This is an interesting talk from March of 2018 about Gamification, Failure, and Penalties. If you are reader of my blog you will probably be aware of most of the ideas in this talk. I generally agree with his talk and I have used Super Mario as a analogy often myself. This talk made me think of point penalties in school.

I am a bit of a heretic when it comes to grading orthodoxy. I don’t take late penalties, avoid adding quizzes as grades, allow full credit test corrections, and expect students to meet full expectations prior to giving any credit. In this Ted Talk Mark Rober starts his talk with an experiment that he ran on 50,000 of his subscribers. He secretly broke them into two groups and asked them to play a short coding game. One group of players was given a message of encouragement after a failed attempt and the other group of players was given a message of failure and had 5 points deducted from a 200 point score. The data suggested that “players” that were given a message of encouragement averaged 12 attempts at completing the game and had a 68% success rate. Meanwhile the group that had 5 points deducted averaged only 5 attempts at completing the game with a 52% success rate.

This immediately made me think of late penalties and Retakes.

The debate over late penalties that pops up both online and in the Real World deal drives me insane. I have come to advocate the idea that lateness is a behavioral issue and should not be factored into a students measurement of academic understanding. If a student demonstrates understanding what difference does it make if they submitted it at 11:59pm or 12:01am. There is no difference – the late penalty is simply a punishment inflicted on a student for inconveniencing the teacher. But this little experiment made me think of the student’s point of view on a late penalty. In my school we are allowed to take of 10 points per day for a late assignment. If I am a student that does not have the work done on time why on earth would I work as hard to complete it if I know that my work will not receive full credit. The penalty and punishment is already applied. Like hell I will give my full effort. If the point of an assignment is to assess knowledge then the late penalty completely destroys the ability to assess the student’s true understanding. If on the other hand the late penalty is there to rank and sort students than may or may not have circumstances that are not known to the teacher – it is a great system. The late penalty wrecks any motivation that the student may have had – just like in the penalized Game Group Mark Rober was talking about.