YFE Week: Felicia Sullivan on Exploring Game Analytics

My name is Felicia Sullivan and I research youth civic engagement at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), a non-partisan research center at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Citizenship & Public Service. Building youth-focused evaluation strategies and working with practitioners are important ways CIRCLE links academic research to what is happening on the ground. Recently, we have been exploring what game analytics and data captured by interactive learning systems can tell us about hard to measure civic engagement processes like deliberation, perspective taking, and collaboration.

Lessons Learned

Two recent projects involve games called Civic Seed and Discussion Maker that we developed in collaboration with the Engagement Game Lab at Emerson University and Filament Games an interactive learning game studio in Madison, WI.

Measuring concrete knowledge in learning environments is essential, but capturing processes and interactions are also important.  Civic literacy is more than knowing about government and history, it is about having the skills to act and behave within a civic culture. For schools and national youth programs, capturing growth and development in civic literacy is hard to do. Increasingly we have looked to learning games and interactive technologies to provide us with insights about these complex, developmental processes.

These forays into gaming and technology-enabled learning have us thinking about new approaches to evaluation that are dynamic, formative and adaptive. We are by no means experts in the arena, but here are things we are currently looking at in game-based evaluation:

Hot Tip: Finishing the Game is the Assessment

If designed well, a game can embed the assessment of an outcome within the game play itself in a “stealthy” way.  Achieving game missions or completing tasks can be thought of as “tests” or “benchmarks” in the learning process.  Most of the projects we have been involved with are interested in learning related to civic literacy, but we believe that other domains that work with hard to grasp complex systems or dynamics could benefit from games.

Cool Trick: User Created Content

When game users type in a chat box, share a resource, or select text to support an argument, a content analysis can later provide insights about what users are thinking and experiencing.

Cool Trick: User Analytics

How players engage with a game — the choices they make, the path they take or where they get stuck – is a digital “observation” that can be analyzed.

Rad Resource: Games, Learning, and Assessment

This chapter from a much larger edited volume on assessment in game-based learning captures some of the issues related to assessment with some concrete examples.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Youth Focused Evaluation (YFE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the YFE AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our YFE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


5 thoughts on “YFE Week: Felicia Sullivan on Exploring Game Analytics”

  1. Hello Felicia,
    My name is Aaron and I am a student from Texas A & M University Central Texas. I will be graduating this semester and I am currently enrolled in a program evaluation course. I enjoyed reading your article about your involvement in the program Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, (CIRCLE). I thoroughly enjoy advocating for anything that attributes to the development of our younger generations. The idea of using gaming dynamics to capture the learning process is exhilarating. I believe these younger generations will benefit immensely from the implementation of this design. The also like the idea of creating “stealthy” outcomes in the assessments. Sometimes the hidden curriculums can be the most impactful. I wish you luck in everything that you and your team are pursuing; your work is truly making a difference for the future.
    Very Respectfully,
    Aaron Mandzak

  2. The ideals of youth are becoming strained with all multimedia distractions. The case of the youth engaging with adults are limited in society presently. We can differ the uses of games for those who need constant stimulation. Or we could encourage the interaction with each other. Nevertheless the games for the youth community is diminishing to virtual stimulation. We could keep the efforts for engagement and interaction with each other to promote healthy socialization.

  3. Elisa Chamberlain

    Hello, I’m Elisa Chamberlain and am a current Texas A&M University Central Texas student. I found this article to be eye opening in that I’d be curious as to what digital observation could reveal about my own sons and other youth I mentor. I also believe interactions are paramount to a lifelong skill set youth should have. and not just any skils, as we know destructive skills are just as contagious as having skills to act within a civic culture as you stated. I find myself interested in wanting to know more about the user created content chat box and the benchmarks that occur among various age groups. As I myself do not engage in video games, the importance of the assessments and educational provisions made that are embarked could be generational changes that society needs as a whole.

  4. Dear Dr. Sullivan!
    Thank you for taking time to post this information as it pertains to two critical areas, from my perspective as a General Education (GENED) teacher in the content area of Theatre Arts Education servicing students from the populations identified as GENED, Special Education (SPED) and English as a Second Language (ESL) or English Language Learners (ELL).
    Those two areas are student engagement (centered or focused classroom/spaces) and educational assessments which are woven through that “techni-colored dream coat” of daily learning, retention, and mastery of material balanced through processes and products by those for us in the creative/performance arts based realm.
    I did take the liberty of downloading the pdf file noted as Chapter 4 Games, Learning, and Assessment. Additionally, I did print a copy to share as a handout with fellow Graduate students engaged in an assessment course here at Texas A&M University – Central Texas (TAMUCT) in KIlleen, Texas.

    Based on my own experiences, I concur with this chapter’s data, especially on the topic of Stealth Assessment. However, our games are performance based versus digital models.

    I look forward to more articles shared and topics explored.
    All the Best,
    Capt. Richard Arlington Briggs, Jr.
    TAMUCT Graduate Assistant, Research Center, College of Education

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