How Learning Games Are Used to Support Formative Assessment
The A-GAMES Project is a collaboration between the University of Michigan and New York University. The research was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The A-GAMES project (Analyzing Games for Assessment in Math, ELA/ Social Studies, and Science) studied how teachers actually use digital games in their teaching to support formative assessment.
The study was conducted in two parts: part one was a nationwide survey of K-12 teachers to investigate common formative assessment practices, common game use practices, and the intersection of the two. Part two consisted of observations and interviews with 30 middle grades (5-8) teachers in the New York City area who volunteered to use one of eleven games as part of their teaching in Spring 2014. The survey offers a “mile high” picture of what teachers are doing with games related to formative assessment. The study is exploratory in nature, and is not intended to compare or gauge the effectiveness of games, game features, or approaches to formative assessment.
Some interesting highlights about the findings are here, which shows there is a gap for educators to integrate games in classes without efforts, especially data analysis and dashboarding can be improved.
There is growing interest in the use of digital games as part of K-12 teachers’ classroom instruction. As with all educational technologies, the most frequently asked question is, “Do they work?” In Part 2 of the report: Case Studies of Game Features Used to Support Formative Assessment Practices, here are the summary of the key findings.
The following features of games that support formative assessment are focused:
- Other Forms of Player Feedback
- Dashboards of Player Progress
- Screen Capture/Annotations
- Essential Questions
- Review Questions
- Less Prominent Formative Assessment Features, including:
- Ability to Unlock Levels
- Graphic Organizers
- Game Guides
A range of features related to digital games provide support for monitoring student progress, including:
- feedback systems, such as points, scores, or stars;
- dashboards that provide an overview of progress for either individual students or groups of students; and
- screen captures that can be annotated and serve as a point of communication between students and teachers about learning or progress.
The formative assessment utility of the features we examined can be further enhanced by technological and design related improvements.
Prominent game-based feedback mechanisms — such as points or stars — are often not clearly linked to desired learning outcomes, making it difficult for teachers to interpret game progress in relation their learning goals for the classroom. Other tools — such as game-specific dashboards — can be difficult for teachers to configure properly to display students’ information. While some areas for improvement are technological, others are about how games are designed and how clearly key game play elements are linked to learning goals.
“Wrap around” materials provide valuable formative assessment support for teachers using digital video games.
Many useful formative assessment features come from outside the game itself: quizzes, guides to curriculum integration, graphic organizers, review questions, screen capture and annotation tools, and sometimes dashboards. Whether provided by game developers, or accessed via portals or game aggregators, these features can be valuable for supporting teachers’ use of games for formative assessment in at least three ways:
- providing support for teaching with games;
- providing materials teachers can use for assessment around games; and
- providing continuity in assessment experiences across games.
The observations and interviews focused on how teachers used (or did not use) various features within each game that had the potential to be used for formative assessment. Hence, the case studies are organized around these formative assessment features, instead of individual teachers or games. Read more details in the report.