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Assessment Practice Analysis

Project Overview

Project Description

Analyze an assessment practice. This could be a description of a practice in which you are or have been involved, or plans you have to implement an assessment practice, or a case study of an interesting assessment practice someone else has applied and that you would find beneficial to research and analyze. Use as many of the theory concepts defined by members of the group in their published Work 1 as you can, with references and links to the published works of the other course participants.

Icon for Classroom Behavior Assessment with ClassDojo

Classroom Behavior Assessment with ClassDojo

ClassDojo is a formative assessment tool that aims to reward positive classroom behaviors and increase engagement among students. It can be deployed across a series of devices, including desktop/laptop, tablets, and mobile smartphones. ClassDojo can be accessed through the web, or as a native app (for iOS and Android devices).

Screenshots of ClassDojo

The word dojo is defined as a place where martial arts are practiced, and it is apt for this app. Martial arts have a long history of self-control and strength of character - ClassDojo aims to foster these same behaviors in the classroom setting, but with a gamified twist that is lacking in its more serious martial arts dojo counterpart.

ClassDojo has seen exponential growth since it was founded in 2011 as a result of the Imagine K12 accelerator. Recent numbers show that it is in use by over "2 million teachers and 30 million students across 180 countries (1 in 3 schools in the U.S.)" and that "teachers now, on average, give over 5 million points every school day." [13]

Founded by Sam Chaudhary and Liam Don, both under 30 years old, ClassDojo was the answer that they devised to address the biggest issue they heard from teachers: classroom management. This should be no surprise, as classroom management is frequently cited as one of the primary stressors for educators. C.M. Charles, in his book Essential Elements of Discipline, states that "schools are in the grip of a serious problem that is wreaking havoc on teaching and learning. That problem is student misbehavior. If you are now teaching, you have had ample experience with it. If you are preparing to teach, be forewarned: It is the major obstacle to your success and has the potential to destroy your career." [2] In Teacher Burnout in Black and White, Haberman concludes that "any reading of the total literature must inevitably conclude that the preponderance of studies still point to lack of discipline and classroom management as the primary cause of teacher stress and burnout." [5]

A large part of the success of ClassDojo stems from the founder's connection with teachers. They speak with 15 - 20 teachers per week, and visit a different school weekly. [13] This open dialogue, and the fact that ClassDojo is free for teachers to use, has made it a popular choice for behavior assessment.

A Day with ClassDojo

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/north/2014/09/18/DoJo-used-to-monitor-students-at-McIntyre-Elementary-in-Ross/stories/201409180031

Maria Congelio teaches kindergarten at McIntyre Elementary in Pittsburgh, and uses ClassDojo with her students to provide positive reinforcement for their behaviors. On the whiteboard behind the class is the ClassDojo page, featuring each student's self selected monster avatar and points.

While the class learned about letter sounds, they were being assessed not just on how well they could recognize letters, but also on their ability to sit still, raise their hand, and wait to talk. Congelio has defined her own metrics for what behaviors she tracks with her students, including being helpful, sharing, listening, and taking turns (positive behaviors) as well as rushing, being disrespectful, and not listening (negative behaviors).

Students can receive green (positive), yellow (neutral), and red (negative) points as a result of their behavior in class. As points get awarded, they show up live on the screen, accompanied by a short sound effect. This immediate feedback helps to encourage good behavior by letting students know that their effort has been acknowledged, as well as quickly highlighting and defining unacceptable behavior.

Parents can also download the ClassDojo app and follow along with their child's progress. They are able to message the teacher to check in or request clarification when issues arise in the classroom. Robert Buchanan, parent of a child in Congelio's class, says that “A lot of times, we look at it during the day. When we talk about school, when we are working on homework together, it is a talking point. We can upload to the app in two seconds, and we just know that he had a really good day or he had mostly a good day but he had a red mark for talking out.” [12]

ClassDojo isn't just for K-5 classrooms. Jennie Dougherty, a high school teacher in East Palo Alto, CA uses ClassDojo as a tool for her students to model higher-level behaviors. Instead of the teacher as being "the keeper of the points," she flipped the script and allowed her students to award points to each other. This approach required some additional work and guidance, but she found that "students took this task seriously. And the act of withholding points from one another opened up great discussions for students. For example, she remembers one student refusing to award a peer a point in a debate because the speaker had gotten too emotional. That started a larger discussion about when it’s appropriate to insert oneself into a debate." [10]

The classroom format is also important when it comes to successful use of ClassDojo. A lecture driven, sage on the stage environment would be difficult to implement ClassDojo in without an additional aide or co-teacher present. Dougherty believes that her classroom, which focuses on group work, projects, and collaborative learning time, works best as the teacher can easily move around the room to check in with students while awarding points. [10]

Theory

When Chaudhary began to explore a way to change classrooms, he found a common thread of complaint from teachers: ‘I want to do something good. And instead I punish or bribe these kids.’ [8]

