Key Findings:



Teachers were recruited to complete a 20-minute web-based survey through postings on social media and on popular education and technology web sites. The survey was conducted in Fall 2013, and there were 488 valid responses from teachers across the United States. We compared our population of teacher respondents to the national population of teachers using data from the NCES Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). Our respondents were compared based on gender, age, years of teaching experience, school type, and the percent of students who receive free or reduced price lunch. Gender was the only category in which our respondents were significantly different (at the p<0.05 level) from the national population of K-12 teachers. Nationally, 23.9% of teachers are male, 29% of our survey respondents were male. Given these demographic similarities, we feel our population of teachers is similar to teachers nationwide along demographic dimensions.

Case Studies

The educational games observed in these case studies all contain features that are intended to support teachers in monitoring and understanding student learning and progress. Sometimes these features are simple, such as an end-of-game score. Sometimes they are complex, such as a dashboard to track student progress towards academic standards across a range of in-game metrics. We examined how teachers interpret and use these features, and what issues and challenges arise that limit their use in hopes of providing valuable information for the future development of games that support learning.

In early 2014, we conducted case studies with 30 volunteer teachers in the New York City area. All taught in grades 5-8, in public and private schools. We selected teachers across the subject areas of English/language arts (ELA), social studies/history, math, and science. The teachers were varied in terms of their experiences with games, both personally and as educational tools. Each teacher agreed to use one of 11 educational video games accessed via BrainPOP’s GameUp portal. We selected GameUp because it provides a single point-of-access for games by a variety of leading game designers spanning a range of content areas, as well as additional curricular and assessment supports for using the games.

Case study teachers participated in a half-day professional development session on how to use GameUp to access their chosen game prior to entering the study. This professional development included a general introduction to gameplay and features of their chosen game. We then arranged to visit each teacher’s classroom to observe them using the game with students, and followed each classroom visit with a phone interview to discuss their experience using the game and how it fit into their formative assessment practices.

A unique aspect of our case studies is that they focus on the features within the games—not on individual teachers or games. This report should not be viewed as a critique of or commentary on any particular game or instructional practice, or as a comparison of games or features. Our goal is to shed light on the different ways that formative assessment features are implemented in games, and how teachers recognize, interpret, and utilize those features.

We observed the following features of games that support formative assessment practice:

  • Points/Scores/Stars
  • Other Forms of Player Feedback
  • Dashboards of Player Progress
  • Screen Capture/Annotations
  • Essential Questions
  • Review Questions
  • Quizzes
  • Less Prominent Formative Assessment  Features, including:
    • Replayability
    • Ability to Unlock Levels
    • Graphic Organizers
    • Game Guides