XP & Competencies: Next Semester

I’ve started pulling together the syllabus for my Politics of Reading class that begins in January. Maybe it seems a bit early to be doing this, but I’m a slow and steady kind of girl when it comes to my work. I like to work on things in short amounts of time (about an hour) over an extended period of time. I find that my brain keeps working on the issue between sessions and sorts it all out. It’s a system that works well for me.

For my spring class, I’m still taking the approach of gaming it. However, I want to refine how I assign XP and grades. In my first semester of doing this, I made it all about XP. Students had to earn a particular range of XP to get a given grade. Although I offered badges for delving deep into a particular quest, no one really took me up on that.

As I see it, I emphasized XP and so the students took off and got their XP in whatever fashion worked for them. Delving deep into a quest to gain more nuanced, specialized knowledge was not something most of them went for (even though they got XP for doing so). This is what I want to address in my next round.

Requiring Competencies AND XP

This next time around getting a grade in my course will be tied to XP but it will also be tied to competencies. Let me break it down for you.

I have a total of six quests – but let’s say five (because one of those six is a final exam I am required to give and I’m not counting it in the larger scheme I’m about to explain).

XPOf these five, I have broken competencies down into Major and Minor competencies. An example of a major competency is blogging. The class keeps a blog, and creating posts for it can lead to earning XP and completing a major competency.

For blogging, students have to earn 25,500 XP to earn the Major Competency badge. I have it set up so that points which count towards blogging can only be earned through writing posts and by getting a post bonus. The post bonus is 300 XP students can earn by including things like relevant links and graphics.

Quick aside: I developed the post bonus to encourage students to include links and graphics. I really want them to, but I don’t feel like policing posts to make sure everyone does this. I probably could, it’s not a lot of work, but it also seems to be working well as a bonus. Students just get a flat 300 XP for including one or more of those items.

Students also earn points by leaving comments on posts written by classmates and on blogs written by others outside of class. However, I am choosing not to count comment writing in the Major Competency (25,500 XP) for blogging. I did make commenting a separate competency (you can minor in it at 4,000 XP or major in it for 9,000 XP – and yes, if you get 9,000 XP I am currently allowing this to count as a minor and a major).

Another example of how competencies work is with entrance and exit slips. Completing these (and earning a minimum of 5,500 XP) will earn you a minor competency. This is basically checking and and checking out of class. It’s in no way a major amount of work, but if you show up and do it I’ll let you count it for a minor.

Put It All Together

What does this all look like? How does this translate into a grade? Here’s my current version:

Final Grades
Final grades must meet all the criteria in order to receive them. Earning the minimum required XP in and of itself is not enough. For example, if you earned 90,000 XP, completed One Major Competency and One Minor Competency you would receive a B. To get a specific grade, you must meet the exact minimum requirements for that grade.

Earning an A
Earning an A in the course requires the following:

  • a minimum of 80,000 XP
  • completing one Major Competency
  • completing two Minor Competencies OR completing a second Major Competency

Earning a B
Earning a B in the course requires the following:

  • a minimum of 60,000 XP
  • completing one Major Competency
  • completing one Minor Competency

Earning a C
Earning a C in the course requires the following:

  • a minimum of 40,000 XP
  • completing one Major Competency OR completing two Minor Competencies

Earning a D
Earning a D in the course requires the following:

  • a minimum of 30,000 XP and/or
  • completing one Minor Competency

Earning an F
Earning an F in the course requires the following:

  • you have earned less than 30,000 XP and/or
  • you have not completed any competencies

Note the final point in the grade of an F. If you do not focus yourself as a student and spend some time diving deep into the work, you could find yourself with a good amount of XP but scattered all over the place. You have to complete at least one competency of some sort to move yourself up to a D. This isn’t that hard since entrance and exit slips can earn you a minor competency.

In the next post or two, I will lay out what my assignments are in case it helps to see what they look like and how I have approached assigning XP and deciding what is a major/minor competency.

One Year Ago: Finding Poetry in Research