While some may argue that ClassDojo is little more than an extrinisic motivation tracker (or a tech version of a sticker chart - as some teachers have complained), Chaudhary thinks that there is more to it: “The debates over gamification and intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation start at the wrong place by assuming that people are bad and have bad intentions.I don’t think there’s anything wrong with positive encouragement for good behavior.” And he knows when to put a halt to the extrinsic motivation train: “The number one request we get from teachers is rewards but we know that it’s not in the best interest of kids. The research shows that extrinsic motivations don’t work.” [13]

The points system in ClassDojo may look like a simple rewards system, and indeed many teachers tie the points awarded to students to other external rewards separate from the ClassDojo experience (stickers, prizes, etc). But the app itself helps stir up the intrinsic motivation of students. Mayrin Bunyagidj, a first-grade teacher in California, says that her students "work hard to do better, not for the rewards but because they want to." In doing so, ClassDojo helps create a bridge from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation, which is something that is difficult to instill and foster as students get older. [3]

Young children, especially prior to first grade, have high levels of intrinsic motivation. Their natural curiosity leads them to seek out knowledge. As shown in the graph above, motivation begins to drop dramatically from intrinsic to extrinsic as students get older. The same study comments that, at these higher grade levels, students can be encouraged by "initially imposed and purely extrinsic goals that, with socialization and development, come to be internalized and integrated into the individual’s own value system" [7]

Malone and Lepper have defined several motivators that promote intrinsic motivation, several of which (included in the table below) are utilized by ClassDojo.

Factors That Promote Intrinsic Motivation, Malone and Leppe. Included Relation to ClassDojo
Factor Description Relation
Challenge People are best motivated when they are working toward personally meaningful goals whose attainment requires activity at a continuously optimal (intermediate) level of difficulty. Give en route performance feedback.
Control People have a basic tendency to want to control what happens to them. Make clear the cause-and-effect relationships between what students are doing and things that happen in real life.
Competition Learners feel satisfaction by comparing their performance favorably to that of others. Competition occurs naturally as well as artificially. Competition is more important for some people than for others.
Recognition Learners feel satisfaction when others recognize and appreciate their accomplishments. Recognition requires that the process or product or some other result of the learning activity be visible. Recognition differs from competition in that it does not involve a comparison with the performance of someone else.

Praise for ClassDojo

From Teachers

"I use Class Dojo daily in my kindergarten classroom. It helps make my life easier! Students love their customizable Avatars, parents love the ease of communication (both ways) and I love that they are all using it! I've gotten tons of positive feedback from the parents and have several teachers at my site hooked as well (though I did have to inform my principal that when she sees me walking with my class and my phone is out I'm not texting friends, but using Dojo - she loved it, too). Being able to customize behaviors is powerful. I can make individual points for my students that I have on behavior contracts."

- Kadegee [6]

"I encourage you to think beyond what meets the surface. I’m glad I invested the time to think creatively about the uses for ClassDojo. It has really made a positive difference in the way I organize important information for my students. Start with your classroom and your students in mind. Then use the tool to fit you and your students."

- Erin Klein [9]

From Parents

"ClassDojo can tighten the feedback loop between teacher, student, and parent. By offering a quick, easy way for teachers to note behaviors as they happen, ClassDojo allows teachers to gather more data about individual students and give them feedback nearly instantaneously. Rather than having to interrupt instruction time, teachers can simply take away points in order to alter a bad behavior and reinforce good ones."

- Alesha Bishop [1]

Criticism for ClassDojo

One of the widest spread and most vocal criticisms of ClassDojo is that is simply an update on behavior charts / color cards / and any other manner of positive/negative reinforcement. Vocal opponents liken it to an app that recreates Skinner's Box.

Classroom Behavior Charts

Teaching Ace compares the reward/punishment feedback loop in ClassDojo to the idea of "tasing" students into preferred behaviors:

"There is ample evidence that public shaming is not motivating, and does not encourage long term change.

Imagine: Ben is sitting at his desk, working on writing. His neighbor pokes him and does an arm pit fart, and both kids laugh. Then the teacher moves both of their points down. ZAP! Kayla is frustrated with her reading, and puts her head down on her desk, and her points go down. ZAP! A whole group of kids are playing at the sink and making soap castles, so the teacher moves the class points down. ZAP, ZAP, ZAP. No doubt some kids straighten up with the zaps. If someone were tasing me, I sure would. But I wouldn’t like that person very much. And I wouldn’t want to go back. And I would spend a whole lot of time thinking about how not to get zapped, rather than my reading, writing, science, and math work. Just don’t zap me again." [11]

Parents and Teachers alike both cite concerns about the impact of ClassDojo on truly shaping behaviors in the longterm, as well as cite privacy and usage issues.

From Teachers:

"As a school psychologist by profession, I take issue with some of the specifics of this tool. A cost-response system that subtracts points for undesirable behavior does not follow good behavioral practices~ or most school's Positive Behavioral Support programs. ( Search "PBIS" or PBS and nasp online.org.) Behaviors rated by the teacher are not equivalent. For example, a child may earn a point for a "good report from specials" (say, a 45 minute block of time) but lose a point for "talking out of turn". So, essentially, one infraction completely negates positive behaviors displayed over a much longer period of time."

