An Assessment is simply a way to determine what a student knows/doesn’t know or the level of skill with a certain ability. In education we often conflate assessment with test but those words, while similar, do not mean the same thing. In my district we have a series of “common assessments” that all the US History teachers are required to give throughout the semester. These assessments are modeled on our state mandated End of Course exam which means they are all 55 multiple choice questions. Some are choose all that apply or have some other tech enhanced gimmick but typically 50 or so of these are multiple choice questions. From my gamified point of view is that these are wasted days. First, these are individual silent exams that kill the culture. Second, these are treated as summative assessments at the end of a unit. When the test is done, the learning for that unit is done. No “free to fail” here… just fail. Once the test is over the learning is done and it’s time to move on. Boss Fights have the potential to fix that.
I have been playing around with Boss Fight systems to make these assessments more engaging. First was the Dreadsheets, a fine system but after a while the novelty wears off. I have created some physical challenges but these take more time than we often have available. These were all created as review games too and I want to make the actual assessment into a boss fight which I have been thinking of as a “Hold My Beer” type of move for a classroom teacher. This boss assessment was based on dice rolls (modeled on the Dreadsheets) which worked fine but after question 30 or so the kids were starting to tune out. So, I’m back to the drawing board which is what I am sharing with you all now.
The district uses an online testing program BUT I can download the test ahead of time. This is allows me to 1) Print off a paper copy of the exam and 2) Upload all of the questions into Plickers. Plickers is a high tech – low tech mash up in which students get a unique QR code paired to their name and a question is projected onto the board. Students show the QR code to the teacher who scans the room with the Cell Phone or iPad app to collect the responses. The other benefit is that Plickers provides reports for both the whole class or individual students data.
Asking the Questions
With the plexiglass installed due to COVID-19 seeing the projector is difficult for some students. I have been providing each student with a paper copy of the test as well as projecting the questions individually on the board. This means either each student gets a clean copy of the test or I reuse the paper copies which increases the potential for marks on the sheet that could help the next student. I see an opportunity!
Meet the Bosses
I have downloaded some fantasy art monsters that I will be hanging up around the room.
Next year I might create a more thematic approach but for now this is our last common assessment and this is just a proof of concept activity.
These monsters have been printed off as posters and I will be hanging them around the room in various locations. One of the posters – the “Final Boss” will be hidden behind my projector screen. Taped onto the posters will be 2 “buckets” in strategic “weak point” locations. I intend for these to be styrofoam bowls cut in half. The final Boss will have 3 of these Buckets.
Attacking the Boss
If a student gets the question correct then they can attack the monster – here is where the opportunity comes in. Since each student has a paper copy of the test and because I don’t want them to take it with them I need them to recycle it.
To attack they will cut the question out of the test and toss it toward the bucket of the monster they want to attack!
If they get the question in the bucket it will be a hit. If both buckets get filled then the monster is defeated. Students will only be able to attack monsters that are past a certain distance away from them (say 10 feet). If all the monsters are defeated then the Final Boss will be revealed from behind the projector screen.
A Formative Assessment
If a student misses a question then nothing happens. They simply don’t attack the monster BUT this also provides a learning opportunity. The student can keep that question and paste it into a Multiple Choice Reflection form! They can earn points back on the test (I allow full credit recovery) by completing the reflection form which requires some deep thought on the correct answer but also WHY they selected the wrong answer AND how the test creators tried to trick them.
In the trial runI didn’t implement this, students kept the questions to study from but didn’t have to work with them before entering the test data. In future assessments I think that the modification form will be the key to student access to the testing data from the Plicker game. Since we have to input the answers into the Online District Testing system. I have been providing the testing data so they could enter correct answers and then have better odds on incorrect questions. This multiple choice review form could be an important element in formative assessment. When submitted the student would then receive the Plicker data with correct answers.
Overtime, I might think of a few special power items students could earn before the Boss Fight. One I have already been handing out is an “ally” card. Allies provide a free correct answer card. The ally card is thrown instead of the cut out question. Instead the Question is attached to the Multiple Choice Recovery form so that the student won’t get it incorrect again.
This has the potential to be some chaotic fun. I envision paper balls flying all over the place and lots of laughs! Certainly better than the dull monotony of a typical test day. Plickers also allows students to test individually within a communal activity. I do not currently have any plans to give a reward if the students defeat the monster. I will note at which question they have defeated the mini-bosses and final bosses and have sort of a mini-competition between the classes but the game itself will be motivating. Also, having a reward inspires cheating and I want this to be an assessment of what the students know and where they need to grow. Overtime I might add some themes and maybe I will find a way for the “Bosses” to randomly attack students based on incorrect answers.
For the moment though I’m just excited to be looking forward to a test day instead of dreading the boredom. I think the students will feel the same way!