As I continue using Minecraft in my RE classes I am constantly reflecting and evaluating the worth of this resource.
Recently the students were given an assessment to complete that looked at two topics. ‘The Settings of the Gospels’ and ‘Early Christian Communities’ were the focus. Our use of Minecraft was restricted to the Early Christians but there were many aspects of the first unit that emerged while the students were constructing their worlds. Indeed much of the prior knowledge gained in the first unit helped in moving quickly into the construction phase.
The assessment was a very basic one dimensional test constructed by another teacher from the Year team. He is an older teacher approaching retirement and the test looked like something from the 60’s. A simple recalling of facts with a short comprehension passage and scripture interpretation thrown in.
I purposely did little preparation with either of my classes apart from an online quiz of same basic facts drawn from their text (which we had never used) set during one of the periods prior to the test. The students were quite surprised with how much knowledge they had absorbed during the unit. They were able to answer most questions without having to refer to their text.
The response from most students upon completion of the test was the same. They were comfortable with the questions and realised they had absorbed quite a great deal of information without actually knowing it. This happened in a couple of ways.
Firstly my lessons were structured around 10 minutes of content and prayer reflection followed by a short discussion about the task and what progress needed to be made them time on the task itself. During task time I move around to each group and either offer a suggestion or simply talk about what they are doing and their future plans. I made sure the content at the start of each lesson linked to a syllabus outcome and specific task outcome.
Secondly in their final presentations the students had to focus of on various content areas. This meant they had to constantly go back to the original content for the task as they built their world and ensure they kept to the objectives.
I think both of these structures contributed greatly to the success of the unit. The marks for both classes were pleasing although I think the students had a far deeper understanding of the topic than the test allowed them to demonstrate.
One of the crazy aspects of my school is that the work they did in the class counts little towards their final grade. The mark they received for the test counts for 40% of their yearly grade. Another example of the mindless approach to assessment and learning taking place in schools today.