Today, Dr. Julie Hill shares her experience adapting an assignment she got from Ciara, Design-A-Game. Read on for more information about how Julie and Ciara use the assignment in their classes, examples, and tips for implementation!
Julie says: Last spring I taught History and Systems of Psychology for the first time (at my university this is a 400-level elective course capped at 33 students). While designing the course, I searched for ideas for a final, comprehensive assignment other than a final paper. I had already decided take-home essay exams were the best exam format for the course. However, that meant if I gave a final paper I would have to grade that on top of the final unit essay exam, which did not sound appealing to me. More importantly (at least for my students), a final paper did not diversify how I was assessing learning. Finally, I wanted to use the final exam period for an engaging “final experience” since the students would complete their last unit exam at home.
When Ciara shared her “Make a Game” assignment with me, I knew this was the comprehensive assessment I was looking for, plus it would create the final experience I wanted. Not only would the students design and make a game, we would play the games during the final exam period.
Ciara says: I originally got this idea from a colleague of mine with whom I was teaching a second online section of our History and Systems class. For me it was a great final assignment for all of the reasons Julie mentions above, also it was something that students could easily submit online (with photos). I have since used the assignment in an Honors seminar on the Psychology of Harry Potter. That class was 21 students, and primarily discussion and project based. Students completed this in groups as a final project and we played them during one of our class sessions.
J: Just before I introduced the Make a Game assignment to the class, I attended a short session about the Transparency in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education project where I learned how to “TILT” assignments. I knew I would have to sell the Make a Game assignment to my students and I thought that the TILT assignment template would help me do that. In particular, a TILTed assignment highlights how the project is relevant to students’ learning and shows students that they will use the same skills required by the project in the workplace (for Make a Game I highlighted creative thinking, critical thinking, and written and visual communication). I also wanted to highlight to my students that this was not an art project and I would not grade based on students’ artistic abilities. Instead, creating neat and organized materials was important and a skill they would use in almost any workplace. I pointed out I try to do exactly that when creating class materials, including the assignment instructions they were reading.
C: I love this and definitely plan to adopt this for a lot of my assignments in the future!!
J: I was impressed and pleased with the games the students designed. For simplicity sake, and in hopes of having games that played well, I encouraged my students to use the mechanics of a pre-existing game and add elements that would help others learn the history of psychology. Students used games such as Chutes and Ladders, Smart Ass, Connect Four, and even Super Mario Party. I also suggested to my students that they use materials from actual board games and adapt the materials to work for their new game.
C: In the Harry Potter class, students created games based on Jumanji, the fictional game True American (from New Girl), and some original games. Students did a great job combining information about psychology and how that information fit into the Harry Potter world.
CHECK OUT THE GAMES OUR STUDENTS MADE IN THE SLIDE SHOW BELOW!
J: At the start of the final exam period, I arranged all of the games at the front of the room with similar games grouped together. I had the students sit in groups of four and each group picked a game from the front of the room to play. As groups finished a game, they would exchange it for another game. Overall, I felt the period went very well; the students stayed engaged with the games and there was lots of laughing and some fun rivalries among group members. The exam period is 2 hours, but after about 90 minutes, I could tell the students were losing focus and it was time to wrap up the games and the semester.
C: We did something similar, but I had students give a very brief presentation about their games first so that people had some basic idea about what the game was and how to play. Students and I then went around to different games throughout the period and tried them out!
J: I will use this assignment again, with some tweaks. In particular, I wanted the games to require players to work with the material at a higher level—contextualizing, comparing, contrasting and not spending too much time with specific dates and facts—the same way we worked with the material all semester and in the essay exams. Most of the students incorporated answering trivia-like questions into their games, and many of the questions focused on specific dates and facts. I am still debating what the best way is to help my students achieve this. While we do this sort of thinking all semester in our daily group work, the students struggled to apply it to the games. I know I will add explicit examples and more scaffolding of how to achieve this requirement, but will keep thinking about how to improve this for the future.
I am also considering adding a peer evaluation component to the game playing, creating a friendly class competition and helping keep everyone on task. One idea is to have the students rate each game they play using a standard form and at the end of the period we will have class winners for categories like most creative, most fun to play, and best incorporation of psychological history.
C: Another great idea that I will have to implement next time I use this in a face-to-face class.
J: Finally, the games were due during the last week of the semester so I could grade them and let the students take them home at the end of the exam period. However, that made it possible for students to skip the final exam period, and a couple of students did skip. My rubric included 5 points for attending the final exam and staying on task throughout the period. I will likely replace those points with a policy that discourages skipping, such as losing a letter grade on the game assignment for not attending the final exam period (of course with exceptions for extraordinary circumstances).
Link to instructions (Julie) and more instructions (Ciara)
Written by Julie Hill
Notes by Ciara Kidder
Julie is a developmental psychologist and an Assistant Professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia. She teaches a variety of developmental psychology courses, as well as Research Methods, History and Systems of Psychology, and of course Introduction to Psychology. She is originally from northern Virginia and earned a B.A. in psychology from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. Julie completed her graduate work at the University of Florida before moving across the country to UW-Platteville for her first position. During the summers she takes a break from teaching by volunteering with a drum and bugle corps (think elite marching band). Each summer she travels about 10,000 miles with the corps as they compete all around the country.