Assessment Games Based Learning

What We Can Learn About Assessment From Video Games

 

Through the ongoing debate about assessment via Purposed I came across this presentation from last year by Derek Robertson at the eAssessment Conference in Scotland.

There are a few points that I wanted to highlight that are worth drawing out and discussing further. Just to say that, if you didn’t already know, I am an advocate for games based learning and how it can positively impact on the work we do in school, so it was great to see Derek sharing some of what he has learned regarding assessment.

Derek outlines in his presentation what we can learn from games and what they are very good at:

  • Giving dynamic and ongoing feedback
  • Presenting incentivised learning experiences
  • Using meaningful profiles and reports
  • Trusting in the ability of the player/learner
  • Nurturing growth mindsets
  • Maximising the potential of peer assessment
  • Presenting purposeful and relevant learning intentions
  • Ensuring assessment is not “done to” learners
  • Giving the players the best chance of success

If you notice from Derek’s points he uses the terms player and learner interchangeably as we have to learn to be successful and progress through a game. So it is natural extension that just about all game mechanics pivot around a player being a learner.

The first of Derek’s points: “Giving dynamic and ongoing feedback” is what in my opinion refers to formative assessment. It is the “ongoing” assessment that takes place. Lots of the examples he shared in the presentation were in fact summative assessments, goals scored, points in total, notes correct. You may even argue that unlocking badges or bonus material is summative as it is the result of a set of actions within the game; on the other hand it signals progress and is provided on the course to an overall goal. Perhaps here is where the definition becomes a little blurred.

During his Slash-like demonstration on Guitar Hero Derek referred to the summary score sheet including notes completed correctly, but it is the feedback during gameplay that interests me the most. The types of “dynamic and ongoing feedback” that help a player improve at the point of learning – the summary sheets help us to reflect on how we scored but this is the same as what grade did I get.

Guitar Hero gives all sorts of feedback during gameplay that encourages a player/learner to adjust their play – this comes through visual cues such as simple traffic light dials, auditory signals from the sound of the correct or incorrect notes being played and of course points and mini-goals that further enhance what can be seen.

These are all straight forward and can be seen throughout many games – perhaps it is the timing and overall strategy of ongoing feedback that would reveal something inherently more valuable to teachers. Not just seeing the individual method of feedback in isolation but placing it within the whole picture, the whole plan for supporting new players and helping them to be successful.

Incentives are also important with regard to learning experiences and Derek makes this point in his summary. This is illustrated in more detail by Girlie Delacruz’s work on” Games as Formative Assessment Environments” in which she conducted some studies with regard to how formative assessment and feedback affected maths and game performance. They used a purpose built game to learn about fractions and various parts of the game feedback were altered and presented to different groups (see the study detail in the presentation below).

Delacruz summarised the outcomes, explaining that: “Incentive + Scoring Information is superior to minimal scoring information, with better performance on:

    • Math achievement measures
    • Game play”

In the game their is a simple structure to work within and normally a game “currency” that can be used to incentivise a player – in the work from Delacruz it was simply points (see Slide 18) but what would that be in the classroom? Perhaps something meaningful within the topic or project? In a previous post the debate shifted to these short term incentives and Oliver Quinlan pointed out in a number of comments:

Unfortunately points scoring and rewards are in the short term ‘easy’ ways for teachers to motivate pupils to do what the are told. Look at the number of ‘team points’ and ‘star charts’ that exist in primary schools. This may get them to behave in the required way, but it teaches pupils that only things that are worth doing are things that get them a number score…

I think it is worth bearing in mind always whether we are rewarding children or just bribing them. That is just behaviour, let alone the potential implications for motivation and dispositions to learning that happen if children are trained to only value tangible and quantifiable outcomes like rewards and grades. Dylan William’s work has shown the impact that losing rewards and grades can have for intrinsic motivation, and focusing attention on learning rather than just the outcomes.

Once more it seems we need to strike a balance and create a system that makes best use of incentives for learning as per game design but perhaps addresses what Oliver points out, making them more meaningful and broad so that they do not remain Pavlovian nor isolated within that context.

It would seem that the role of the incentive is crucial in game mechanics and how a player progresses and indeed learns using a game. The question for me would be how do I use these ideas within my own teaching? Do we try and design an incentivised curriculum project? What practical ways can I implement such a system with not only one player but potentially 30?

Tom Barrett

Tom is a writer, speaker and consultant. He has been sharing his thoughts on teaching, learning, curiosity and creativity on this blog for over 10 years. Drinking coffee and writing would be his idea of a perfect day.

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20 Comments on "What We Can Learn About Assessment From Video Games"

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[…] What Can We Learn About Assessment From Video Games? […]

Guest

[…] When Gee says, “When a kid plays Halo for 30-40 hours, would you be tempted to give him on a Halo test. No, not at all because the game already tested him. Now why is it that we are not tempted to give him a Halo test, but are tempted to give him an algebra test?” Part of gaming is it is independent and students can play anywhere. Kids can merely learn independently and go at their own pace. Furthermore, as students are playing video games they receive feedback to how they are doing. At the end of every… Read more »

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GirlieDelacruz
4 years 5 months ago

(oops, sorry, i was copying and pasting and it looks like a bunch of garbage got embedded into the html).  My apologies.
 

