Ways to Use Ungrading in Introductory Level Chemistry Labs

Date: November 17, 2022 1:00 pm (ET)


  • Dr. Courtney J. Sobers (she/her)
    Rutgers – Newark Campus
  • Chandelle Lawrence
    Rutgers University
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Chandelle Lawrence
Rutgers University

Bio: Chandelle Lawrence is a third-year undergraduate student at Rutgers University – Newark in New Jersey. She is pursuing a BS in Biology on her way to a career in the health professions. In addition to being a full-time student, she works as a Head TA for General Chemistry 1 Lab and conducts research in the Brenner-Moyer Group in the Chemistry department. Chandelle has firsthand experience as a student in an ungraded remote general chemistry lab course during Spring 21 and worked as a TA for the ungraded in-lab version of the same course in Spring 22. These experiences have informed her efforts around peer tutoring and discussions to emphasize learning for more than a desired course grade, but towards future applications of the material. She also serves as the President of RUN STEM Society & HOSA Pre Health Professions org which focus on helping students through their premed journey by providing them with networking opportunities, discussions panels, and access to other resources to along with academic support. Chandelle is passionate about a holistic approach to grades that shifts focus from the final outcome to a journey of understanding, applying, and reflecting on content. The ungrading approach complements her beliefs as it’s an example of changing the future of education by directing student focus away from the mainly the ending letter grade and towards the unique resourcefulness of each discipline.

Dr. Courtney J. Sobers (she/her)
Rutgers – Newark Campus

Bio: Courtney J. Sobers (she/her), PhD, is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Chemistry Department at Rutgers – Newark Campus in Newark, New Jersey. She teaches a 2 semester General Chemistry Lab sequence to 400-650 students during the academic year and a 2 semester Organic Chemistry Lecture sequence to approx. 120 students during the summer. Beyond teaching students technical lab skills, lab safety, and organic reactions, Courtney advocates for inclusion and equity in the classroom and beyond. She’s devoted to designing courses that center student learning and engagement through a lens of accessibility, inclusion, and equity. This includes strategic course design choices centering disabled students, training teaching assistants to create and maintain inclusive lab learning environments, and using assessment practices that reframe failure as learning opportunities and promote growth mindset. Courtney primarily documents her teaching innovations and academic struggles on Twitter (@DrCJSobers).

Abstract: Ungrading is a practice that strives to be more equitable by emphasizing student agency and self-assessment. In general, STEM courses struggle to employ any alternative assessment approach, including ungrading. In laboratory settings, there are valid concerns around allowing students to self-assess technical skill mastery and adherence to safety. For these reasons, my attempt at ungrading a 300+ student general chemistry 2 lab course looks more like collaborative grading, a variety of ungrading that centers an ongoing conversation between student and instructor. In the example course I will discuss, students engaged in goal setting, self-reflection, and self-assessment to create a portfolio of evidence to support a proposed grade. The course included a graded practical to emphasize technical mastery and safe lab practices in a way that is compatible with collaborative grading. This seminar will introduce the idea of ungrading in lab, design considerations, student response, and an opportunity to practice adapting a lab assignment to an ungraded assessment.