The Thing about XP and Grades

I’m working on adding a gamification overlay to my class next year, and I’ve been thinking a lot about grading as I’m going through the process. I’ll utilize XP and levels to determine grades each grading period, and students will have the opportunity to earn XP through a variety of methods. And while, yes, it is essentially the same thing as what we would normally do in class, it brings a little more engagement to the class, but what I really like is the idea that students will work upwards toward a goal rather than simply trying to maintain one. Instead of “starting with a 100” and trying to keep it, everyone starts at zero and works their way up by earning XP.

Here’s the thing about XP though. In a video game, it doesn’t really matter how well you win. Whether you just barely beat a boss or beat it with full health, you still get the same XP. Granted, in some games, there are ways to get bonus XP in various ways, but players get the same amount of XP whether they win a battle with full health or with 1 health point left. It got me thinking about the way we grade (which is something I don’t know I’ll ever fully work through) and how we calculate student grades.

We talk about growth mindset and a focus on learning from mistakes, but how many bad quiz grades stay in the gradebook, hurting students’ averages even if they’ve shown later that they understand the concepts? How many students come into class years below grade level and make a lot of progress, but still get a failing grade for the class? How many advanced students learn nothing in a class, but still receive an A? And we know that students who have no shot of passing, and even the ones who can coast and get an A, can easily become behavior problems.

If our purpose in education is learning and growth, then why aren’t student grades reflective of that thought?

Photo by Burak Kebapci on

So, I’m doing something different this year with my grades. It’s based on XP. When I set a task for a student, it will get a certain amount of XP as long as they complete the necessary steps and learning involved. Thus, I can focus on the learning process involved. For example, a quiz isn’t just a straight quiz that a student takes and then gets a percentage put in the gradebook. There will be some reflections over missed questions and bonus incentives and so on. I’m using this to get them to focus on the learning involved, not the percentage at the end. After all, what’s the point of an assessment if they’re not learning from it?

Published by mltucker83

I am husband, father, educator, writer, preacher combined into one easily-sunburned man.

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