“We don’t want you to be a failure. We want you to fail productively. This work is fundamentally about redesigning the principles of school so that it is a game that people want to play because it is hard. That is the opposite way that many students approach school. They are looking for the easy path, but the hard part is the good part,” says U-M professor of education and information Barry Fishman. To facilitate this, Fishman and his colleagues at U-M’s Gameful Learning Lab built GradeCraft, a learning management system that is part of Academic Innovation. Academic Innovation is an office made up of 68 initiatives tasked with “creating a culture of innovation and learning…by unlocking new opportunities and enabling personalized, engaged, and lifelong learning for the U-M community and learners around the world” according to their website.
More than 40 faculty members from varying locations are currently using GradeCraft, including Robin Queen, professor and Chair of the Department of Linguistic. “I think of it as an assessment buffet, so I put out a bunch of things that students can do and then they decide what they want to do. They have multiple assignments and multiple assessments, but all of them are optional to give [students] the space to be able to focus on the joy of actually learning rather than worrying about a grade,” says Queen.
The purpose of GradeCraft is to increase student motivation and engagement, to go beyond participation because it is required to participation because it is fun and exciting. The students are given a variety of activities with assigned point values in which they choose from. This process increases the students’ autonomy, competency, and belongingness.
While high-achieveing students are initially apprehensive of gameful learning courses, the majority of students earn high grades because of it. According to Fishman, “What happens in gameful classes is that almost everyone gets an A, and they do it because they work harder, and because I have given them the ability to control the outcome.”
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