Latinity Points (XP) as a Replacement for Grades, part 2

Continued from part 1...

Why Latinity Points as an experience point (XP) system? For those unfamiliar with what experience points are, a quick trip to Wikipedia yields:

An experience point (often abbreviated to Exp or XP) is a unit of measurement used in many role-playing games (RPGs) and role-playing video games to quantify a player character's progression through the game. Experience points are generally awarded for the completion of quests, overcoming obstacles and opponents, and for successful role-playing.

‘Quantify progression’ are the vital words of that definition. Experience points are a visual representation of progression towards an objective. In the classroom, the objective should be mastering the learning objectives for that course. In Operation LAPIS, Latinity Points (LPs) serve to quantify an operative’s progression towards the overarching learning objectives; read, think, act, write, and speak like a Roman.

What Latinity Points are not:

Before I go too much further, I’d like to share some thoughts on how I think XP systems are misused and abused in the classroom. XP should not be window dressing for standard grading mechanisms. If all you are doing is announcing that a particular assignment is worth 100 XP, and receiving 90 XP on the assignment is an A, then you are simply putting lipstick on a pig. That’s cheap gamification and you’ll quickly find that the novelty wears off. If you set a cap for the marking period of, say, 10,000 XP and then convert experience point totals to a grade with a formula, you’ll discover the same problem. The end result becomes amassing XP for the sake of the letter grade at the end, rather than progression towards the learning objectives. The end result becomes finding the path of least resistance in order to achieve that goal -- the same problem plaguing us with current traditional grading systems. Our students do not want to take risks, and will not take risks, because they are punished for doing so. An XP system grafted onto a standard grading scheme does not resolve that problem.

What Latinity Points are:

LPs are quantitative representations of a student's progression through the course. Like rewards for completion of quests in a game, they can be awarded for any task inside of the operation: team collaboration, attunement challenges, successful completion of elements in the collection mechanic, etc. Since all activities in Operation LAPIS, like any good game, are continuous embedded formative assessments definitively tied to learning objectives, the LPs gained from any one activity serve to mark overall advancement.

LPs are separated from a grade value; the better you do a task, the more Latinity Points you receive. They are capped per activity but the same holds true in almost all games. You can only grind so many points of out slaying level 5 goblins before you need to move on to bigger challenges. This encourages students to take risks they wouldn’t otherwise take since there is no potential for “loss” of points.

LPs are paired with meaningful feedback rather than numbers divorced from the activity. In the example of team collaboration in immersion episodes, the LPs awarded are tied to a standards-based rubric. In addition, the affordances of a Google spreadsheet as an ‘Operative Dossier’ allows for easy personalized feedback in the form of in-cell comments to help shape better contributions from the student in future episodes.

LPs are the beginning of the conversation with a student when it comes time to report a marking period grade. Because they are tied to progression, LPs (and XP systems in general) serve a powerful function to allow the student to tell the narrative of their learning for that particular period in a way that traditional grading systems just don’t allow because of the inherent connotations that grades hold. Instead, the student becomes an agent of true self-assessment and, for many, a much harder critic than I would have been.

In the next part, I’ll break down examples of how and why I award LPs and what those mean for the overall picture of evaluating student learning.

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