Overview of the Escape Room Project:
If you're looking for a fun, challenging, and valid culminating project for virtually any course, then an escape room style experience is a great option to consider.
Such a project would involve designing an escape experience where the various elements within the escape room would require a firm knowledge of the units in a course. For example, in my Grade 12 economics course, I make sure that there is at least five elements made for each escape room: one element for each of our units. I do the exact same thing in Grade 12 Law.
This is a great project for students to either work on by themselves, in partners, or even in small groups. Either way, students are challenged to both design and produce an escape room style experience. Teachers can change the requirements for each student depending on the size of the groups that they'll allow. For example, you could require that each student designs a certain number of elements themselves, and work cooperatively on a another prescribed number of elements. I tend to make my escape room worth 10% of the overall course grade, while also having an exam that is worth 20%. However, teachers could certainly adjust that weighting to suit their course and the size of their escape room project.
Advantages of the Project:
The escape room project has a lot of appealing features, including the fact that:
i) it forces students to dig into material from the course in order to design elements of the escape room. Obviously, this serves as great review.
ii) it requires students to know material from the course in order to design or play the escape room. (It's not one of those culminating projects that anyone could do without actually knowing anything about the course material.)
iii) it activates imagination, creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration. All highly valued goals in education, today.
You should make it clear to your students that you want to make sure that the elements of an escape room project do involve some creativity. In other words, you don't want to see a bunch of multiple choice quizzes where the correct answers produce the correct combination of a lock.
This project fits very nicely into the streamlined Global Studies Achievement Chart that I've made available in a previous post. However, if you would like to download a PDF rubric specifically developed for this project, you can do so from the link at the bottom of this article.
General Tips and Tricks for Making a Fun Escape Experience!
Here are a few general pieces of advice that I tend to give my students as they embark on this project.
The quality of our writing, especially in professional contexts, is actually quite important. The fact is, whenever we write, we always reveal two things about ourselves. Naturally, we communicate the explicit message that we are intending to write, but we also convey an implicit message: the story revealed by our writing ability.
Truth be told, writing ability is invariably associated with a host of other traits, such as one’s ability to think, to learn, and to communicate. Our ability to write, at any given age, reveals how much effort we have directed towards mastering our language up to that point in time. Poor writing reveals either a poor effort in learning one's language, or a poor effort in applying one’s ability toward a particular piece of writing. Either way, poor writing does not speak well of a person’s ability or attitude.
In poker terms, we could say that a person’s writing is a “tell.” Writing reveals something about ourselves that we may not intend, or even wish, to convey. Indeed, a writer’s skill will often belie their words. As uncomfortable as it may be to believe, we always stand to undermine even our best efforts if the quality of our writing indicates that we are perhaps less capable, less intelligent, or less responsible than our words might suggest.
I know I've said it before, but teachers in Ontario are still scratching their heads over the question of how to collect evidence of "observations" and "conversations," and then integrate that evidence into a final grade for a student.
The confusion stems from a paragraph found on page 39 of the Ministry of Education's Growing Success policy document. The paragraph states:
Evidence of student achievement for evaluation is collected over time from three different sources – observations, conversations, and student products. Using multiple sources of evidence increases the reliability and validity of the evaluation of student learning.
Sadly, teachers have not found much guidance from the Ministry on the implementation of this directive. In particular, teachers are left wondering about two critical questions:
Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that teachers cannot find a great deal of consensus, even amongst themselves, about one crucial point. Namely, how do we actually differentiate between a "conversation," an "observation," and a "product"?
To be sure, in our own minds we are all quite clear on the distinction between all three, and we would scarcely imagine any particular debate in the matter. It is only when we subject our individual perceptions of these elements against the scrutiny of our colleagues that we come to realize that there is indeed a great variety of perspectives regarding products, conversations, and observations.
Invariably, most teachers probably like the spirit of triangulation, but just because we like it, doesn't mean we do it. In fact, a recent NewLearnerLab Twitter survey revealed that most teachers do not collect evidence of observations or conversations at all.
Personally, I have developed and experimented with two distinct triangulation systems that would both collect conversation and observation data, and then integrate this data with a student's final grade. I called my first system the Ongoing Triangulation Index, and my second system the Classwork Portfolio.
I have discussed the logistics of each method in separate articles, but after spending a good deal of time implementing both systems in my program, I felt I was now in a better position to present a comparative review of both methods.
Ongoing Triangulation Index
The Ongoing Triangulation Index is a value that is based on recorded observations and conversations that are generated in class. The OTI depends on the ClassDojo application to capture observations and conversations and then curate these observations within a single record for each student.
Each observation or conversation is time-stamped, dated, and accompanied by a brief explanation of the observation and the curriculum associated with the observation. Within this index, students can accumulate both positive and negative observations, the sum of which will determine their overall Index value.
The OTI counts for 5% of the overall mark in a course. Thus, a number of OTI observations are recorded each term.
Allows the teacher to capture demonstrations of learning, understanding, appreciation, etc. that occur spontaneously within the classroom.
Generates a comprehensive record of observations and conversations for each student.
This record can contain detailed information regarding the specific learning goals associated with each observation. Example: “Demonstrated a deep understanding of how Keynesian fiscal policy could be used to fill a fiscal gap using the balanced budget multiplier.”
The above record is updated instantly and can be made accessible to both parents and students.
The OTI system uses the ClassDojo app, which lends itself to capturing evidence of observable behaviours. Thus, this system can potentially be criticized as assigning a mark for learning skills and/or work habits.
This system must record both negative and positive observations in order to generate a meaningful value that can then be translated into a mark.
While the OTI facilitated the recording of both conversations and observations, conversations never figured into the index value.
The Classwork Portfolio uses Google Classroom, Kahoot, and Edvance (an online student information system and grade manager) to generate a portfolio of the various activities, exercises, and check-ins that are pursued in class on a day-to-day basis. Each activity is assessed and given a mark between zero and four based on relative quality.
For those in-class activities and exercises that require deeper qualitative assessment, a streamlined Canada and World Studies, 2015 Achievement Chart is used to assess the varying levels of achievement.
The Classwork Portfolio counts for 5% of the overall mark in a course. Thus, a number of portfolio marks are recorded for each student within each reporting period.
The CWP allows the teacher to capture progress that occurs in class on a daily basis, and then record the observation of that progress in a way that impacts the student’s mark immediately.
Students come to realize that they can effect a positive influence over their mark during each and every class.
The CWP tends to focus more on the manifest result of a student’s learning than it does on student behaviour or learning skills. (Although, depending on one's perspective, this could be seen as a weakness.)
The teacher can include detailed information regarding the specific learning goals associated with each observation. Example: “Achieved the 80% threshold on today’s check-in on using Keynesian fiscal policy to fill a fiscal gap using the balanced budget multiplier. Silver medal... well done!”
As this information is recorded in an online grade manager, it is made accessible to parents and students immediately.
Regular check-ins are designed to more readily allow students to effect a positive influence on their mark, while limiting the potential for a negative impact.
The CWP system can generate a large quantity of micro-assessments that can rather quickly outpace a teacher’s ability to mark. Teachers are therefore advised to limit CWP items to activities and exercises that can be assessed rather quickly: preferably, during the class in which they are assigned.
The CWP generates a rather disconnected record of observations and conversations for each student. This record is brought together, somewhat loosely, within our online grade manager.
The New Learner Lab
Exploring the ever-changing, often challenging, and always controversial world of teaching.