Reimagine Learning

More Than Just a Dream: How Real Teachers Use Game-Based Assessment Every Day

In a brilliant discussion of the use of games as assessment tools, Rebecca Rufo-Tepper outlined several creative ways that real teachers, right now, are already using games in their classroom. In every discipline, and sometimes across disciplines, teachers are examining student learning through their gameplay. How do they do it?

Because few serious and educational games are designed specifically as assessments, teachers often assess “outside” the game. For example, a world history teacher may ask students to play Civilization V and then write an essay comparing the alternative history experienced in the game with actual history. In this case, the essay assessment happens after the gameplay, but the game forms the context of the assessment experience.

Other games offer a sandbox for the creation of new types of assessments. Teachers have increasingly been  turning to Minecraft as a formative and summative assessment tool. Mr. Solomon, a teacher in Colorado,  regularly uses Minecraft to determine how well students are mastering key math standards. In this video, Mr.  Solomon demonstrates the addition/subtraction zones, pattern zones, and writing zones that he created to  not only assess student progress, but offer timely feedback.

Our Martha Madison games include a similar space, in which both students and teachers can create and  test new problems – essentially creating either  self-assessments or infinite variations of science  questions. New data analytics systems, such as the one used in Martha Madison, can also offer instructors and administrators real-time information about student game progress. This data can also be useful for communicating with families about student learning – a key component in a multi-pronged assessment strategy.

We are excited about yet another growing trend in game-based assessment: game modification, or “modding.” Game modding is a common practice in the entertainment game community, in which players generate their own stories, content, strategy guides, and game mechanics for existing games.Researchers and educators have recognized that these mods are in fact indicators of a player’s content knowledge, critical thinking skills, collaborative abilities, and creativity – all measured through the organic and motivating design challenges inherent in mods.

Similarly, teachers such as Steve Isaacs are asking students to design their own games from scratch, using content and/or skills that are introduced in class. Game creation requires not only a deep understanding of a subject area, but the ability to introduce that subject to others through game level design. Aligned with the Understanding by Design movement as well as problem-based learning (PBL), game design provides remarkable insight into a student’s mastery of key concepts and skills.

As game-based assessment continues to take hold in the classroom, we anticipate that we will witness still other methods of using games to examine student learning.

Are you an educator using games as assessments? Leave a comment below and tell us your story.

Visit us at EdGames Expo 2015 on December 9th, in Washington, DC and see Martha Madison in motion, and our latest product, Voter’s Ed.  We are excited to see you!

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