I ended the Fall 2023 semester with a lot of anxiety and frustration about grades, and there was enough of both that I wound up making a lot of changes to a graduate class that I was sure I was going to keep mostly the same from last year. Not all of these changes were assessment-related (I replaced a lot of readings and shuffled content around some), but I also more-or-less threw out the assessment structure that I’ve been using since 2019 to replace it with something minimalist and closely tied to the course’s learning objectives.
This is not how I have typically graded in the past, and it’s not how most instructors grade, so I felt as though I needed to provide some context for students in the course syllabus. In the spirit of sharing, the remainder of this post is the entire Course Information section of the syllabus; I don’t know how all of this is going to go over, but in the event that other instructors are interested in this sort of thing, I might as well share what I’m trying.
This course examines video, board, and roleplaying games as activities that involve literacy practices. You will learn how to think about literacy practices beyond just reading and writing and how to evaluate the design of a game. Building on these skills, you will then learn how to identify the literacy practices associated with meaningful games, meaningful game contexts, and game design activities for youth and/or adults. Practical considerations for using games in libraries and other contexts will also be addressed.
Learning Objectives—“I Can Statements”
The following “I can” statements will guide all of the learning and assessment activities throughout this course. Although all of the statements build on each other, each three-week period of the course will focus on one statement in particular. By the end of that module, you should feel comfortable making that statement about yourself and will demonstrate your ability to meet that objective through your completion of a related assessment.
- I can describe how the design of a game connects with particular literacies.
- I can explain how the design of a game produces meaning.
- I can design a meaningful game by applying and reinforcing relevant literacies.
- I can explore and describe the contexts within and surrounding games.
- I can develop a plan for fitting games into my professional context.
My philosophy of teaching and assessment is heavily influenced by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s 2005 book Understanding by Design. Among other things, Wiggins and McTighe emphasize that assessment ought to closely align with learning objectives, and that learning activities ought to closely align with assessment. This seems straightforward, but it’s actually pretty hard to make this happen! We are all (both instructors and students) used to grades being used as carrots and sticks for lots of different behaviors, and we have a wide range of expectations for and experiences with what a grade represents.
Throughout my teaching career, grading has too often turned into a “bean counting” exercise: That is, I get anxious about whether I’m awarding or penalizing the right number of points (and whether I’m doing so consistently), and students get anxious about whether they have the right number of points. When grading turns into bean counting, we all end up focusing on numbers rather than the learning. We (probably?) need numerical grades to give us comparable and consistent measures of learning across students and classes, but it’s all too easy for there to emerge major gaps between those grades and the learning that they purport to measure.
With all of this in mind, LIS 618 is designed with a minimalist assessment structure that is closely tied to the learning objectives listed above. In keeping with the concepts from some of the key readings of this course, I believe that learning: 1) happens through participating in social communities and 2) is demonstrated through competencies that are valued in those communities. The “I can” statements described above are the competencies that are valued in our LIS 618 community—your grades will be based on your abillity to demonstrate those competencies and your participation in this class as we develop those competencies together.
Your grade for this course will follow this scale:
- 90–100% = A (Exceptional Achievement)
- 70–89.9% = B (High Achievement)
- 50–69.9% = C (Average Achievement)
- 0–49.9% = E (Failing)
This grade will be based on your performance in the following two types of activities:
Module Participation: 50% of your final grade (1-3 readings or activities per module)
Module Participation activities will consist of both readings and small, low-stakes activities that let you learn about, reflect on, and apply concepts and ideas from the readings.
Readings involve reviewing an article, book chapter, or other resource and leaving your thoughts in the form of social annotations. For most modules, you will have two readings, each worth one point; in two modules, you will have a single, longer reading, worth one point.
Other activities will be discussion prompts where you demonstrate your understanding of specific ideas from the readings. These discussion prompts are meant to set you up for success for the larger learning objective assessments by giving you a chance to practice these competencies—and giving me a chance to give you feedback. For the first two modules of each three-module sequence (e.g., Modules 1 and 2 or Modules 4 and 5), you will have a single discussion prompt, worth one point. For the final module of each three-module sequence (e.g., Module 3 or Module 6), there will be no discussion prompt so that you have more time to work on the learning objective assessment.
All of the activities for a module will be due by the final evening of the associated week (typically Sunday, though Week 16 ends on a Wednesday). All activities will be graded as either complete (full credit) or incomplete (no credit). Canvas will scale up your proportion of complete activities to 50% of your final grade.
Learning Objective Assessments: 50% (10% for each of five assessments)
At the end of each three-module sequence, you will submit an essay that demonstrates your ability to respond affirmatively to the “I Can” statement for that sequence. Detailed prompts—and, more importantly, rubrics—will be found in Canvas, where you will submit those essays. Each essay is worth 10% of your final grade and will be graded either complete (full credit) or incomplete (no credit). To be graded as complete, an essay must be scored as pass or higher on each of the three criteria in the rubric for that essay.
This straight up-or-down approach is meant to emphasize the importance of the learning objectives and keep us from bean counting with class grades. However, it also risks making these assessments high stakes and anxiety-inducing, which is not my goal. Thus, any student may redo any learning objective assessment as many times as they wish before the end of the semester. However, it is their responsibility to keep up with resubmissions—and to take into consideration my feedback on earlier submissions.
Late Work Policy
Officially, each assignment is due at 11:59pm on the night at the end of the corresponding week. Practically speaking, however, I will grade without penalty and provide feedback on any assessment that is turned in by the time I begin looking over that assessment. I reserve the right to not grade or provide feedback on any work that is completed after this time unless you have made other arrangements with me. Naturally, because my schedule varies from week to week and because I try to provide feedback as quickly as possible, your best bet is to turn in your work by the official deadline or—if life has thrown you a curveball—to get in touch with me ahead of time to make other arrangements.
You can click on the
< button in the top-right of your browser window to read and write comments on this post with Hypothesis. You can read more about how I use this software here.
Any Webmentions will also be displayed below: