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?