Over the past few years I have experimented with different reward systems. I prefer to use the reward systems to encourage quality work rather than behaviour. This means that all students are rewarded fairly rather than the problem where you want to reward a student who behaves inappropriately a lot of the time, when they do behave appropriately while the ones that always behave appropriately kind of get forgotten.
I liked the idea of gamification and was quite aware of the theories behind it. Both of us are gamers and we understand the idea of doing a repetitive action to receive a reward that doesn't mean anything beyond moving up a level or looking better.
My kids instantly loved the idea. It engaged them and their work level did improve. Of course there were students that didn't really engage but those were the ones that didn't engage much with anything.
Some basic ideas of gamification as I have found them:
1. Repetitive tasks for in-'game' rewards.
The idea that games operate under the basic premise that hundreds of small achievements need to happen in order for a player to meet larger objectives and advance in the game is correct. It also aligns with the idea behind gamification in that in games kids are asked to do repetitive tasks that are not necessarily that interesting, such as mining, killing monsters for xp, gathering etc. This links to the classroom where we often are asking kids to do these repetitive tasks, yes we try to make them interesting but more often than not it is solve a repetitive maths problem, answer reading questions etc. So how do games get kids to do this without complaining? That would be the link to levelling or getting a kind of reward. Now with all my gamification setups and now my most recent economy/gamification setups there is minimal spending used - I am on a teaching salary of course and can't spend a lot of money on rewards, so those rewards need to be mostly embedded into moving further into the 'game' or token rewards like swap seats for the day.
2. Immediate Success (as immediate as you can get it)
The other major element is that you know the success almost immediately. Of course this is not as easy as in a game, as in a classroom you have to collect and mark to let students know their successes or failures but it is ultimately important that they receive their work back as frequently as you can make it with feedback. Also I have found with the opportunity for students to redo work or improve upon it is essential, trust me, i have had students that couldn't care less about work previously, take extra work home to improve upon their score or earn more rewards.
3. Visual displays or current tracking is needed.
Games are designed spaces. Someone intentionally plans every element that appears within a game... as an education your are also putting together a designed experience for your students.
You need to think about customised, interactive displays which (unless you are doing it electronically which will be covered in another post) can take up a lot of space.
4. How do students succeed?
Games have clear rules for success that don't always mimic the real world .... the rules must always be clear and consistent, if not explicit. Most teachers would be sitting here going "well thats obvious" but sometimes it is not. Extending the idea of equality to gamification is that I have found, you need to make sure every student has the opportunity to be just as successful as every other student in the class. This will be discussed further in another post, but a quick example is that, I reward on 3-5 star criteria. Everyone's criteria is different and they are not all judged equally, this means that every student can achieve a 5 star piece of work, for them. Of course this is not equal as you would define it, and does not work for assessment pieces when you use rubrics. The other way of doing this is having an effort reward, yes the work may not be 5 star by grade level but the effort involved is high, so sometimes I have a star for presentation or a star for effort which all students can get.
5. Rewarding quality work not behaviour.
This I know other teachers that employ gamification may disagree with. However I have taught some difficult classes and rather than using gamification to reward behaviour I use it to reward quality work. If students are focussed on quality work they have less time to misbehave. Of course this does not work with all students and you may/will have to employ some behaviour management techniques but it shouldn't in my opinion be the focus of your gamification system.
This also combats the problem when using a system to reward behaviour, what happens when you want to reward a misbehaving student consistently when they behave while other students miss this reward as they behave well consistently all the time.
More posts will come with more details about more theory behind gamification, technology you can use to help, different ways for setting up gamification in your classroom and my experiences surrounding gamification and examples of what I have setup previously and currently and combining it with classroom economy.
Labels: classroom economy, gamification