51 – Ungrading in a High School STEM Classroom (w Chris Sarkonak)

Natalie Vardabasso#EduCrush Podcast

“It’s the counterintuitive approach that if you want to develop the content, you focus on and assess the skills.” - Chris Sarkonak Click To Tweet

One of the most persistent narratives of the school system is that it’s a place where students do work in exchange for grades. However, what would school look like if grades didn’t exist? Chris Sarkonak is one of many teachers involved in the grassroots movement called “ungrading” to move school away from a culture of compliance, towards a culture of authentic learning. He joins Natalie to talk about why he tried this approach in his Physics classroom, how he pulled it off, and why it helps to cultivate growth, risk-taking and confidence in learners.

Show Notes:

  • Understanding “ungrading” as a journey, rather than a destination. (9:45)
  • The unintended outcomes of the traditional, events-based grading system. (13:00)
  • How to launch an alternative assessment approach in a way that inspires all learners to think differently about grading. (18:00)
  • Reorganizing assessment and grading around skills to better learn the content. (23:45)
  • Determining percentage grades in partnership with students (and parents). (35:45)
  • Providing ongoing communication with parents outside of grades. (40:00)
  • The purpose of education. (46:30)


There are FOUR spots left in the Empowerment Ecosystem –> Book a meeting with Natalie if you want in!

Grading from the Inside Out Workshop, Long Beach, CA –> Register here!

Connect with Natalie: Twitter | Instagram | nvardabasso@gmail.com

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Follow Chris: Twitter | sarkonak.christopher@bsd.ca