Do you find traditional assignments and grading structures in conflict with your learning goals? Concerned about your current feedback model? Want to learn more about alternative assessment models? Please join us for a virtual GLCA-CTL Conversation on “Ungrading” on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at noon (Eastern). For many years now, faculty have been assessing students in ways that deviate from traditional practices, sometimes abandoning A-F grades, sometimes assigning grades based on “contracts,” “specifications,” self-assessment, or various “authentic” assessment techniques, among other methods. Books by Susan Blum (Ungrading), Linda B. Nilson (Specifications Grading), and Joe Feldman (Grading For Equity) are part of a burgeoning literature on the topic. Now you can hear from some GLCA faculty who have used “ungrading” techniques in their own classes. Register here for the Conversation on Ungrading, Wednesday, Dec. 14 at Noon (Eastern). If you have specific questions or issues that you would like to see addressed, please note them in this form Tuesday, December 13th at Noon, EST.

Teaching and Learning

The Case for Ending the Semester with Review (Beth McMurtrie, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 8, 2022): Robert Talbert (Grand Valley State University) makes the argument for ending new content at Thanksgiving, with catch-up, reassessment, and review for the last two weeks of class.

Fully Online College Courses Linked With Worse Student Mental Health (Gianna Melillo, The Hill, November 30, 2022): According to a report in in JAMA Network Open, data from over 59,000 full-time undergraduates show those who attended fully online classes reported higher levels of psychological distress than their peers.

A.I. Could Be Great for College Essays (Daniel Lametti, Slate, December 7, 2022): ChatGPT and other A.I. like it won’t replace flesh and blood writers, although they may make writing easier. (Here’s a New York Times story about ChatGPT, if you’re as confused as we are, and a piece by Ian Bogost in The Atlantic (December 7) which argues that “ChatGPT Is Dumber Than You Think.”)

How to Combat the High Schoolization of the University (Steven Mintz, Inside Higher Ed, December 7, 2022): Some reflections on UNC professor Molly Worthen’s defense of more traditional approaches to pedagogy and definitions of the faculty role. Mintz offers some interesting remarks on Worthen’s argument in favor of oral exams which appeared in last week’s NOTW.

The F Word (Steven Mintz, Inside Higher Ed, December 6, 2022): Faculty is the key to student success.

On Writing and Decoding Recommendation Letters (Mohammed Albakry, Inside Higher Ed, December 6, 2022): Like other genres, the letter of recommendation is ever fluid, and its conventions can shift somewhat, depending on differing audiences, disciplinary expectations and institutional contexts. Still, the author finds some discernible, rather universal, patterns in its structure, content and language—thus allowing for some general suggestions.

Disability as a Valuable Form of Diversity, Not a Deficit (Elizabeth A. Harkins, Faculty Focus, December 5, 2022): The article explores how educators can move away from a pathological, deficit thinking, approach to teaching to better help autistic students succeed academically.

Exams and Grading

Can We Improve Grading by Collaborating with Students? (Brett Whysel, Faculty Focus, December 7, 2022): In 2022, the author experimented with a combination of specifications grading and self-grading that promised to measure performance more fairly, increase engagement, and promote metacognition. The experiment produced insights into how students measure and view their own performance while helping him reduce bias and noise (unwanted random variability) in his final grades.

Equity and Justice in Higher Ed

What Black High-School Students Aren’t Being Told (Oyin Adedoyin, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 6, 2022): High-school counselors have perpetuated a negative perception of HBCUs, thereby dissuading Black students from attending them; research from the United Negro College Fund is reshaping that narrative.

The State of Higher Education

Higher Ed Is a Public Good. Let’s Fund It Like One (James Nguyen H. Spencer, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 8, 2022):  Universities should invest directly in student success through paying their tuition upfront, in the same way that governments invest in roads and water systems. [Along the same lines, the National Association of System Heads has begun an initiative, “College Is Worth It,” to bolster the public’s view of higher education to demonstrate how institutions drive social mobility and individual “prosperity.” (Liam Knox, Inside Higher Ed, December 9, 2022).]


The Small College POD is hosting a second Zoom discussion on supporting mid-career colleagues. Feel free to join on Monday 12/12 2-3 PM EST (Zoom link here). If you’d like to share any materials with the group ahead of time, please add them our online  repository (link here) for sharing with the group.

What’s On Your Bookshelf? Are you reading something (higher ed related or not) that you would like to recommend to your colleagues? Let us know!

Have a short article or some news related to teaching and learning at your institution that you’d like to share with colleagues? Send your contribution along to us. Also, please email Charla White ( if you have colleagues who would like to receive this weekly report.

GLCA/GLAA Consortium for Teaching and Learning

  Steven Volk (
  Colleen Monahan Smith (
  Charla White (

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