Lesson Study Cycle 2


Margot (Humanities 9), Noel (Math 9, Civics 10), Karinne (Humanities 7)

Observed Problem of Practice

Students are disengaged and do not take academic risks, either in conversation/class engagement or in their independent reading and writing work.

Research Theme

We will use gamification strategies to support students in taking risks and build confidence in their own academic abilities.

Part 1: Planning

Research Base

While our research aimed to find how gamification strategies could increase student risk-taking and academic confidence, much of our Lesson Study Cycle ended up teaching us about the differences between game-based learning and gamification, as well as exposing us and giving us practice with gamification strategies in their general use. 

This research exposed differences in the effects on learning and SEL skills of virtual versus face-to-face gamification. I also interviewed a teacher who uses gamification strategies and learned about his philosophy around and use of gamification in the classroom. My writing summarizes these experts and reflects on potential application.

Half of this research looks at the relationship between badges and learning outcomes in online learning platforms. The other half looks at strategies to create powerful writing communities in the classroom and move students' writing from "beautiful" to "powerful." My writing summarizes the research and reflects on potential application.

Bibliography accompanied by research summaries

A look at the themes that emerged from our academic research, PDSA cycles, and lesson study. 

Focus Students: Assets & Needs

Focus Student 1

Focus Student 1 is a talented DJ and drummer. When he is drumming, he is less anxious and more at peace than he is most times. He enjoys playing video games. He has made several friends this year. He has recently found an interest in reading through The Maze Runner series. 

This student has extreme SEL/behavior needs due to ongoing home life situations, as well as unique learning needs due to an IEP. 

Selecting him as a focal student will help me learn to differentiate and support him better in my class. I hope to get feedback on how these tools are useful for him as well. He is fairly low in reading and writing and I’m hoping to see if these gamification strategies help him grow. 

Focus Student 2

Focus Student 2 described herself as "cautious and curious," and said her friends would describe her as adventurous, clumsy, and funny. She spent most of her life in Japan before moving to the United States for 6th grade (last year). She is very self-reflective and recognizes that school is difficult because of her level of understanding of English. She also said that she is able to learn more this year, but that this year is harder than last.  In Japan, she learned faster. She said she knew all the math last year already and only started learning new math this year. While in Japan, she took 3-4 years of English. First language is Japanese, but she is starting to lose it.

She is funny, has many friends, is fairly reserved in class but very open with her friends, and tends to let others take the lead. I am interested in how gamification might help grow her vocabulary and help her take academic risks. 

Focus Student 3

Focus Student 3 frequently tells me she is "not a writer," yet achieves on the high end of her grade level in both reading and writing. It often feels that she "tolerates" my class, and on one exit ticket, she shared that she was unenthusiastic about what we were learning and about writing. When I talked to her more about why she does not see herself as a writer, despite being good at it, she said "I'm not good at making things up" (which, when we dug deeper, included making connections, even when working on informational writing). In general, she prefers informational to narrative writing because it is more structured. She does not mind reporting on things, but does not like writing about her own thinking.

She has a lot of friends and is very social. She is a talented gymnast. She also loves K-Pop!

PDSA Data & Experience

Cycle 1: Game-Based Learning

Initially, our group did not have a strong understanding of the difference between "gamification" and "game-based learning." As a result, our very first PDSA cycle focused on collecting data for how student learning is supported by their own creating and playing of games. We chose to focus the learning outcomes around vocabulary. 

We learned a lot from this session, though it failed to achieve most of our goals. Student game creation took far more class time than anticipated, so that we did not have the time to play the games that we had expected to have. Margot was able to have students play the games after they created them, then take a follow-up vocabulary quiz to see what they'd learn. Retention of new vocabulary was shockingly low. 

As a result of this lesson, we came to the conclusion that having students create games is not worth the time investment due to their retention results. Questions we had included if repetitive practice of pre-made games would be more effective in helping with retention of new information. We also wondered if game-based learning isn't helpful for learning academic material, but instead for things like motivation, teamwork, and other SEL skills. 

