Jul 06

Rewards and Gaming #3dgamelab

Screen Shot 2013-06-28 at 10.43.03 PMThe idea of badges and achievements in gaming is a problem for teachers who have abolished extrinsic motivators in their classrooms. In 3DGL there is a Badges section, an Achievements section and an Awards section. I’m really conflicted by the awards section because it’s more like rewards than badges and achievements in my eyes. I wrote a blog post years ago that led me to raise the discussion of awards ceremonies at my school. We used to have monthly awards ceremonies where we’d give out awards to some kids and choose a few students of the month. It never felt good and the many kids who sat with no award were not being motivated to try harder.

We actually put a stop to it. Now monthly assemblies are led by students and they do NOT include awards or students of the month! In my class I don’t give grades, stickers, stamps, gold stars, candy, class money, or lotto tickets for behaviors I WANT my students to do. I don’t want to reward students for behaviors they should be engaging in such as being kind to each other and helping each other, etc, especially not if they are engaging in those behaviors willingly. Awards in the 3DGL interface is like giving out class money, candy or lotto tickets. The idea is that you see a kid doing something good so you award them for it. In the Game-Based Learning (GBL) research having rewards like that, that are not expected, random so that you don’t know when or if they are coming, are highly motivating. The gamer doesn’t know what he or she will do to get one or when he or she will get one so they keep trying everything. Pavlov’s dog, right? I feel uncomfortable with that. Even if it’s motivating in a video game, well, for some at any rate, I don’t think it can transfer to a gamified classroom.

So I’m thinking of not offering any awards and making sure the badges and achievements are tied directly to actual completion of work. Not for grades or passing the course but just as feedback so students know they completed the assignment. I will include feedback for what they will need to do next and I’ll see if the badge or achievement acts like a grade causing them to ignore the feedback. I’m hoping it won’t keep students from reading and/or using the feedback I provide. I know I’m splitting hairs but I still want the gaming feel and for better or for worse badges, achievement, XP and leveling up are all part of the gaming experience. I’m going to try it because honestly, nothing I’ve tried before (abolishing grades, offering choice, no rewards, giving feedback) has worked for all my students. I need one more thing in my toolkit to reach more kids and I’m trying this one.

I thought the goal, in GBL, was to use extrinsic motivators to help students find topics and activities they can be intrinsically motivated to do on their own and then their intrinsic motivation will take over and they won’t need the badges or achievements. Anyone have experiences with weaning kids off of extrinsic motivators or using extrinsic motivators to get them into your subject or topics? I’m not sure I’ve noticed if my colleagues, those who use things like candy or stickers or lotto tickets, wean kids off their rewards. Or do they just keep using them all year to get kids to the right things? Maybe I’m no different if I start down the path of badges and achievements. I don’t think it’s all black or white, you know, shades of gray and all that.

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2013/07/06/rewards-and-gaming/

3 comments

    • adeletweets on July 7, 2013 at 6:02 am

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this post. I’m going to be gamifying my classroom in September and have struggled with the extrinsic vs. intrinsic argument. I, similar to you, am uncomfortable with stickers, candies, etc. because they seem like rewards. Ultimately, educators want students to develop a love of learning and skills that allow them to do the best they can in school (perseverance, self-regulation, responsibility, etc.). I’m not sure that rewards do anything to foster these skills. Similarly, the student of the month awards make me cringe. I can only choose two students who show a certain trait? But I have many students who deserve this? And what does it do to motivate students? Nothing.

    I understand your feelings on badges/achievements being motivators for students. My struggle is, are they really intrinsic? If I give a set of tasks for a student to accomplish, they earn badges and points, perhaps. Do they do it because they are trying to be the best students they can be, because they are developing good work habits/character traits? Or are they doing it because they want to make it to the next level or brag about a badge on their page? I don’t see the difference, in your post, between badges and awards. Just because an achievement is task-related, does that make it intrinsic?

    This is where I’m at. I’m secretly hoping you can convince me otherwise so I can continue with my project without apprehension :).

    As a side-note, you mentioned that once students achieved a badge, some would not act on your feedback to improve their work. Could you distribute badges for acting on feedback? YOu may also be able to give badges when students give each other effective feedback.

    Thanks for your insight. I’ll be following along closely with this blog :).
    For what it’s worth, here is the link to our inquiry blog.
    gamification.commons.hwdsb.on.ca

    • Alfonso Gonzalez on July 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Hi Adele,

    Thanks for commenting. So great to find someone toiling with the same questions as me! 🙂

    Re: “Just because an achievement is task-related, does that make it intrinsic?” That is what I’m trying to find out. Here’s what I know for sure, when I did use rewards in class like class money and lotto tickets, it didn’t work for every student but did motivate some. It didn’t feel right though and I was uncomfortable with the idea of giving a kid a reward for doing something well. When I abolished all those rewards, as before, some students responded well but some still didn’t come around. Meaning they were intrinsically motivated to learn my curriculum. What I did was make it okay for them to choose to NOT learn my curriculum. If they chose to do something, I was supportive, if they chose to do no work, I tried to encourage them to do something.

    So the badges and XP do seem like the class money and lotto tickets in that they are awarded for completing certain things. My hope is that they will be likened to feedback, ie I got the Laws of Physics badge because I showed that I learned Newton’s Laws of Motion. When I used badges this past school year it worked for some, meaning they displayed their badges on their blog, but not for the majority. They weren’t that interested in the badges. That actually made me feel good because they were doing the work because they wanted to (whatever the reason, they wanted to). So does that make it intrinsic? Maybe not at first. I’m sure there will be kids who get into the badges and levels and will brag and show them off. Maybe even get motivated by those badges and levels and not so much the curriculum. But if it gets some kids who normally wouldn’t be interested in the curriculum to enjoy it AND develop an intrinsic motivation to learn it, then I’ll see it as a positive. If no system is perfect, then the system that reaches the most students and gets the most kids wanting to learn Science, the better!

    My comment about students getting a badge and not acting on the feedback was conjecture. I was thinking about the research that shows that kids who get a paper back with a percentage or a letter grade AND written feedback typically do NOT read the feedback. They are satisfied with the percentage of letter grade. I was wondering if badges would do the same thing but I don’t know for sure. In the 3D GameLab interface I will leave feedback comments when I approve or better yet when I don’t approve quests. If I approve a quest, I’m hoping students will read my comments, but if I don’t approve a quest they will HAVE to read my comments to find out what to do to get the quest approved.

    And thank you for the link to your inquiry blog. I’ve added it to my Feedly feed! I was just reading your, “badges, levels, points and quests” post. You got me thinking of kids on IEPs. If I approve a quest for an IEP kid their work may look very different from a kid with no learning disabilities. I’m glad you mentioned that. If you want to see my follow up, showing the badges I created for 6th grade, check this out:
    http://www.educatoral.com/wordpress/2013/07/07/badges-do-we-need-them/

    • adeletweets on July 8, 2013 at 7:02 am

    I’ve added you to my RSS feed too :). It’s comforting, and a bit of a relief, to hear that you’re having similar thoughts. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch and learning from each other. Keep reflecting and being a great teacher!

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