Course notes:

The foundation of evaluating and assessing student learning inside and outside of a game should be based in evidence based approaches to learning…the work of students inside and outside the game has to be made visible in some way.

For school age teachers especially, gathering data to use as part of the scholarship of teaching – collecting work samples, showing teacher-student feedback and so on is not discontinued when a game is introduced as a media-object.

A roadmap for implementation and assessment is

  • Introduce new concept/content (epistemic enquiry)
  • Pre-assessment of content knowledge
  • Introduce the game
  • Students play the game
  • Post game assessment

Depending on the game, assessments will vary.

  • If the teacher wishes to assess the behaviors that produce evidence of learning during the gameplay, they can create a rubric that has specific expectations;  observe the students in action or access the performance data from the game. For instance, the teacher may require students to reach a specific level or gain a certain score within a specific time period.
  • Rubrics might not be singular. In game designs where students a given choices, perhaps selecting the difficulty of the task, different avenues for enquiry (remember ‘story’ is branching, not linear) the teacher could assess their choices as well as progress.
  • Or, evaluating their collaboration, cooperation or reasoning.
  • Or, …where there is a large cohort of students, the development of digital tools, such as online spreadsheets, journals or forums can be used towards ‘blended learning’ further integrates ‘the game’ in the broader technological and media mix…
    • Each tool will require criteria for evaluation and measures for achievement.
    • Traditionally, the ‘rubric’ has been used to help teachers and students set out the various elements of their assessment,
    • whereas game designers have used a variety of scoring and badge systems connected to attainment, progress, player reputation and more.

This helps create a basic framework for evaluation within which each teacher creates a set of criteria for assessment based on the individual circumstances.

  • Where the game itself provides an closed assessment system, the rubric for assessment is more rigid and therefore need to be examined carefully to ensure it complies with external assessment standards, meets curriculum outcomes and so on.
    • e.g. a training game, where the player has encountered a range of scenarios, facts and solutions in a game or simulation, then is asked to perform or respond to ‘endgame’ problems, which are then assessed by the system with a result given. In this closed system approach to ‘educational games’ the teacher is provided the machine’s analysis.
  • In many cases, teachers will require students to perform some summative activity: a test, an essay, a presentation, project and so on.
  • Any gameplay where students demonstrate or discuss critical thinking, creativity and innovation will further move assessment into a more flexible form, and in turn, help teachers use alternative approaches and further develop their practice as a as a supplementary instructional tool, with a structured assessment plan. They can then begin to use games as part of their overall infusion of digital literacy, information, enquiry and knowledge approaches to learning and teaching.

Rosas et al., (2003) evaluated the effects of videogames in the classroom focusing on learning, motivation and classroom dynamics. The authors point out “Playing is above all, a privileged learning experience. As Vigotsky (1979) states, a child learns through playing with others, creating and improving his or her zone of proximal development, because playing often involves more complex activities than those the child experiences in daily life. “ and “As such, playing offers the cognitive support needed to develop higher order mental processes”. This supports the broader argument that while games can be didactic and quiz like, the true potential of using games is not to make a quiz more fun, or to add animated cartoons to counting blocks, but to take on board this long held understanding that games are effective teaching complex, higher order processes.

Evaluation of student learning can be viewed from several frames (Rosas et al., 2003).

  • School achievement
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Motivation towards learning
  • Attention and concentration

Collins & Ferguson (1993) proposes evaluation of epistemic games should have rules and moves to guide enquiry and that progress in games can be evaluated in terms of their structure, function or process. Don’t be put off by the date, games have been discussed in their various forms for a very long time and older theoretical research, pre-dating today’s game-markets can be very useful.

Video:  Overview of the Epistemic Games Group

Using this idea, the teaching strategy, environment, resources and focused materials are the macro epistemic structure for the epistemic games. They argue these games are general purpose strategies to help students explore and developing understanding of the wider phenomenon or problem.

Below is an example of constructing one or more rubrics for DGBL. This framework is based on features used in effective epistemic enquiry and some core characteristics associated with games and learning. By dealing with structures, functions and processes of game, aligned with classroom dynamics, learning objective and student motivation, games and student learning can be viewed as a composite. From this position, further activities, events etc. can be placed.

For example: Our students need to learn the rules of the game (structures) and how those combine to enable play (processes) by doing this, various functions can be observed (and enabled) such as using a reflective journal.

Fig 1. Blending Epistemic Games (within epistemic forms) using Collins & Ferguson (1993) and Rosas et al.,(2003)

Structures              Processes Functions

Using Collins & Ferguson (1993, p.40) there are both forms and games to consider in DGBL. This allows us to withdraw from simplistic questions about whether or not Minecraft can teach X or Y, but focus on how epistemic forms and games can be used to guide, structure and arrange the complexity of enquiry. They can also be specialised to fit the subject matter and use established theories and methods inside disciplines — but not in a rote fashion.

Using the principles of implicit learning as a basis for attending to the structural aspect of the game setting allowed educators to design for an outcome without focusing on content at the expense of structure. This, in turn, makes the learning experience a meaningful part of gameplay and maintains participant enjoyment while achieving an educational objective.

This approach can be considered Serious Play (De Castell & Jenson, 2003) in which one or more games can be played within a timeframe. One consideration for assessment is that the more complex the game are, the more demanding the frame is, the longer it might take learners to demonstrate their learning or skills, if the assessment is not constructively aligned at the outset.

Further recommendations for assessment are:

  • Assessments should be as unobtrusive as possible and should not interrupt the learning/gaming process.
  • If the main idea of computer/video gameplay is for enjoyment during the learning process, assessments should not hinder enjoyment and engagement levels.
  • The assessment of the learning does not have to be a painful process if the teacher develops and executes a respectable method.

Rubrics which deal with structures, functions and processes with also deal with rules and strategies. For example:

  • Follows the game and classroom guidelines
  • Maintains proper engagement levels with the game and learning objectives
  • Achieves daily, weekly goals
  • Attempts inquiry missions and quests
  • Reflects on the learning experience in a journal/blog
  • Connects and applies concepts in journal/blog

An alternative form of post-assessment is to ask students to improve or re-design one or more of the games or assign an essay to connect concepts learning to real world dilemmas. Student can take on roles as journalists, reviewers or be tasked to re-design the game completely with a program such as

Personal reflection: Discussion Forum: DGBL in your programs

On balance, what is your own trajectory into adoption of DGBL into learning programs? What game designs (or product families) lend themselves to your situation? What steps might you take to implementing and assessing student learning using DGBL in the near future?

I wish I had read this module before my major assignment, as in hindsight, I did not reflect on assessment and evaluation when undertaking the small experiential case study. However, it will determine how I move forward with using DGBL in the future. Considering my information literacy focus, I will begin exploring the game designs or product families, that may be useful. Certainly, quiz games like Kahoot and Quizlet lend themselves to my teaching practice. Minecraft or similar e.g. Terasology perhaps come to mind. I can see how rubrics will allow me to implement and assess student learning, so will also begin exploring rubrics which may already be available to give me an idea of how they are best framed.

Add your comments in the Discussion Forum.

Course readings:

Collins, A., & Ferguson, W. (1993). Epistemic forms and epistemic games: Structures and strategies to guide inquiry. Educational Psychologist, 28(1), 25–42.

Kenny, R. F., & McDaniel, R. (2011). The role teachers’ expectations and value assessments of video games play in their adopting and integrating them into their classrooms. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(2), 197–213.

Moreno-Ger, P., Burgos, D., Martínez-Ortiz, I., Sierra, J. L., & Fernández-Manjón, B. (2008). Educational game design for online education. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(6), 2530–2540.