Game-based STEM Learning and Assessments

The panel provides an overview of what presenters know about how learning takes place in games and how each of these projects is crafting assessment in virtual and game-based environments.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 9:45am to 11:45am

The session brings together seven DR K–12 projects focused on game-based STEM learning and assessments of science content and inquiry. The panel provides an overview of what they know about how learning takes place in games and how each of these projects is crafting assessments in virtual and game-based environments. They focus on strategies for leveraging popular game mechanics with research from the learning sciences, psychology, science education, and computer science to support and assess players as they develop robust understandings of core scientific concepts and practices. A synthetic discussion then explores challenges and opportunities for integrating research from these fields synergistically rather than disruptively within popular game-play mechanics. The projects include:

Argumentation: A Middle School Game-based Approach—Marilyn Ault discusses designs for leveraging competition and timed challenges to enhance engagement and fun within the Evidence Game. The discussion explores data collected about the relationship between racing elements of the game and the overarching focus on scientific argumentation at the heart of the study from a disciplinary perspective.

Promoting Problem Solving and Engagement—Jon Rowe discusses how intelligent game-based environments can promote problem solving and engagement in science learning by integrating affective connection with virtual characters (agents) within the game and core challenges in problem solving. He discusses laboratory and classroom studies with the CRYSTAL ISLAND game-based learning environment, investigating engagement (motivation, situational interest, presence) and central issues of problem solving (strategy use, divergent thinking, and collaboration) with respect to achievement as measured by both science content knowledge and transfer.

Socially Engineering Gaming Communities to Bootstrap Formal Understanding—This project scaffolds explanations between players to support articulation of the intuitive understandings players develop through game play. The presenter discusses data from a study on the natural collaborations that occur between students as they play SURGE. These natural collaborations include both spontaneous face-to-face collaborations within the classroom as well as contributions within online strategy forums integrated within the SURGE for each classroom.

Embedding Principled Assessments into Serious Learning Games—This project integrates evidence-centered assessment design within game mechanics to shape game challenges, rules for success and failure, and advancement through game levels. This discussion focuses on approaches for design of embedded, unobtrusive assessments within the game that balance the rigor and structure needed for cognitively principled assessment with the fun, exploration, and challenge of gameplay.

SAVE Science: Situated Assessment Using Virtual Environments for Science Content and Inquiry—This series of virtual-environment-situated assessment modules assesses both science content and inquiry in grades 7 and 8. The modules make use of a novel assessment rubric based on student interactions within an authentic context-based science curriculum—embedded in a virtual environment—and relate the assessments to standardized test achievement.

AutoMentor: Virtual Mentoring and Assessment in Computer Games for STEM Learning—This program uses an automated mentoring system that utilizes natural language conversations to help students learn about science and technology, and an assessment/analysis protocol to quantify students’ STEM behavior. This project combines automated tutoring with an automated mentoring technology, AutoMentor, with Epistemic Network Analysis, which analyzes the framework that compares the way learners solve problems to the epistemic framework that an expert might use. This project is studying middle school students either in after-school or in-school programs.

Leveling Up: Supporting and Measuring High School STEM Knowledge Building in Social Digital Games—This project is developing a set of wireless and Web-based free-choice game elements using game mechanics based on Common Core high school science concepts. The game elements will use the model of layered learning that comes from professional game design to create challenges where completion of the game element is only possible through understanding the basic game mechanics (thus the principles of science). In another grant, Arcadia: The Next Generation—Transforming STEM Learning through Transmedia Games, developers are embedding these game elements in a transmedia social game environment. Arcadia will host cross-disciplinary science inquiry games that make use of the individual game elements from Leveling Up and use the electronic activity logs and artifacts from games to measure the ICT and inquiry-skill development in the context of science investigation.