Embracing the Chaos

Game TheoryI recently participated in panel about integrating primary literature into the classroom. Faculty from various departments exposed their motivations, tricks, successes and failures in attempting to introduce difficult reading to undergraduates at my college. In my class, students participate in two research projects of their own design. I make the assumption that they will be referring to web sites that are not peer-reviewed, and consequently I encourage them to start off with those sites and follow the trail to the primary literature. In that sense, I embrace the chaos of what I know will happen anyway. Students will consult Google, Wikipedia, and Ask.com before they consult the Journal of Theoretical Whatchamawhosit. For me, one of the critical elements of game-based learning is to acknowledge the true motivations and behaviors that are beyond your control in the classroom. Students have personal motivations for attending college, taking your class, and completing this particular assignment. Some of them will latch onto an artificial motivation because they are “good boys and girls,” and others will recognize their inner motivations, rebel agains the assignment, or align the assignment with their intrinsic motivation. Accordingly, all of the exams in my online classes are open book. I can’t prevent students from cheating during an online exam, and thus all of the questions demand extrapolating knowledge from the course to new situations. The answer won’t be in the book, but the book may be used as a reference to help solve the problem. This process could be improved upon. Our dreaded exams might actually become a mystery to be solved, a puzzle, or a game. Recently, a professor at UCLA was recognized for allowing cheating on his exam. Peter Nonacs allows students to complete the test in his Behavioral Ecology class using any means available. The exam focuses on game theory for natural selection, and he approaches the assessment process in the same way. Can you imagine students looking forward to an exam?


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