Thoughts on the XP Grading System

I’ll be honest.  During Syllabus Week, I felt very lost in this class.  Navigating XP was difficult for me because I’ve never taken a class with a similar grading system.  Over the course of the semester, however, I’ve grown to understand it and even appreciate it.  Since we’re nearing the end of the year, I decided to outline pros and cons I’ve noticed about this unconventional system.

  • PRO: There are seemingly endless opportunities.
    • In other classes, I’ve had professors base a grade off of maybe three or four assessments total.  While this can be a plus in terms of workload, I really think this just causes more stress. One bad day can tank your grade, which is unfortunate if you truly understand the material.  With XP, it’s always been a relief to know that if I’ve missed something, I will likely have a chance to make it up.
  • CON: It is not procrastinator-friendly. 
    • Granted, I know that no grading system should be procrastinator-friendly.  But with conventional letter grades, it’s possible to cram and still make a good grade.  No matter how many teachers urge students not to do this, a brave (or lazy) few always will.  XP ,in contrast, is structured to incentivize early planning.  I blog in another class, one that abides by traditional grades. The professor told us that as long as we have 10 posts by the end of the semester, we will receive full credit for the activity.  She allows us to post twice a week, so even someone who waits until the last 5 weeks can secure a great grade.  In this class, however, skipping that many weeks of blogging would annihilate your grade.  To maximize XP, it’s best to start any quest as early as possible. I am the last person allowed to give that advice, and I’m probably the worst example of prior planning.  For what it’s worth, though, I do think that this class has kept me on my toes much more than other courses because XP builds on itself.
  • PRO: Your grade is entirely in your hands.
    • Because you know exactly what you need to do upfront, getting a good grade is just a matter of following through.  I’m not very good at that, but I do appreciate this class for helping me learn how to improve there.  I actually had to sit down at one point and add up the numbers, trying to plan ahead for the next few weeks.  Usually, in other classes, I avoid planning for even the next few days.
  • CON: Your grade is entirely in your hands.
    • I don’t trust my hands!! As I said before, this unique grading system has kept me on my toes. I’m not even kidding when I say that there have been nights when I’m about to fall asleep and then realize, “Oh man, I forgot to do my tweets!”
  • CON: The reward system in general can have its flaws.
    • There are downsides to any reward system: traditional grades, XP, junk food, etc.  I work with an autistic individual, and I have to practice a form of ABA.  It’s a system based on operant conditioning, so like XP, it uses points. I award points to encourage good behaviors (e.g. starting a conversation, being polite to someone,) and I’m required to take away points when he exhibits less-than-ideal behavior (e.g. says something hurtful, yells in public.)   I’ve undoubtedly noticed progress. He has flourished in many areas and achieved goals that seemed so far away before.  One problem, though, is the lingering question, “Is he being genuine?” For instance, sometimes he will do something positive and then say, “I was nice to someone!” while looking directly at the point card.  In this class, sometimes I question my own motives.  I’ve wondered before when Tweeting how much I truly care about the substance of the tweet vs. the XP I know I will earn from it.  This uneasy feeling can happen in any class, though.
  • PRO: The “X” part is very beneficial.  
    • I remember earlier on, Professor Hall said that XP stands for Experience Points.  I enjoy the X part and learning hands-on, like when we’ve had the opportunities to hear speakers and educators in the field.  I’ll admit that I probably would not have attended a talk if it weren’t for the XP incentive.  In the end, the X has definitely mattered far more than the P.
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4 Responses to Thoughts on the XP Grading System

  1. leighahall says:

    It is definitely not procrastinator friendly! 🙂 But then again, I don’t want any of my classes to be procrastinator friendly. I want you to be involved continuously throughout the semester. And I definitely gave the XP to encourage people to go to the talks. I am far more interested in you having the experience of a good talk and less concerned about giving away points. I want to give you something for your time, but ultimately I want you to show up. 🙂

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  2. Autumn Grace says:

    This is so true! Like you, I was very lost and confused on the first day of class, and I even had to come up with my own personal schedule sheet to keep up with everything that I would do each week during the semester. This system definitely has some cons, such as not being procrastinator friendly or requiring constant involvement in class activities. However, this system also has some pros, such as allowing students to choose what activities they would like to participate in or producing great class discussions.

    I also catch myself becoming so wrapped up in the XP points that I wonder if I am genuinely participating for myself or the points. However, I think this is a problem with every grading system. At least with this one, we are learning through experience, which is far better than learning by the book and being graded on a couple of tests.

    Great post!

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  3. kbuffett says:

    Great post, Jordan! I am a HUGE fan of the XP grading system and hope that another class in the future will incorporate this in the grading.

    What I love the most about this system is that there are not really any punishments in place for doing something wrong — if you put the work into an assignment, you will get credit for it. Similarly, we the students have the unique opportunity to decide how exactly our out-of-classroom experience will be in the course (i.e. doing two blog posts per week vs. doing two blog posts every couple of weeks).

    As this system currently exists, students really get to choose what grade they get. It’s a great opportunity over overachievers to exceed guidelines/expectations and for those who are just interested in passing to do the appropriate amount of work to achieve that.

    Although there are obviously some cons to the grading system, I think its pros far exceed them.

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  4. Pingback: The Gamification of Learning: Exploring the XP Grading System | The Politics of Reading

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