Game Based Learning Vs. Grade Based Learning

In my classroom, my focus is on learning not grades. In my classroom I offer student choice. What my students put into the class is what they are going to get out of the class. I understand that many young people are motivated by grades, but grades are arbitrary. Many of my students master learning outcomes in different ways.  

I want my students to be lifelong readers and proficient writers. Some of my students are avid readers and are authors of their own blogs. At the same time,  I have struggling students who have never read a book for school, rather comb through the internet for plot summaries to pass a test and copy quotes. With these diverse learners in mind, I have introduced Game based learning in my classroom to motivate the diverse learners in my classroom, teach content in creative ways that engage students, and allow them to work collaboratively.

Traditional Grading System Standards-Based Grading System
1. Based on assessment methods (quizzes, tests, homework, projects, etc.). One grade/entry is given per assessment. 1. Based on learning goals and performance standards. One grade/entry is given per learning goal.
2. Assessments are based on a percentage system. Criteria for success may be unclear. 2. Standards are criterion or proficiency-based. Criteria and targets are made available to students ahead of time.
3. Use an uncertain mix of assessment, achievement, effort, and behavior to determine the final grade. May use late penalties and extra credit. 3. Measures achievement only OR separates achievement from effort/behavior. No penalties or extra credit given.
4. Everything goes in the grade book – regardless of purpose. 4. Selected assessments (tests, quizzes, projects, etc.) are used for grading purposes.
5. Include every score, regardless of when it was collected. Assessments record the average – not the best – work. 5. Emphasize the most recent evidence of learning when grading.

Adapted from O’Connor K (2002).  How to Grade for Learning: Linking grades to standards (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


Where does Gamification (ie Classcraft) fit into this grading dichotomy?

As my colleague and author, Michael Matera, describes, “Gamification provides the structure needed to move beyond the regurgitation of memorized content. It allows teachers to create challenging and motivating experiences that meet and go beyond the required curriculum standards, while captivating students’ minds and feeding their hunger for knowledge. Gaming offers a personalized experience and a sense of autonomy.” (EXPlore Like a Pirate, 2016)

So what is Graded in 8th Grade English?

Essays Writing

Short Response Quizzes

Interactive Notebooks

CCSS Standards Based Objectives for reading, writing, vocabulary acquisition, speaking and listening


What earns Game Points?

Outside reading

Participation in twitter book chats

Articles of the Week (weekly reading practice and current events)

Collaborative activities in class and Teamwork

Attending X-Period

Positive Interactions w/Classmates


What are the rewards for Collecting Game Points (XP & GP)?

Food Rewards

Extended Time on Assessments

Earn Exempts on Notebook Checks

Limited Answer Choices on Quizzes and Tests

Preferred Partner Work

Preferential seating

Preview Final Exam (10,000 XP Points)

*Negative behaviors can also lead to having one’s game points raided (taken away).


Rewards are always evolving.

The one thing I know for sure, is that eliminating extra credit requires my students to put forth their best effort on every assignment. Revision is always an option to improve ones grades because learning is never “one and done.”

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