Cycles 2 & 3: Badges

By cycle 2, we had learned what sets gamification apart from game-based learning. We decided to use badge systems to incentivize student learning in various ways. In my classroom, I used a badge system with our timed writing responses. Students watched a short video about an issue or opinion (for example, how video games impact the brain), then wrote a timed response to the video expressing their own opinions. At the end of the time, students counted how many "meaningful sentences" they wrote, then shared their count out loud as I tracked them for the class. The 5 or so students with the highest sentence count received a sticker or piece of candy from our prize bucket. We repeated this practice a few times each week. 

I saw an immediate positive impact on my students with this practice. In one class, 14 out of 20 students increased their sentence count from the first to the second practice. In the class with my focus students, 12 out of 20 students increased their sentence count, including FS3 (FS1 was absent for the first practice, and FS2's sentence count decreased by one sentence). From that point forward, I saw incredible consistency in how much students were writing. I rarely needed to redirect students or prompt them to get started; nearly everyone started immediately and wrote for the entire time, often stretching beyond when our timer went off. Students like FS1 who typically needs frequent prompting and FS3 who puts minimum effort into her writing were suddenly writing nearly full pages. 

For cycle 3, we continued this badge system with our opinion writing, but shifted from counting "meaningful sentences" to counting uses of logos. In my class with my focus students, 15 out of 22 increased their use of logos between the first and second practice (with another 6 staying stagnant and only 1 student decreasing). FS2 used 3 instances of logos in both the first and second practice, then used 8 instances of logos in her third practice. FS3 used 4 instances of logos in her first practice, 9 in her second practice, and 3 in her third practice. FS1 used 0 instances of logos in his first practice, 1 in his second practice, and 9 in his third practice. Additionally, FS1 thought we were counting for meaningful sentences in this first practice rather than logos. When he expressed his confusion and realized we were counting for logos (after completing his writing), he laughed about out -- something that previously would have caused a behavioral outburst. 

For the majority of students, the quantifiable data shows a significant increase in engagement and effort in the writing task as seen in the number of sentences they wrote and in their attentiveness to the task in class. Even students who inflated their sentence counts wrote significantly more than they usually would for a written response. On a qualitative level, the quality of student writing has also developed significantly and has stayed more consistent, with students focusing their responses on the question and using evidence to back their reasoning. 

Unofficial PDSA: Classroom transformations and role-playing

I also experimented independently with classroom transformations and role-playing activities. In one, students "time traveled" to Medieval France, where I pretended to be Pope Urban II, read part of his speech initiating the crusades, and sent students (now role-playing knights and pilgrims) on the crusades. Outside, students read informational texts posted around the school and took notes on details about the different crusades. 

In another lesson, students were tasked with investigating the cause of the spread of the Black Death. They had CSI-styled graphic organizers that they used to collect information from evidence posted around the room. They then used that evidence to draw a conclusion and write a report on what caused the spread of the Black Death, complete with evidence and explanations. 

While I did not take formal data on either of these lessons, student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Students were engaged in the activity, discussing evidence and information with each other while taking notes on what they found. After the Black Death investigation activity, FS1 repeatedly told me "this was fun!" and "we should do this again!" At the end of the lesson, he had more detailed notes than he has at the end of a typical lesson and was able to give a more thorough response in his "investigative report" than his usual writing.

Part 2: The Focus Study

Based on these, we made the decision to focus our lesson study on use of badges with a new activity. Having seen that badges help students take risks in their individual writing, we planned to see if they might also help students take verbal and community risks in the context of a Socratic Seminar. 

However, a planning mix-up resulted in a shift in our plans. Instead of trying badges in a new context, we shifted to an attempt at an escape room. This choice was made based on our research on the effects of escape rooms on learning outcomes (see "Read, Ask, Reflect" above) as well as on the observational data collected from my own unofficial PDSA experiences. For cohesiveness, I ended the lesson with a timed opinion writing response where students shared their opinion on what the worst part of the Medieval Ages would have been and counted their uses of logos and the number of meaningful sentences. 

Lesson Plan & Materials 

Lesson Hypothesis: If we employ use of escape room clues and puzzles while students are using notes from our unit and review knowledge of social studies information acquired through the unit to complete the puzzles/clues, then students will be more likely to take risks sharing verbally and finding information as evidenced by their individual contributions and engagement in solving the escape room puzzles.

