Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Iterative grading with Quest Based Learning

Those of you who know me, may know that Iteration is my favorite word (Right, Lisa?).  I teach Video Game Design and Development and the iterative design process is crucial to the learning.  Students design their games, begin to develop them, recruit feedback from their peers, incorporate that feedback, and so the cycle goes until a game is ready for prime time.  I believe so strongly in the iterative process as it truly teaches students that they should continue to work on something until they are happy with the results.  Likewise, recruiting feedback allows students to understand how others perceive their game.  It is very easy for the designer to think something is intuitive while the player may have no idea what they are supposed to do.

So, in the spirit of iteration and quest based learning, I have become very fond of the notion of grading as an iterative process.  In education, we are too quick to collect an assignment or administer a test and then move on regardless of what learning took place.  A student might fail the test or assignment and expected to move on regardless of the acquisition of skills or an opportunity to truly learn the content.  When this occurs, we are not valuing the learning, but rather the pace of instruction.  Failure is not seen as a learning opportunity, but rather a reflection of self worth. My new mantra 'iterative grading' aims to encourage growth, determination, persistence, and pride in student work.

I have been using 3dgamelab with my 8th grade Game Design and Development students.  The entire course takes place in 3dgamelab. Students complete quests and based on successful completion, they receive experience points and move on to other quests.  The 'main questline' follows the primary activities in my course and 'side quests' provide students with opportunities to extend their learning by exploring other tools and topics related to the course.  When a student submits a quest I receive notification that the quest is awaiting approval.  I evaluate the quest and either accept it, resulting in awarding the student with the designated experience points or return the quest in order for the student to incorporate feedback in the next iteration.  This is not meant to imply failure, but rather to help me provide guidance to the student so they can continue to engage in the activity until it is worthy of receiving full credit.  I explain this process to the students and they are showing that they understand by resubmitting their quests until they are successful.  I am even beginning to receive quests where a student indicates that they know the game is not finished, but they would like feedback so they could make the game better.  This level of awareness and appreciation of guidance is really wonderful. Whether a quest is accepted or returned, students receive ongoing feedback through the process.  

I am excited by the authentic evaluation opportunity this provides.  In the real world, we expect people to complete something worthy of submission. The same should apply in school.  I hope you adopt a similar approach.  I believe many teachers do.  When I think of this approach, I often think of the writing process, which is by nature iterative.  Students brainstorm, write, peer edit, edit their work, receive intermittent feedback from the instructor, etc.  It is rare that a student is asked to submit a research paper without some degree of iteration.  Clearly, this idea exists in other areas as well.  Perhaps it should be prevalent in all areas.
In summary, my goal is to embrace the learning and the process and not perpetuate the 'hand in your over' approach to grading.

Your feedback is welcome.

Thanks for reading!