Wittgenstein (1953) advises readers of his Investigations as they make their way through his work to imagine themselves crisscrossing a conceptual landscape the way that a traveler gets to know a new city. By first taking one route around and then another and then another, both types of explorers come to see not only new places, but also old ones from different directions. After a number of trips, they come to know the territory. McGinley and Tierney take this metaphor as valid for any conceptual learning. Learners only really know a subject after having traversed its conceptual landscape various times from various directions.
In the following four chapters, I will lead readers along four different routes through the same landscape of the academic achievement game, as played by Greg, Carmin, Sophie, and Will during the study quarter. You will see some of the same places from different angles and will visit others only once. At times I, the driver, will stop to explore the locales in detail before moving on. Sometimes when the stop promises to get a bit too tedious but the visit is not yet complete, I will move on with the idea of stopping again on a later trip through. Of course, I could have made different decisions regarding these stops; some of these locales could have been visited in more depth on another trajectory. Be that as it may, I hope that by the end, readers will have a reasonable grasp of the landscape of academic achievement as realized by the participants.
The first trip through, Chapter 5, is appropriately the most superficial because it is designed to get the quickest sense of the lay of the land, or better, the game board. It consists of an exploration of academic achievement as a game-like system. It also depicts the consequences on performance of whether students viewed it that way or not.