trend involves removing the focus on grades in order to place a greater emphasis on teachers’ comments and students’ overall progress.

According to ungrading theory, grades are intrinsically ineffective since they can reduce understanding of complex topics to a single-letter grade. The main reason for using ungrading is that grades can distract students, taking their focus away from learning for the joy of learning. When students know they have to struggle to get a grade, it can demotivate them and make them resent the entire educational process. Conversely, when students know they may be getting a high grade, they may stop putting forth effort.

Grade inflation, bell curve, and ambiguous grade interpretations are the results of a system created to divide, categorize, and compare people. Is a B in one class the same as a B in another? Grades are subjective, based on the teacher and the subject itself. 

Let’s get into what ungrading really is.

How to Use Ungrading

Ungrading emphasizes teachers giving feedback that students can use to enhance their work, evaluate it independently, and incorporate it into future assignments. Feedback without a grade turns into an objective platform for learning without the bias of assigned points or grades.  Some students love it!

Without grades, learning for the sake of learning becomes the main objective.

The #ungrading is picking up steam on TikTok, with many teachers giving their advice on how they use ungrading.

This doesn’t mean that education should do away with grading; it is just offering students a different way of receiving necessary feedback.

Alternative Methods of Grading

students ungrading learning

Grade-Free Zones

Not all school learning needs to be tied to grades. Many soft skills that support learning, such as organization, time management, sleep and nutrition, all play a role in supporting student learning. Shifting the focus away from grades and onto the learning process and developing stronger learning habits and routines helps students understand that grades are not the only measure of learning.

Check out this article on how routines can help support learning.


Giving students opportunities to demonstrate what they’ve learned in writing, speaking, or through other processes plays a role in helping students develop their meta-cognitive awareness (becoming aware of their own learning.) Self-assessments are a helpful tool in this process.

When you give students guidelines and information about what to expect from an assignment, encourage them to frame their self-evaluation around those elements. 

Expect self-evaluations from students on all tasks, encouraging them to think back on what they did well, what they would do differently in the future, and what essential ideas and lessons they learned.


Peers can also be valuable feedback providers for their fellow students with training and practice. 

With proper modelling and ample examples from teachers, students can learn more about what is good and helpful feedback versus what is not useful for the learning process. 

Once students understand what is valuable feedback and what isn’t, teachers can set up regular peer feedback sessions around activities and assignments. This helps students to get feedback from someone other than the teacher or parents. 

Read more about making group work successful here.

Ungrading and Oxford Learning

Does Oxford Learning use upgrading?

While Oxford Learning does not follow the ungrading method, it also does not provide grades to students. Similar to ungrading, student learning is measured in observable factors such as learning engagement and motivation, and self-confidence and esteem. While grades are often the focus of learning, the reality is better grades are simply a by-product of improved learning skills and habits. How students feel about their learning and how happy they are with their effort, regardless of the outcome, is the most important part of learning.

For school support and for help building stronger learning skills, contact an Oxford Learning near you.

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