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GirlieDelacruz
4 years 5 months ago

Hi Derek and Tom, if you don’t mind my jumping into this discussion–but you guys are touching upon some things I have been focusing on a lot lately. I agree that the formative/summative distinction is quite murky.  I sort of like Taras’ take on formative assessment (which is actually closer to that of Scriven (1967) and Stabler (1989;1998): @font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }“the process of formative assessment can only be said to have taken place when feedback has been used to improve… Read more »

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GirlieDelacruz
4 years 5 months ago

Hi, Girlie Delacruz here.  Came across your blog and wanted to address a few of your points (if you don’t mind)?  Regarding incentives–the research has shown that incentives do not have negative repurcussions if they are used for tasks that originally have perceived low value. In fact, the results of my study seem to suggest that there may be several  related underlying causes for the increased math achievement performance for the students who were given an incentive to use provided feedback:  (1)  The incentive communicated to the students that using the feedback (or “help-seeking”) was something of value which historically… Read more »

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Anonymous
4 years 5 months ago

There seems to be much we can explore about the processes that drive gameplay. It would be interesting to work with game developers to see the structure they use and how feedback is utilised within the overall strategy.

Guest
Anonymous
4 years 5 months ago

Thanks for bringing this to my attention Daniel – the nearest school is in Lincolnshire here in the UK, certainly something to consider exploring more as I agree with your comments in your “Superwoman” guest blog post. We are doing what we can to help schools and districts redefine their vision for learning using Design Thinking principles.

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Daniel Petter-Lipstein
4 years 5 months ago

Tom,

Everything in your bullet list above happens in good Montessori schools on a regular basis and has taken place for several decades . Have you ever visited a Montessori school? I think you would find it very interesting. There is a lot of game based learning. I was a bit surprised that a search of Montessori on your website came up with no hits.

Where are you based? I would be happy to recommend good Montessori schools in your area to visit.

Daniel

Guest
Daniel Petter-Lipstein
4 years 5 months ago

Tom,

Everything in your bullet list above happens in good Montessori schools on a regular basis and has taken place for several decades . Have you ever visited a Montessori school? I think you would find it very interesting. There is a lot of game based learning. I was a bit surprised that a search of Montessori on your website came up with no hits.

Where are you based? I would be happy to recommend good Montessori schools in your area to visit.

Daniel

Guest
4 years 5 months ago

That’s what I am still sorting out. You can see some of the work I did with a summer camp for middle school students here.
http://summergaming.yolasite.com/
We focused on design elements, but — it was summer — less academic vigor than I could expect in the classroom.
Kevin

Guest
4 years 5 months ago

‘Missing the point’ mmm, poor choice of phrase by me in terms of it’s connotations! The important aspect of the examples that I shared was the intrinsic desire of players/learners to reach high standards and to continually improve in games – without adult intervention. I feel that that point, the important one for me, was missing BUT this is your post with your take :) The formative/summative aspect of assessment and how this manifests itself within games is fuzzy as you suggest. As a result of this post I have thought about feedback during the gameplay and considered whether it… Read more »

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Anonymous
4 years 5 months ago

Thanks Derek for taking the time to post your thoughts. I don’t think I am missing the point with regard the summative / formative assessment details of Guitar Hero. I was simply extracting some of the common practices of games and relating them to my own interest in the role of formative assessment in the classroom. I have been focusing specifically on that type of assessment recently. Nor was I seeing them out of context, simply highlighting the details and mechanisms within that particular game that acts as feedback to the player. I do accept your point that forcing the… Read more »

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David Warlick
4 years 5 months ago

Tom, thanks for your continuing attention to this topic. To me, it seems clear that video game dynamics are entirely about pedagogy. The underlying issue of game-oriented assessment is that the return is not, “That was right” or “That was wrong.”. It becomes, “That worked,” or “That didn’t work.” Regardless of the return, the ‘player/learner’ walks away with a new piece of knowledge.

— Dave

Guest
Anonymous
4 years 5 months ago

The process of game design is certainly a rich curriculum area given the right context – how were you thinking of exploring it?

Guest
Anonymous
4 years 5 months ago

The process of game design is certainly a rich curriculum area given the right context – how were you thinking of exploring it?

Guest
Anonymous
4 years 5 months ago

Intriguing to think of gaming as a way into other online tools and open learning methodologies – suppose it is all very obvious considering what is intrinsically part of a good game. I suppose as we get older we begin to make choices about playing or not playing games – this in my opinion manifests later in life as “oh I am not into that sort of thing.”  Do you think it could be true that we all love games? It is just that some of us have weened ourselves off of them and so superficially baulk against them – even though… Read more »

Guest
4 years 5 months ago

There was quite a lot about assessment, good assessment practice, in that presentation but the screen recording shows too much of me! Although your Slash like observation was welcome this was a thoughtful post that made me revisit my own thinking. Anyway, my tuppence worth in response… There is much to discuss about this subject but I’d like to focus on a couple of things that you say in this post that I am not sure that I agree with. You discuss whether the feedback from Guitar Hero is summative or formative. This is missing the point in my opinion.… Read more »

Guest
4 years 5 months ago

I am thinking these days more from the student as designer of game as opposed to player of the game, and trying to figure out the best ways to “flip” that agency, and work in design element. Thanks for the post, Tom.

Guest
4 years 5 months ago

Nice work. I had the pleasure in doing an interview with Derek around classroom innovations though games recently. What I learned, despite my fascination with massive multi-players games is that what holds true of them, is equally true of stand alone games that Derek is using such as the DS and Wii. What was most interesting is that what emerges from games – things that can be formative or summative – and quite traditional non-game tasks – is that teacher’s do change their pedagogic strategy, as a result of playing (with kids), and are more open to trying things such… Read more »

Guest
4 years 5 months ago

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