Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Extra" Grading Category - From 0 to Infinity

Over the summer I took a grad class from Advancement Courses called Level Up!  Student Achievement Through Gameification and Game-Based Learning.  Yeah, I know it's a mouthful, but it was insightful.  I was required to read two texts, "Video Games and Learning" by Kurt Squire and "The Multiplayer Classroom" by Lee Sheldon.

The Multiplayer Classroom introduced an idea to me that was intriguing AND was compatible with my wanting to add more student-choice to my classes.  The XP category.

Lee Sheldon based his students' grades on XP or experience points.  Basically, all students start the semester with 0 points and do stuff to earn points.  Their grade is then based on how many points they earned throughout the class.

I found this interesting in that their grade was based on earning points rather than an average of grades.  However, I wasn't ready to completely commit to this grading style, so I have one assignment that is graded like for each marking period.  You can see that assignment below, it's the pink one.

I called it "Bonus" because I felt it was something the students would understand.  In hindsight, this was not a great idea because some students fail to realize that this could hurt their grade.  I think I will just call it XP next marking period.  You can see a screen shot of my grade book above.  Each student starts with 0 points and throughout the marking period, they have opportunities to earn "bonus" points.  It is worth a test grade and I allowed students to earn up to 125% (another mistake on my part).  Next marking period the highest will be 100%.  

Ways to Earn Points:
If your group's test average is 70% or higher --> 10 points
If your group's test average is 80% or higher --> 12 points
If your group's test average is 90% or higher --> 14 points
If your group's test average is 100% --> 20 points
I found that students are more willing to help their group members because of this.
I try to give exit tickets at least 3 days a week and award points through those.
If we play a review game, winners get points.
Homework is worth points. 
When I need the class to work on a certain behavior (like not yelling) I award points for those who cooperate.  
Next marking period, I will create lessons that the students can completely learn and practice online and on their own and then assess with me.  That too will be worth points.  

Knowledge Loading....

When our department first started SBG (standards based grading) we were strongly encouraged to not include behaviors in grades.  It was happening too often that students were passing classes because they were good at "playing school" and not necessarily skilled in the course.  The reverse was also happening: students who were knowledgeable in the course but didn't behave well were failing.  You know the type: smart kid, passes all the tests but refuses to do homework (why do they have to do homework if they're passing the tests?).  

Anyway, I feel that not including behavior at all is a mistake too.  There has to be a happy medium and this seems to be working for me.   

Here is my list of benefits for using this XP grading category:
Sense of (more) control
Can choose which assignments you want to do
Poor work doesn't negatively affect grade, it just won't go up.
Attendance affects grade indirectly (miss too many exit tickets)
Groups help each other to earn more points
Number/grade never goes down, is always moving in a positive direction.

My list of disadvantages:
Parents (and students) don't always understand that it's a work-in-progress and wonder why they have a low grade.
More paperwork for me (hard to keep track of in PowerSchool).

Questions I still have to work out:
What happens after a student earns all their points?
Can something happen with the points they earn over the maximum (not grade related)?
How do I handle students who transfer to my class late in the marking period?

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