My SBG Journey: Kill Your Darlings

“In writing, you must kill your darlings” –William Faulkner


Over the last few years I have had a lot of success with my karate belt inspired ranking system. The beauty of the system was that it worked as a voluntary leaderboard. Students would need a minimum XP to gain access to each rank “quest” but after that any student could choose to go through on ranking quest. Students would first first show some content mastery by passing a 10 question quiz with an 80% or better. Then each rank would have a different skills mastery demonstration. For example, a 1st rank student would have to differentiate primary and secondary sources where as a 3rd rank would need to locate 3 primary sources from 3 seperate databases on a topic of my choice. Students earned some minor rewards for ranking up but the major motivation was the status symbol of the rank (external) and/or the challenge of completing the task (internal).

As students “ranked up” they would move a clothespin with their Avatar Name to the next ribbon.

In the transition to Standards Based Grading though I realized that my ranking system is moot because students will be in a perpetual state of demonstrating their mastery…

This was quickly followed by the realization that there are a number of different mechanics that I will need to change or eliminate. The XP Grading, Personal Grade Dashboards, and all of the Avatar Superpowers will need to go. Most of my item cards which were based on helping test scores or gain XP are pretty much pointless. A lot of what I have grown attached to will be different next year. The theory of SBG is really exciting as a matter of pedagogy but in practice it is terrifying.

Faulkner is attributed with saying “In writing, you must kill your darlings”. I think this means that when we become too comfortable with something we become complacent, then lazy, then ineffective. New ideas and techniques will end up necessitating changes in old practices. I think what ed reformers sometimes don’t consider is that teachers are not equally comfortable with the same speed of change. Some teachers are constantly seeking the newest fad and are comfortable with a breakneck pace of change. Other teachers are comfortable with old practices and need to be convinced to change. I tend to believe in a moderation approach. Having taught for 15 years enough fad teaching techniques have come and gone that I am not comfortable with adopting the “latest and greatest trend” but I also understand the need for improving practice.

I’m willing to “Kill my [edu] Darlings” but it won’t be an easy decision…

2 Comments

  1. Adam, I love this post & how detailed you are in documenting your process. I use SBG in my class, but then overlay XP, items, & badges as a means of evaluating creative & adventurous learning efforts. This allows my grading to be purely academic, but also show students that I greatly value their risk-taking & creativity. Your thoughts and growth in this area have really helped to shape my growth w/ gamification. Thanks & keep going on this journey because it is so worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Ryan Stephans Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.