Grading: The Semester View

I wanted to take a moment at the start of the semester and talk a bit about grading. As we all know, I am not a big fan of grades as they are traditionally set up and experienced by students in school. They can stifle learning and end up with students focusing on giving the teacher whatever it is the teacher envisions and less on being creative and diving in to learning.

Failure is a part of learning. The traditional grade system doesn’t really allow for failure. You’re penalized for it. You get less of a grade because grades are meant to reflect what you have mastered and/or the extent to which you have mastered course content.

Understandable, but again – stifling is the price I believe we pay here.

This semester, in both my classes, I’ve refined how I am awarding XP. In both classes, students have a list of required and optional quests to choose from. One class has three required quests, and the other has four. They then have four and five optional quests.

When it comes to grading, I had to consider first how many points students could earn in the required quests. Now, within a required quest there are typically opportunities for them to go above and beyond and earn additional XP. I don’t worry about that when I’m trying to determine how many points are needed for a particular grade. I just focus on the minimum because, usually, that’s what most students are going to do (and the other stuff really is bonus stuff).

For my Monday class, I broke the grading down so that students could see what they needed to earn (minimum) for each required quest to get an H (high pass – this is what the university uses at the Masters level). Here’s what it looks like:

Criteria for an H
Total XP Earned = 900,850 and up
Becoming Connected XP Earned = 194,850 and up
Blogging XP Earned = 191,700 and up
Explore Project XP Earned = 45,900 and up

Now, those are the three required quests. Let’s say you hit those numbers dead on. You would have earned 432, 450 XP. That is not enough for an H. You’d fall short by 468,400. But remember:

  • within each required quests are things you can do to earn more points (usually)
  • I award XP for your in class participation
  • there are numerous optional quests you can engage in to up your XP

What this says, is that getting an H is about a combination of doing the bare minimum and then going beyond that. As the student, you have to figure out what you want your experience to look like and craft it from there. You have lots of options. How you choose to get wherever it is you end up lies in your hands.

For my Tuesday night class I’m doing something a bit different. Here is what they were told an H is:

Criteria for an H
Total XP Earned = Minimum 1.5 million
Minimum XP Earned from Required Quests = 937,800

That’s it. I didn’t break their quests down for them. A lot of that is due to context of the quests. There quests tend to be more about accomplishing specific tasks and have fewer opportunities for bonuses. However, they do have to do them. While they could likely get 1.5 million (or close!) by just coming to class and doing optional challenges and quests, it is critical that they engage in those required quests. Those quests were created to help them achieve specific learning goals. The challenges and optional quests are really about extending what they are learning and/or diving deeper into a specific area.

I’m curious to see how this plays out. I’m not worried about it. It’s set up well enough. However, a lot of what happens is in the hands of the students. They do have to spend some time thinking through how they want to get to their end goal – whatever that may be.

Two Years Ago

One Year Ago