Equity Goal: Every student will take risks and show an increase in their confidence.

Content Goal: Students will practice individualized skills, selected for their particular growth ares. Every student will practice using their notes and classroom resources. Individual skills we will be tracking are as follows: 

Lesson Flow: 

Class Slides

Escape Room Slides

Teacher / Planning Notes

Escape Room_Middle Ages

Escape Room Materials

Escape Room Materials

Student Data & Observations

FS2: Gamification
FS1: Gamification
FS3: Gamification

Part 3: Reflection

Reflecting on Focus Student Impact

FS1 showed a decrease from his pre- to post-assessment questionnaire, specifically in confidence related to finding information (in a paragraph and in notes). This student hardly engaged with the tasks, saying they were "too difficult," staring around the room, flipping through notes without reading or skimming anything, and moving to watch others unlock the next locks. Based on his behavior, it is not surprising that he said it was too difficult on his exit ticket and that he experienced a decrease in confidence. I noticed that FS1 as well as other students in the class with more extreme behavior and SEL needs did not engage or stay on task for the majority of the escape room. This combination of data leads me to believe that the escape room was not successful for students with higher SEL needs and, in fact, increased levels of anxiety instead, impairing their ability to academically succeed. 

FS2's pre- and post-questionnaire responses did not change. Since the student made attempts to engage, but never experienced true defeat or true success, this makes sense. She deferred to her group's lead and redirection through all the activities. By not taking risks, she also did not experience personal failure or success with the escape room puzzles, so her confidence in her personal abilities was unaffected. 

FS3 showed an increase of 2 in confidence in finding information in a paragraph, and an increase of 1 in reading out loud. Her group was the only group in this class to complete the escape room, which may have impacted her increased confidence. Her risk assessment, independent task required her to complete a crossword using her class notes. It is possible that her success in this task caused the extra increase in her confidence. This was the most positive response I have received from this student around a class activity this year, both in her qualitative and quantitative responses. 

Few students in the class as a whole chose to take the first risk of working with new people in exchange for a clue to the first lock. None of my focus students took on this risk. 

Based on this, it seems that the escape room's impact on student confidence directly correlated to their positive success in risk-taking activities. 

Reflecting on the Lesson & PDSA Cycles

Overall, this lesson (for most students) successfully did what gamification does: created engagement and increased overall time-on-task. However, the escape room was probably the least successful gamification strategy we attempted (second to Cycle 1: Game Creation). I can see how this has the potential to be successful in a science or math context where students can practice skills that produce numbers for the combination codes. I would be curious if academically lower students and/or students with high anxiety and SEL needs would show more risk-taking behavior in a context where they are practicing skills, or if the results would be the same as they were in this lesson. 

The escape room was a fun break from our routine and provided a good opportunity for students to review what they know. It would be interesting to see how the results might change if students were assigned their groups or if every clue was designated to be completed by a specific team member. I would like to see an escape room in a humanities context run by a veteran teacher. While it was a fun lesson, I was not blown away by either the academic or SEL results, only by the high-interest results, and will therefore probably reserve it to a special activity once a year or so. 

However, I have seen tremendous growth in students' writing since we began using badge systems. The badges motivate students to stay on-task, and their general effort as well as the quality of their work has been positively affected by the increased time-on-task. I will continue using this system in my classroom for the foreseeable future, adding variation to try to keep student engagement. 

Reflecting on the Process

I found this Lesson Study Cycle much more frustrating than the last Lesson Study Cycle. The lack of reliable and thorough research on the topic of gamification made our approach to studying it challenging. I often felt that we were falling short of expectations, but did not have enough guidance to adjust in positive or productive ways. I rarely felt that I found living resources or academic papers that helped me fuse strategy with execution, and as a result, much of this lesson study cycle felt like trying to solve a maze while blindfolded. Our most beneficial resources were the veteran teachers who met with us twice. I learned a lot from them about what gamification is and how to implement it well. I did not feel that the lesson study cycle worked well with gamification, but am grateful to have been exposed to a new concept and am hopeful that I will find opportunities to keep learning more.