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The following are slides from some of the talks I have given that relate to gameful learning (i.e. practical gamification). If nothing else, this speaks to how long I have been concerned with the design and delivery of meaningful learning experiences for my students.

The Cases For/Against Re-Submission

There has long been a practice - sometimes unofficial, but sometimes codified in an institution’s plagiarism policies - that all work submitted for grading by a student must be, in some sense, wholly new work. We typically do not allow students to submit anything for grading that has previously been submitted in another course. Some years ago, I began to re-examine all of my teaching practices and philosophies. Doing so has opened up new possibilities as well as helping to re-focus my efforts on the core principles that have guided me throughout my teaching career. I have always seen my role as more of a coach than a gate-keeper. Given that, two questions deserve to be asked, and answered when it comes to what we are asking our students to do: How does this practice help my students learn what I need them to learn? What are the reasons for the exercise being done in the way it is? When it comes to the thorny issue of re-submission, both on a single assignment, and across courses, we should really be asking ourselves what we are really measuring when we impose restrictions such as hard deadlines, no re-submission, and that all work must be original? When we submit papers to journals, for example, we often go through multiple rounds of review and editing before the submission is deemed acceptable. This process is an important way to learn how to write. Why then don’t we do allow this for our students?

Becker, K. (2021). The Cases For/Against Re-Submission, presented at: Mount Royal Faculty Association Faculty Retreat Spring 2021 Online 'Retreat'. Presentation ET PD GM SoTL

What’s Better When I Do? What Breaks if I Don’t?

Some years ago I accepted a teaching assignment for a course I first taught in 1982. I hadn’t taught that course in years so I looked at the most recently used syllabus, and a sea-change began. That 2012 syllabus looked almost identical to the syllabus I had used 30 years ago - right down to the textbook*. It put the unquestioning sameness of our pedagogy into sharp focus for me, and prompted me to begin to reevaluate absolutely everything I was doing. It occurred to me that we don’t question our own methods and motives nearly often enough, or honestly enough. For example: - What is the true purpose of and benefit for high-stakes, closed book final exams? - What do our tests REALLY test? - Is it what we have determined is most important? - Are they really objective? - What purpose do hard deadlines serve? - Who do they benefit most? In what way does what I am doing facilitate learning or understanding? - Which of my teaching strategies actually interfere with what I need my students to learn? Just because we have been doing something a certain way for decades does not mean it is the best way, or even a good way to do something. On the other hand, leaping onto every new bandwagon that comes along does not make you a better teacher. This session will attempt to prompt some serious self-reflection and lively discussion on what we do, why we do it, and what it’s good for. *Same author, new edition.

Becker, K. (2019). What’s Better When I Do? What Breaks if I Don’t? to be presented at: Mount Royal Faculty Association Faculty Retreat A Place for You: Building a Better U, April 29-30, 2019 at Kanaskis, Alberta.

It’s Time to Stop Using Compartmentalized Scoring

The consequences of compartmentalized scoring are that students need consistently good marks for a good grade. Exams typically happen on single days. If a student has a crappy day, they’re hooped. Does this really reflect a student’s mastery of the course material? The author has known students who were genuinely talented and dedicated fail courses, or lose out on an ‘A’ because of circumstances that had nothing to do with mastery of the material. Is that reasonable that one could at some point be unable to pass a course, even if they get 100% on everything from that point on? If goal is to help students master the course content, then how does compartmentalized grading further that goal? The truth is, it doesn’t. This presentation will present a simple alternative to this approach; namely, strictly cumulative scoring. Cumulative scoring starts with zero. This presentation will explain a variety of ways this can be made to work without substantially adding to the instructor’s workload. We design courses to fit into the tech we have rather than requiring tech to adapt to sound instructional design. We shouldn't.

Becker, K. (2018) It’s Time to Stop Using Compartmentalized Scoring, 2018 Symposium on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Building SoTL Communities - Within, Between, and Beyond, Banff, AB, Nov 8-10 2018 Symposium on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

T.A.P.: The Teach Aloud Protocol

A popular approach in teaching is what is being called “Teaching Out Loud”. The approach advocated by many of those who use the term is in many ways closer to “Teaching Boldly” (or “Teaching Loud”) than it is to Teaching out Loud. The idea is to advocate for the courage to try new things and to teach the ways students learn. While this is important, there is another approach that has received far less attention, but that is equally important, especially with adult learners. This approach is called the Teach Aloud Protocal (T.A.P.), and it draws inspiration from the “Think Aloud” idea in psychological and educational research. The basic idea is that the ‘subject’ says what they are thinking about as they complete a task. The goal is to learn about the thought processes the subject is using. Given that, “Teaching Aloud” should be about the teacher explaining their reasoning and thought processes while teaching. This presentation will relate the author’s experiences with this approach and discuss some of the implications of adopting a Teach Aloud Protocol in higher education courses.

Becker, K. (2017). T.A.P.: The Teach Aloud Protocol and Transparency in Teaching to be presented at: Mount Royal Faculty Association Faculty Retreat Changes: Shift Happens, May 8-9, 2017 at Kanaskis, Alberta.

