The 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 theÂ 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.