School Name: Bulkley Valley Education Connection
School District: SD#54 Bulkley Valley
Inquiry Team Members:Leslie McCurrach: firstname.lastname@example.org, Kirsten Froese: email@example.com, Alyson Garland: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Writing
Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Flexible learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus for this year was to increase student engagement in existing online learning opportunities (specifically English 10-12) through the development of a gamified framework.
Scanning: I noticed that students were selecting online course delivery to fit their need for flexible pacing or to fit into their bricks-and-mortar timetable, but that they didn’t always find the courses engaging or they had difficulty finishing on time. With the curriculum redesign focus on increasing student choice, I wanted to take the opportunity to build more flexibility and ownership into the online process, while also making learning visible and attainable, as students report that they find the big list of assignments present in an online course to be overwhelming at times. I have observed that students can feel distanced from their teacher and peers when working asynchronously online, so I wanted to build a stronger sense of being connected too.
Focus: This gamified focus came out of my experience as a graduate student. I had been looking for ways to revitalize my practice and increase engagement/personalization in DL courses for a number of years, and when I learned about gamification as a potential way to increase student engagement, it felt like a good fit for my students and my teaching style.
Hunch: My suspicion was that students see a traditional course outline and feel that the pathway is set in stone. By restructuring around the Big Ideas for the course and letting students find their own path to achieve demonstration of understanding, I believed that we could take the focus off of production of work and grading and put it on deeper learning instead. In my opinion, our students have been taught that teachers are the experts and should be only ones dictating the direction of their learning. This framework aims to disrupt this paradigm.
New Professional Learning: During the course of this inquiry I completed a Masters of Educational Leadership with this Gamified Framework at the centre of my applied design project and academic process paper. The graduate diploma I previously completed in Online Learning and Teaching further supported my strong basis for this professional inquiry. I had supports from my university and supervisor, my admin team via Professional Development opportunities, including the Can-eLearn conference (at which I was a presenter this year). I explored UDL, different ways of showing learning in order to diversify the quest-chains for my learners, the research behind student engagement and gamification, and synthesized this professional learning into a published paper: https://viurrspace.ca/handle/10613/11972
Taking Action: I engaged fully in the applied design process for this inquiry by creating a website to accompany my existing Moodle course. Based on extensive research, I tried to look at how to encourage student engagement using Daniel Pink’s notions of Mastery, Autonomy & Purpose
– Redesigned my course around Big Ideas rather than units to emphasize Authenticity/Purpose so students know why they are completing each assignment in connection to real life
– Allowed students to control path, pace, time, and place in their learning to emphasize Agency & Autonomy
– Restructured grade accounting to emphasize LEARNING rather than LEARNING DEFICITS
o Accrual of eXperience Points for time spent learning
o Only earn XP if learning meets expectations for the task (single point rubric – mastery learning)
o If students need to make changes based on feedback in order to meet expectations, they count the time spent revising in their XP total
– Had students create a personalized Recipe for Representation so they had a toolkit of ways they could show their learning that weren’t necessarily teacher-prescribed (Agency)
– 10% of the final grade looked at Core Competencies (self & teacher assessed)
– 20% of the final grade based on a Summative Assessment – Final Reflective Portfolio (self & teacher assessed)
– VISIBLE PROGRESS – students had access to gradebook at all times via MS 365
– COLLABORATIVE LEARNING – group quests and synchronous sessions built into instructional design
Checking: This inquiry is a process, so it will continue to be refined over further iterations of the course. The differences were massive, and I would say they were successful based on the surveys given to my students both before and after completion of the course. Before starting, I surveyed students on their opinions about online learning, teacher presence, and their confidence in their ability to be successful. By the end of the gamified course, there was a huge difference in their reported confidence and engagement, with zero students saying they disagree with statements such as “I feel confident that I can finish an online course.”
Student comments indicated that they benefited from the pacing provided through the student tracker. One commented that “Gamified English is the perfect blend of self directed and structured learning we need.” Students responded that they liked the freedom of choosing their own quests, and that they appreciated opportunity to rework assignments until they achieved mastery. Overall responses were incredibly encouraging and gives me the heart to continue creating more depth to my courses.
Reflections/Advice: I learned that gamifying my existing course was challenging, but paid off for my students in terms of their enjoyment and quality of work. My major takeaways are that maintaining a website is involved, as you need to have the bulk of your curriculum ready to go for all students on the first day of your course, and it’s a living document, so you need to maintain and work to keep links and videos current. Next year I plan to continue developing my websites for ELA 10 and 11 choices, and to refine my mid-course conferences with students to better formalize their plans and provide direction. My advice for educators who might want to try this is to look for resources, engage in your redesign over the summer or in a semester when you aren’t teaching the course, and to be brave and take the risk because it’s worth it.