The Evidence Games - Poster Session 2010

Since an August 2010 start date, the Evidence Game team has been engaged in an iterative design and development process for a game to provide middle school students and their teachers with practice in Toulmin’s (1984) model of argumentation as applied to science.  The poster session will present the overall conceptual model for a targeted game to provide practice in argumentation and efforts to make this process a fun experience for youth.

The goal of the Evidence Game project is to develop and research the effect of a series of sub-games that together will increase middle school science students’ and teachers’ knowledge of and thinking related to scientific argumentation. The areas of argumentation addressed by the games include: understanding a claim, judging the evidence about a claim based on type (fact, opinion, theory, or data) and quality (bias, reliability, or validity), determining the reasoning applied to the claim (authority, analogy, correlation, causation, theory, principle, or generalization, considering rebuttals, and making judgments. The sub-games will be scaffolded to provide experiences in implementing the specific components of argumentation.  It will culminate in a collaborative game providing for discourse about important claims using scientific reasoning. We envision the Evidence Game as one game that is focused on building expertise to achieve the final goal of “putting it all together.” Ultimately, the students will be able to consider a complete presentation of an argument and evaluate it and all its component parts, using collaborative discourse. 

Recognizing that it may be difficult for middle school students to grasp what is “fun” about engaging in argumentation about scientific claims and evidence, this proof-of-concept has to do with whether the target game features incorporated into the design will maintain engagement and make the process fun. These features include focused goals, ease of learning, rapid and frequent responding, multiplayer competitive play, various achievement levels for individual players and teams, choice and autonomy, and increasingly challenging tasks. As researcher Luis Von Ahn observes “Some tasks are inherently unenjoyable -- until you make them a game” (Thompson, 2007). Von Ahn demonstrated the tremendous capacity of games to engage people to do work in the series of games found at (Von Ahn, 2006; Von Ahn & Dabbish, 2004; Von Ahn, Kedia, & Blum, 2006). Our game development is based on the assumption that incorporating target game characteristics into otherwise difficult learning tasks will increase the engagement and emotional attachment of the player to successfully play the game.

The project will also support teachers as they guide student understanding and facilitate scientific discourse through web-based resources designed to support teacher learning of the knowledge and skill of scientific argumentation as well as the instructional use of the Evidence Game in middle school science instruction. Development and analysis of these resources will be based on an understanding of the principles guiding web-based learning resources. Development will be informed by recognition of the uniqueness of an instructional web-based environment and an understanding of the role of dialogue and collaboration in adult professional learning.