Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Assessment Through Achievements

“Assessment through Achievement Systems: A Framework for Educational Design” is an article by Monica Evans, Erin Jennings, and Michael Andreen of the University of Texas at Dallas that explores the importance of achievement systems when designing educational games. I pondered on this concept during the last cycle when we read the articles by Darvasi, Kalir, and Saunders. In those pieces, the authors laid out a detailed description of elaborate and well designed, in-class games that they developed with their students. The learning activities within those games ranged from hands-on experiments to blog posts to even web design. What stood out to me was that in each component the letter grade wasn’t always the driving motivator. In fact, in the case of Darvasi, his game was a result of brainstorming session on how to engage seniors in their final semester when grades, at that point, were considered irrelevant. Evans, Jennings, and Andreen effectively analyze the long-standing practice of assessment in education within game play and share ideas of how present-day achievement systems in games can 1) improve assessment of students and 2) assess further areas such as creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving.

When I started on this journey into the world of games and learning, I full imagined how games could be utilized to replace traditional learning activities. What I did not consider, was how the characteristics of game play could be used to replace or amend traditional assessment. The authors point out in their research that test-taking isn’t necessarily a true measure of aptitude or knowledge. When you think about it, it’s obvious! How many people do you know (perhaps yourself included) that are terrible test takers but are good at learning? Or vice versa – who do you know that is a good test taker and can figure out the multiple choice based on the wording of the question? And don’t forget about the timeless art of cramming the night before a test only to forget the material the next week!

Achievements are essentially a tool within games that not only provide motivation for players, but can also assess the ability/knowledge of the player. The authors of this article point out digital game creators today are loading up with their games with additional achievements aside from the primary objective of the game because they are meeting demands of users. And as different personalities respond differently to various motivators, one can choose to ignore those achievements or strive for them. A prime example is mobile bubble pop game. There are tons of versions of this out on the market and one uses the bubbles to meet an objective. However, along the way, you can earn additional points or stars by how well you accomplish the objective.

These tables below were provided in the article and highlight four primary factors of an intrinsically motivating activity (table 2). Table 3 shows which learning outcomes are best measured through specific achievements:

Table 2. Comparison of motivating factors and achievement types
Skill, completion, repetition
Luck, exploration
Repetition, completion, exploration
Completion, exploration, collection

Table 3. Comparison of learning outcomes and achievement types
Skill, repetition
Cognitive- declarative
Skill, repetition, luck
Cognitive - procedural
Skill, repetition, completion
Cognitive - strategic
Skill, completion, exploration
Completion, exploration, collection

These factors open up a whole new world of educational assessment by implementing game-based achievement models. Yet much is left to be explored in how we can implement these as a way to replace traditional testing and assessment methods.

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