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.
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.
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