Sometimes you need 5 stars and sometimes 1 is enough

I recently had to spend a number of hours in doctors' waiting rooms with a family member and as many do I turned to my phone for something to help pass the time. I needed something kind of mindless so I downloaded a couple of new games, one of which was Blossom Blast Saga. At this point I will admit that I tend to be a bit of an overachiever/perfectionist about some things so as I breezed through the first few levels, getting 3 stars for each one, that little voice in the back of my head started nudging me that I had to get 3 stars on each level. Of course, I didn't need to. My purpose in playing, aside from picking up ideas such as I'm writing about now, was simply to pass the time with something visually appealling. I like flowers. I like colorful things. So that was really all I needed. But the voice was there, buzzing about, like the little bee character in the game.


Eventually I muffled the little voice and kept right along the path, with however many stars I got for various levels. And so I started thinking about how we could use this same idea in learning events. A course may have many, many small modules much like the game has levels. I began to wonder if it is really necessary for a player/learner to get 3 stars on each module. Sometimes it may be but sometimes it is not. This got my head buzzing about various ways this could be incorporated into classes. Now I'm going to keep using the 3 stars construct for reference, but the measurement indicator could be whatever you choose that is appropriate for your lesson.

  • How about if a learner needs to achieve 3 stars for a designated number of the total modules?
  • How about if a learner needs to achieve 3 stars for particular modules and/or certain ones selected by the instructor and/or learner?
  • How about if you complete X number of modules at 3 stars and you get a "get out of jail free card" which allows you an extra day to turn in an assignment?
  • How about the learner has to achieve X number of total stars by the end of the course but they have some leeway about which topics they choose to focus on more?
  • How about you make it possible for a learner to go back and redo, improve, rescore assignments?

And so on ...

The point is that we can re-examine what we really want the learner to be doing and to achieve in order to meet the objectives of the course. Does every student need to do the exact same thing to meet the objectives? What are the learners' objectives and how might some flexibility in terms of achievements better suit them? I'm not suggesting that we lower standards or discourage learners from striving for 3 stars across the board, but simply that we take a look at ways that we might help everyone be more engaged and reach their full potential.

By the way, I still return occasionally to those less than 3 star levels and give them another go. Sometimes we need a little more experience before we are ready to fully tackle a particular challenge. Ironically, sometimes we have to go forward to go backwards.

Let me know what you think.