The Evidence Games: Collaborative Games Engaging Middle School Students in the Evaluation of Scientific Evidence

This project develops a series of interactive on-line games and investigates the effect these games have on increasing middle school science students' and teachers' knowledge and skills of scientific argumentation. There are four areas of argumentation addressed by the games: (1) understanding a claim, (2) judging the evidence about a claim based on type and quality (objectivity, reliability or validity), (3) analyzing the reasoning applied to the claim, and (4) evaluating the claim.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1019842
Funding Period: 
Sunday, August 15, 2010 to Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Project Evaluator: 
Gabe Della-Piana
Full Description: 

The Evidence Games project develops a series of interactive on-line games and investigates the effect these games have on increasing middle school science students' and teachers' knowledge and skills of scientific argumentation. There are four areas of argumentation addressed by the games: (1) understanding a claim, (2) judging the evidence about a claim based on type (fact, opinion, theory, or data) and quality (objectivity, reliability or validity), (3) analyzing the reasoning applied to the claim (authority, analogy, correlation, causation, theory, principle, or generalization), and (4) evaluating the claim (rebuttals, counterarguments, sources of error, and summary). The games increase in complexity, beginning with simple claims and evidence, and advancing to a level of analyzing current scientific claims. The games allow students to engage in discourse in an on-line, virtual environment and encourage face-to-face discourse in classes about the learning activities in the games. A component of the games allows students to enter their own claims and evidence for evaluation by other students in a challenge format. The context for the game development and refinement is middle school science classes in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools (KCKPS). The participants are teachers and students in those classes, who represent a diverse population. The primary STEM field is that of science, although the ultimate goal is that the games have wide application and usage in final development. The primary organizations on the project team are research groups at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning including ALTEC (Advanced Learning Technologies in Education), the School of Education at the University of Kansas, and the Department of Psychology and Research in Education at the University of Kansas.

The research design involves the iterative development of the games including an analysis of the authentic setting in which the game will be utilized and an iterative development process in which the team, consisting of teachers, students, and development personnel, engages in a repeated process of specifying user requirements, generating an initial conceptual analysis, developing prototypes, analyzing working prototypes, and implementing the games in classrooms. The project targets eight teachers and a broad range of middle school students in KCKPS. During the development in years one and two, four to five teachers and their students act as co-developers in each of the two phases. In the pilot phase, eight teachers with 16-24 classes participate. The researcher team collects data using a variety of established protocols ranging from pre- and post-tests to measures of scientific discussion to subjective assessment.

The products include a series of games, and findings on the usability, feasibility, fidelity, and efficacy of using a series of sub-games to support students' ability to analyze claims. This proof of concept study reaches approximately 500 students in the third year of the study in the classes of the eight participating teachers. The Evidence Games project addresses the National Science Education Standards of inquiry and the nature of science addressed in middle school, which include sophisticated, critical thinking and analysis skills, and prepares students to understand more advanced ideas in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.