- Littlespring12, school psychologist [6]

"It takes a bit of planning to utilize it successfully. I also found that some students became a bit obsessed with how many Dojo points they were earning in a single class, and how many they needed to learn."

- Jill Mountain, Teacher at BBP Schools [4]

"Philosophically ClassDojo just doesn’t sit right with me. I strongly believe children should be in charge of their behaviour through being taught and using self regulation skills and ClassDojo takes that away from them. Here’s why. ClassDojo seems to enforce external rewards. And no matter how you jazz it up, external rewards don’t work in the long run. Yes, you may see results in the short term, but what happens when you remove the reward? From what I’ve seen, there is little authenticity and ownership of that said action. Using ClassDojo would make it hard for students to self regulate."

- Karen Lirenman [9]

From Parents:

"As a parent, I have a few concerns about ClassDojo that I would want to see addressed by the teacher if it were being used in my child’s classroom. First, I would like more clarity on ClassDojo’s privacy policies than the difficult-to-parse legal language on their website. Second, I have some concerns about how publicly displaying points to an entire classroom of students might impact particularly sensitive kids. ClassDojo offers many different ways to use its product, including anonymous avatars and not displaying points at all. And, finally, I’d like to ensure that ClassDojo was just one tool, albeit a very powerful one, in the teacher’s classroom management arsenal, and that other tools like individual conversations about problem behaviors and smiles or a quick word of praise for good behaviors were still being used."

- Alesha Bishop [1]

Conclusion & Reflection

While there may be some question to the efficacy of classroom behavior charts, there is no question that classroom management is one of the biggest challenges that educators face. The simple fact that there are historically so many ways of rewarding and/or punishing behavior within the classroom shows that there is interest from teachers in this methodology.

ClassDojo takes this concept and not only updates it to fit in with modern technology trends, but also tries to formalize its approach by streamlining the process for teachers and making it more transparent for students and parents. Their goals are altruistic - they believe in the reinforcement of positive behavior and the impact that reinforcement can have in shaping intrinsic motivation patterns. The risk in this approach comes in the application - while ClassDojo can and should be used for positive reinforcement, it can also be used for negative reinforcement. When this negative reinforcement is overused or not tempered with positive reinforcement in a consistent manner, it can have a damaging effect on a student's esteem - particularly with the "public shaming" element.

As with all assessment tools, the power of ClassDojo lies in the application. It requires a teacher who is thoughtful about the outcome of the reinforcement it provides, who is aware of the implications of this reinforcement within the social and emotional ecology of the classroom, and who uses it in combination with other more authentic assessment techniques to create a balanced classroom.


References

1. Bishop, Alesha. “A Parent’s Review of ClassDojo.” Getting Smart. August 23, 2014. http://gettingsmart.com/2014/08/parents-review-classdojo/

2. Charles, C.M. "Essential Elements of Effective Discipline." Pearson. November 2001.

3. Cuban, Larry. “On Using And Not Using ClassDojo*: Ideological Differences?” March 15, 2014. http://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/on-using-and-not-using-classdojo-ideological-differences/

4. EdShelf: https://edshelf.com/tool/classdojo

5. Haberman, Martin. "Teacher Burnout in Black and White." http://www.habermanfoundation.org/articles/pdf/teacher%20burnout%20in%20black%20and%20white.pdf

6. iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/classdojo/id552602056?mt=8

7. Lepper, M.R. et. al. “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: A Developmental Perspective.” http://www.columbia.edu/~ss957/articles/Intrinsic%20and%20Extrinsic%20Motivation.pdf

8. O'Connell, Ainsley. “Why Education Startup ClassDojo Is Entering The Messaging App Wars.” FastCompany. March 27, 2014. http://www.fastcolabs.com/3028333/why-education-startup-classdojo-is-entering-the-messaging-app-wars

9. Quattrocchi, Christina. “When Classroom Culture Conflicts With EdTech.” EdSurge. February 9, 2014. https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-02-09-when-classroom-culture-conflicts-with-edtech

10. Schwartz, Katrina. “What Works in Tech Tools: Spotlight on ClassDojo.” MindShift. October 24, 2012. http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/10/what-works-in-tech-tools-spotlight-on-classdojo/

11. Teaching Ace. “Thinking About Classroom Dojo – Why Not Just Tase Your Kids Instead?” http://www.teachingace.com/thinking-about-classroom-dojo-why-not-just-tase-your-kids-instead/

12. Trozzo, Sandy. “DoJo used to monitor students at McIntyre Elementary in Ross.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette. September 18, 2014.http://www.post-gazette.com/local/north/2014/09/18/DoJo-used-to-monitor-students-at-McIntyre-Elementary-in-Ross/stories/201409180031

13. Wan, Tony. “One Billion Points For ClassDojo.” EdSurge. March 12, 2014. https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-03-12-one-billion-points-for-classdojo