Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Level Up!

Scene from Scott Pilgrim
I've spoken a bit about my plans for next year, and how I plan on using a narrative to thread all units, lessons, and assignments together, so now I would like to write a bit about my plans for assessment.

Over the past few months I have been reading more and more about the concept of levelling when it comes to assessment. I posted a thought about this on Facebook, and a friend replied by saying that we already do that...it just so happens that the levels are letters (A, B...). I agree that is essentially what our letter-grades are, but what I'm interested in is something a bit different.

I like idea of assessment that is motivating rather than demotivating. Sounds obvious, eh? The standard letter grade approach, though, is demotivating. As often as I can show my students their grades throughout the year, they are always left somewhat in the dark. Further, their grades are in flux at every point. One bad test and their B+ goes down to a B or B-. That is a lot of stress and confusion to put on a kid.

Instead of the typical approach I want to change things up next year and go with a levelling system. The concept is ripped-off of countless video and board games, but it is a tried and true system of motivation and reward. Next year I am going to institute a level system where everyone starts at level 1. In a typical classroom we imagine, the kids do too, starting off at an A+ and we have the rest of the year to try and maintain that goal. It is too difficult for many students, and it is demotivating for most. A system where everyone starts at the bottom gives each kid a fresh, clean slate, and they can only ever move up. Going up is always better than moving down. Talk about motivation!

In my version of this system I will have 100 levels, which corresponds to 100% in the course. The course assignments are broken up into chunks of eXperience Points (XP) totalling 1000. An example: a test worth 50 XP is worth 5% of their total mark or 5 levels. Every single assessment I do (homework, class work, assignments, tests) will have a corresponding point (XP) associated with it. The better a student does the more XP they earn and the more levels they move up. The assessments at my school carry a particular weight, which I would work in as well. Diagnostic assessments and daily work assignments are worth 10% of their mark, formative assessments are worth 45%, and summatives are also worth 45%. Stating that in terms of XP - daily work assignments = 100XP, formative = 450XP, and summative = 450XP. Every one of my assessments will need to add up to the total in their category.

With this sort of system in place, my students will always be aware of what level they are at and what each assignment actually means in relation to their overall mark. During the summer I am going to try and figure out a good way to display this information. I would like a progress bar of some kind, ideally a digital one that can be easily updated. If it could be worked in beside a profile picture of their character and their character's name that would be great. I wouldn't even have too much of a problem displaying all levels in the class, because it would be an added motivater for students. In that scenario there wouldn't be shame associated with having a "D" because the board would simply show a level.

I will likely add in achievements for reaching certain benchmark levels as well. Level 10 and you get an edmodo badge, level 25 and you get a special treat, or something like that. I will touch on some of the achievements I have planned in a later post along with my behaviour points system (still playing with some concepts). Also - when I figure out how I want to display the levels to the students, I'll explain or show an example. Sometimes this stuff can be hard to understand without a visual.

I'm planning a lot of changes for next year, and it will be tough to keep up on it so I am planning on doing a lot of work this summer (when not getting married, going on my honeymoon, and visiting with family and friends). Amanda and I leave Kuwait in a few days and fly back to Canada! Oh, Canada!

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