Over the last few weeks I have been chronicling my efforts to create a Hero’s Journey based questing path. I introduced students to the projects two weeks ago and this was the first full week students were able to work on the projects. The student reaction to the projects has so far been overwhelmingly positive. One key to the design was building three separate paths (I called missions) based on different products and content and then allowing students freedom to choose their path. I have also been thinking a lot about Classroom Consent though and wanted to give students the opportunity to opt out of completing a one of these Hero’s Journey based projects. A choice cannot actually be meaningful if one doesn’t also have the choice to say no.
In an education system in which students a required to have a grade it is necessary to create a structure that allows this opt out without punishing their grade. My current solution is through the creation of weekly challenges. These alternative assignments are shorter assessments of the historical thinking skills using that weeks content. They can demonstrate the skill of their choice in the content of their choice and in a creative manner of their choice.
It is only a week or so into this new structure but so far all the students have chosen to opt into either the Hero’s Journey based quests or the Weekly Challenges. Several students have chosen to begin the Hero’s Journey quest, finished a part of the mission path, and then “taken a break” by working on Weekly Challenges. Interestingly, several students have asked which challenge is the easiest and after looking at the list of 5-6 challenges each student has selected different challenges to work on. This suggests they are choosing assignments based on their own skills and preferences.
All of the options can seem like overwhelming mess when it comes to grading the papers. It can be but I have found a couple of hacks that help with this. The first is that I set rolling deadlines not due dates (similar to what I wrote about in Stop Collecting Papers). This eliminates late penalties and effectively staggers the submissions so that the paperwork is not overwhelming. We are currently in a hybrid setting and students that are on the Hero’s Journey missions submit their work during the physical class and we check it on the spot. Students completing challenges submit their work through a Google Slides system in the Google Classroom and I check those on Mondays. Classroom also has a function that emails me when a student submits an assignment late so I can see when a student has submitted a challenges after I have checked them. Also, since students are all completing different work I don’t get the mental burnout of looking at the same 90+ papers for 6 hours at a sitting.