Compliance Culture: In Defense of Classcraft



Not long ago, Corrinna Pole (Classcraft Social Media Manager) drew attention to a Twitter post questioning whether Classcraft and other similar platforms promoted compliance culture.

At first reading, I was unfamiliar with the term (apart from the words on their own), but after researching I learned that "compliance culture" is essentially the idea that the actions of an individual are only motivated by the promise of a reward or threat of punishment. Applied to Classcraft, this would me that students are really only meeting academic objectives and behavior expectations because of GP/XP/HP related rewards/demerits, and not because they are forming intrinsic and positive academic skills.

That got me thinking . . . 

So I did some more research, and as with all things it seems that compliance culture on its own is not a negative thing: it exists on a spectrum. Some are strongly in support as it promotes structure and accountability, others believe it does "anything but facilitate the development of agency" (https://crowleym.com/2018/03/22/education-in-a-world-of-compliance/)

Yes, if a student/child/adult worker etc was ONLY meeting objectives to "get something"/"avoid something" then yes, compliance culture could be seen as a system that does not build intrinsic motivation.

But as always, consider your audience . . . 

Especially for younger students, intrinsic motivation; REALLY understanding WHY doing a thing is good, can be very hard to grasp. When I was six, I felt my room was totally fine as a disaster. The ocean of clothes made me feel like I was on an alien planet with weird-looking (and smelling) terrain. But my parents insisted, offered game-like challenges to achieve the goal, and after a few weeks of meeting those expectations let me host a Pizza & Nintendo party for some friends. Funnily enough . . . over time, I started to see the benefit of the clean room on my own as previously lost toys and my favorite issue of Batman suddenly reappeared. 32 years later my room is PERPETUALLY clean and it only takes me 3 seconds to find my wallet.

In teachers college we learned about the importance of scaffolding, and how creating a structural framework around concepts can give students the reminder/built in support to achieve tasks more independently. Teaching essay writing and expecting the final product on first pass would be unrealistic. But introducing the structure with activities and examples, then drafting sample paragraphs as a group, receiving both peer & teacher feedback, all before even an original draft is created DRAMATICALLY increase a students chances of success, ESPECIALLY with the inclusion of the feedback.

In my opinion, Classcraft does not promote a system of passive compliance, but rather offers a dynamic, scaffolded approach to the building of learning and academic skills. By having the spectrum of student action translate into the tangible system of GP/XP/HP, students will SEE their actions have an effect in a more hands-on (and even enjoyable) format. The feedback (positive or negative) acts as a reminder of their actions and progress, and helps to provide a lasting narrative pf their progress over the year. For a student to look back in June and see how far they have come since Level 1, and remember all the trials and success in between, they will have a much stronger sense of accomplishment.