By: Marenda Escobar
“People have learned and do learn without grades, so they may not be necessary. So then the question is, are they harmful?” – Dr. Susan Blum on The Higher Ed Spotlight Podcast
Dr. Susan Blum is a professor of Anthropology at Notre Dame who has, in the last 15-20 years, shifted her research to focus on education, higher education, and a movement called ungrading. She describes ungrading as a practice that shifts the focus from grading, evaluation, and metrics, to learning. Blum edited Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead), which covers the experiences of fifteen educators who practice this new pedagogy. She believes the movement has taken off partly due to the book Ungrading, and the pandemic, which caused people to reevaluate whether conventional pedagogical practices help or hurt learning.
Blum’s work has led her to record several podcasts. When asked to record an episode for The Higher Ed Spotlight in April, Blum was in search of a studio that would provide high production value. Blum’s friend suggested checking out Studio 304 at the St. Joe County Public Library. Once she reached out, staff promptly helped her reserve a studio full of state-of-the-art equipment for free. Blum is a big advocate for public libraries, and calls the St. Joe County Public Library one of her favorite places. Reflecting on Main Library’s renovation, Blum recalls, “the new library is really magnificent. When I came to the opening, I was so excited, but I had no idea that there was also all of this really great stuff.”