In Spring 2014, we conducted case studies with 30 teachers in the New York City area. We visited each teacher’s classroom to observe them using a digital game with students, and then followed each visit with a phone interview to discuss their experience using the game and how it fit into their formative assessment practices.
We focused on the following features of games that support formative assessment:
- 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
Our case studies documented that:
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.