Bill Deal


Bill Deal

  • Session Proposal: Grading with XPs


    In the Fall 2011 semester I taught a course called Morality and Mind, an introduction to cognitive scientific perspectives on morality and moral philosophy/psychology. Rather than utilize a traditional grading schema, I experimented with a grading system based on experience points (XPs). I am not really much of a gamer, and was not entirely clear about such things as leveling up or how to assign points that somehow would — by the end of the course — correspond to a traditional grade. But, with the help of Lee Zickel (who is also attending THATCamp Games), I came up with a workable system that looked like this:


    Final course grades were based on earned points as follows:






    My attraction to grading with XPs is the result of, among other things, two major areas of dissatisfaction with traditional grading: (1) the implicit assumption — at least for students — that grading is about the instructor subtracting points from an originating grade of A or 100, and (2) the me-against-them relationship created by traditional grading. So, how does the application of XPs resolve — or begin to — these two issues?

    Grading with XPs is additive — the student starts with zero, and earns points by successfully fulfilling course requirements. My experience in this course was that students liked seeing their points and grade level increase as the semester progressed. Using XPs also had the additional benefit of shifting the focus of responsibility on the students for earning points rather than my conferring grades (or taking away points). Students began to see themselves in relationship with the “game” of the course, rather than pitted against me. And at least some of the students worked hard to be among the highest point earners. Since I updated point totals two or three times a week, students knew exactly where they stood in relation to their peers.

    This was the first iteration of my use of an XP grading system. Some things worked, some not as well as I had hoped, but I plan on using a modified version of this in subsequent courses, though I don’t think the use of XPs is appropriate for all of my classes.

    My session proposal is for a discussion of XP or other game-inspired grading systems. Anyone else doing this or want to? I would love a conversation about best practices, pros and cons, how to design such grading systems, and anything else people might be interested in related to games and grading.