The Randomness of Grades

This presentation takes a look at elements of our schedules, assignments, and tests that have a random factor, and the effect that could have on how students are assessed. While exams are becoming less popular in many fields, they are still commonplace in many science fields and other disciplines that have large class sizes. We have long felt confident that our “comprehensive” final exams provide a pedagogically sound assessment of student learning throughout the term, but is that really the case? For example, suppose we “cover” a 400-page textbook by assigning it as reading and then provide 30-odd lecture hours talking about the same topics. Our final exam consists of a 100-question multiple-choice exam. That means we have chosen 100 topics, likely addressing varying levels of granularity to use as our questions. Just how comprehensive is that? This talk looks at some visual representations of this approach and consider the implications that has for the ultimate grade a student gets.

Becker, K. (2017). Grades and The Random Factor: How Randomness Affects Assessment to be presented at: Mount Royal Faculty Association Faculty Retreat Changes: Shift Happens, May 8-9, 2017 at Kanaskis, Alberta.

Murky Waters: Instructional Design Theories and Models

In science, a theory is an explanation for how something works. Here, a theory that has no supporting evidence is really little more than an idea and it is not until sufficient supporting evidence has been gathered that the theory begins to be taken seriously. In the social sciences by contrast, a ‘theory’ can be loosely developed and poorly tested (NIH, 2005), yet still gain acceptance and even legitimacy. Some even describe theories as casual models (Briggs, 2006), so it should come as no surprise that there is often confusion around the distinction between an ID theory and an ID model. The terms seem to be used interchangeably. In education, instructional design (ID) theory came out of synergies of learning theory, psychology, and communications. These terms are used as in the social sciences, so it isn't surprising that there is confusion. ID theories should be distinguished from ID models in that ID theories attempt to explain how to teach, whereas ID models provide guidance on how to design it. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the distinctions between ID theories and ID models, and offer a new approach to categorizing both (see attached images) that can help practitioners and students understand the distinction as well as to make better use of the particular features of each.

Becker, K. (2017) Murky Waters: Instructional Design Theories and Models, CNIE 2017: Exploring our past, present and future, Banff, AB, May 17-19, 2017 Canadian Network for Innovation In Education

Misguided Illusions of Understanding and Getting Creative with Grading

Becker, K. (2018) Misguided Illusions of Understanding and Getting Creative with Grading, ACCP-CAID Canadian Association of Instructional Designers, February 20, 2018 Invited Workshop

Gamification how to gamify learning and instruction Part 1 (of 3)

Gamification how to gamify learning and instruction Part 2 (of 3)

Gamification how to gamify learning and instruction Part 3 (of 3)

Death to Deadlines


Various approaches to allowing flexibility for students in computer science (CS) assignments (deadlines, choices, graduated requirements, etc.) have been used in CS classes and this presentation reviews some of the results.

Becker, K. (2016). Death to Deadlines 2.0 presented at: Mount Royal University Centennial Symposium on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Banff, Alberta, November 10-12, 2016.

Is gamification a game changer?


Gamification’ - the use of game elements in non-game contexts - has rapidly become one of the current hottest trends. This presentation presents an overview of what gamification is and isn’t, and reports on the author’s experiences using this approach in a graduate level education class as well as the early results of a comparison between gamified and non-gamified sections of a freshman introduction to computers course. In the current course, the non-gamified sections employ a fairly standard structure that includes various assignments spread out throughout the term, various in-class activities, and both a midterm and final exam. The gamified section organizes all student work into various quests worth from 10 to 200 ‘experience points’ (XP), most of which have no set deadlines. While the quests are effectively equivalent in grade weight to the assignments of the more traditional sections, students in the gamified section start off with a score of zero (0) and every quest they submit contributes to their final grade cumulatively. A final score of 1000 is equivalent to 100%, but the total number of possible XP is 1435. All quests were made available to students at the beginning of term; some could be repeated for XP and included a variety of ‘guild’ (group) quests and ‘solo’ quests; and many quests could be repeated to earn additional XP. The presentation will provide some background on gamification, detail the course structure, highlight early successes and failures, and conclude with strategies for incorporating meaningful gamification in other courses.

Becker, K., Patrick Perri (2013). Is Gamification a Game-Changer? Comparing Gamified and Non-Gamified Approaches presented at: Mount Royal University Centennial Symposium on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Banff, Alberta, November 7 - 9, 2013.

How Much Choice is Too Much?


Becker, K. (2009) How Much Choice is Too Much? Presentation at the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Network speaker series, Jan 22 2009, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta

Providing a learner-centered perspective is in keeping with modern constructivist approaches to learning, and this means that courses must be designed with learner attributes and choice in mind. Concerns over accreditation and the need for accountability at the post-secondary level seem to contradict freedom of choice and flexibility of term work, but this need not be the case. This paper outlines numerous strategies for offering choice and flexibility to students in a freshman programming course. Approaches include flexible deadlines, the ability to re-submit work that has already been assessed, writing tasks, contributing to course content, bonuses for embellishments and extra work, and choices about which problems to solve. All of the strategies have been employed in classes, and students’ reactions as well as effects on student engagement and quality of work are described.

Reconciling a Traditional Syllabus with an Inquiry-Based Introductory Course


This presentation describes the design of an introductory computer programming course design as an entirely inquiry-based course.

Becker, K. (2004) Reconciling a Traditional Syllabus with an Inquiry-Based Introductory Course The Journal of Computing Science in Colleges Volume 20, Number 2, December 2004, pp 28-37 Consortium for Computing Science in Colleges Northwest Conference, October 8-9 2004, Salem, Oregon