Latinity Points (XP) as a Replacement for Grades, Part 4

In the previous three parts of this exercise, I laid out the criteria required in order to evaluate without grading, explained how Latinity Points are utilized as a part of Operation LAPIS, and then provided a full discussion and response from a group of three students. In this final part my aim is to elaborate on what the end of that process looks like, specifically when it comes time to assign a traditional grade in a very non-traditional classroom. As a reminder from the first post, the following were the four criteria that I argued had to be a part of this system.

  1. Continuous embedded formative assessment of progress
  2. A record system with meaningful feedback towards meeting learning objectives
  3. A record of all student work
  4. Student agency in the evaluation process

1) Continuous embedded formative assessment: Every component of Operation LAPIS is designed with this at the core. There are no superfluous mechanics or deliberately gamified elements for cheap extrinsic motivation. Every episode requires the students-as-operatives not only to read and comprehend Latin but also to apply relevant cultural and historical information through both guided and independent research. Every episode also requires them to collaborate with their teammates to roleplay their character’s actions through a particular world-view. As built in differentiation, students can be challenged to build their responses in original Latin composition as well -- which many of them attempt at least in some small part. Simply put, every element requires them to actively draw on skills they’ve gained while applying new skills and knowledge.

2) A record system with meaningful feedback: All of their LPs are awarded through a shared (between myself and the student) document known as the Operative Dossier. Once we start to get into a grove at the start of the year, the students understand that an LP award in the 260s or higher is on the right track, while something around 200s means that more work is needed. Included in each dossier is a ‘Transmission from Mission Control’ which can provide direct feedback in a way that doesn’t break from the immersion of the ‘students-as-operatives’. Since all operatives have access to the rubric, specific attention can be drawn to parts of their contributions that did not meet expectations.

3) A record of all student work: This is the easy part, thanks to Google Docs and Edmodo as the platform of choice for collaboration and discussion. All student work in Google Docs is shared between myself and the student. At any point, through the commenting feature in Google Docs, I’m able to provide specific and detailed feedback. Since LPs are deliberately not a masked grading system, operatives can choose to respond to the feedback, fix errors, and gain more LPs for revising their work.

All team discussion happens in secure sub-groups on the Edmodo platform. If there is every a question from a parent (or from a student), it takes almost no time to call up a record of the student’s contributions to reflect on how they are (or aren’t) meeting the criteria spelled out on the rubric. This record of work is also important as teams will often recall information from the past immersions as being useful for the current -- scrolling down their team discussions quickly gives them access to that material in a way that a test or quiz shoved into a binder, or the nebulous black hole known as a backpack, simply cannot.

Now for the fun part.

4) Student agency in the evaluation process: When it comes time to report grades at the prescribed four times per year, I ask all of my students to first submit a self-reflection piece. I ask them to evaluate their strengths, their weaknesses, mention one or two episodes that they felt they did a fantastic job contributing to, and also to mention one or two episodes where they think they could have provided more to the team discussion. In addition, we take a look at the current LP totals and I give them an intentionally wide range of values for letter grades (intentional overlap, as well). Ideally, I’d sit down with each student individually and have a face-to-face discussion, but with 25+ students in each classroom, logistically it would be too difficult to accomplish as a part of a standard high school schedule. Instead I require the students to email me their response, which, in of itself, hits on some of the secondary learning objectives of written communication, etc. At the end of their self-reflection, they assign themselves a grade which they think they are deserving of. The wonderful thing about this endeavor is that almost always they hold themselves to tougher standards than I and, in my reply, I get to “talk them up” a bit.

Do I get the occasional student that says, “Sweet? I get to assign myself a grade? I get an A!”? Absolutely. However, with the continuous embedded formative assessment, feedback through carefully constructed mechanic, and an accessible record system, it then because a teachable moment when they are asked to demonstrate in what ways they met the learning objectives to warrant that ‘A’.

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