Towards the end of Sir Ken Robinson’s thought-provoking discussion at the RSA (shared here through an awesome “animate” – a technique that is both awe-inspiring and just plain cool), he makes a critical point for anyone thinking about building a game-based curriculum and teaching in a gamified classroom. He says “…there’s one answer, and it’s in the back. And don’t look. And don’t copy! Because that’s cheating. Outside schools, that’s called collaboration. This isn’t because teachers want it this way; it’s because it happens that way. It’s in the gene pool of education.” And he couldn’t be more right. Collaboration is a critical skill in the 21st century workplace and if our public discourse over the last few years teaches us anything, it is an essential skill that needs serious development in the American and global citizenry of the future. But how is that skill built in the gamified classroom?
One of the challenges facing a teacher who wants to build a collaborative culture in their classrooms is the simple fact of creating teams. Any teacher knows that grouping students is fraught with difficulties. Good teachers ask (but struggle to answer) questions like: Should I group students of like ability together or group students so that students with differing abilities work together? Should I group hard working students with students who are not? How do I measure the work the students do? Grade it? Can I group students and issue the group a grade? And if not, how do I grade individuals? What does it look like to grade an individual working in a group? And so on. Many great teachers resist having students work together not because it’s educationally unsound (it’s not), but because these questions resist easy answers.
In America 3.0, my solution to it is to create a systemic approach to student-created groups that they can work in (if they wish) to solve complex problems like Boss questions together (and submit work together for group leveling and group doing.) I call these groups ALTs, or accountable learning teams. Students who enroll in an ALT must complete an ALT charter in which the students create group norms that they agree to adhere to and which they police (with my assistance if necessary).
The beauty of this system (I hope, no students have yet formed an ALT) is that students are self-accountable and that the will of the group should maintain a certain quality of work and effort so that the group continues to level and do good work. I believe this system is possible because this classroom doesn’t have grades, per se, and therefore, all of the morass of grading cited above doesn’t enter into the discussion.
I include below the “team charter” instructions that students have to address themselves to before I will allow them to submit work as a team. I owe a big debt to Dr. Linda Rose and the Educational Leadership Program at UCLA for this team charter. It is essentially the team charter that Dr. Rose uses in her Action Research class with graduate students. As a graduate student, I was in an action research team and used this team charter with my fellow students with great success.
An accountable learning team (ALT) is one of the ways you can productively collaborate in America 3.0. By design, an accountable learning team gives you as students a cohort of like-minded students who have agreed to work together according to a set of rules to which you all agree. Before you can do any work together as an ALT, you must submit an ALT charter to me, discuss it with me and get it approved by me. If you do, you can then submit work to me as an ALT.
To charter an ALT, you must come to a common understanding of your goals and ground rules. Groups can consciously create common understandings and norms. The purpose of the charter is to give your group the most potential for success by developing these common understandings and norms. Write this charter as a group and submit it to me for consultation.
Answer the following questions:
1. What is your ALT’s name?
2. Who is in your ALT?
3. When and where will you meet outside of class? Who will organize these meetings?
4. Will you have an agenda for these meetings or for how you use in-class time? If so, who is responsible for developing it? Who will keep the minutes? Who will keep track of action items?
5. What will you do if a team member is responsible for distractions during a meeting?
6. What is the procedure your ALT will use to deal with members who miss meetings, don’t read email or Schoology or are late?]
7. How will you make decisions? By consensus? Majority voting?
8. What will you do if a member does not fulfill his or her ALT responsibilities? What will you do if the work of one of the team’s members does not meet the standards of other members?
9. How will you resolve conflict within the group? What resources do you have and how will you use them?
10. What steps will you take if a member of your group commits academic misconduct or behaves unethically? Consider the full range of ethical issues.