Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Game-Based Assessment of Persistence

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Game-Based Assessment of Persistence

Article excerpt


The digital revolution is fundamentally changing the nature of work, the problems workers are asked to solve, and therefore the types of skills needed in today's world. Today's workers must be able to apply their knowledge to more complex tasks, generate creative solutions to multi-faceted problems, and navigate interwoven systems. Employers indicate that skills such as problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity, as well as personal attributes such as adaptability, persistence, and resilience are becoming more important, and have been labeled "21st century skills" (Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006; Fadel, 2011). However, employers also indicate that employees often lack these essential skills (American Management Association & Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2010), leading to a push for them to be taught and assessed in schools.

However, these skills, by their very nature, do not lend themselves well to traditional methods of assessment. Most traditional tests present highly decontextualized individual items to learners. The 21st century skills and attributes of interest require application in context as part of complex tasks for accurate measurement. In addition, traditional assessment often interrupts the learning process in order to gather information and does little to motivate the learner to put forth effort, further jeopardizing our ability to gain valid estimates of skills and attributes. In response to these concerns, there has been growing interest in, and investigation of, the use of games to assess 21st century skills (Shaffer et al., 2009; Shute, 2011).

Games are attractive as assessment tools for a number of reasons. First, they allow us to make observations in contexts closer to those in the real world, creating the complex scenarios required to evaluate the application of knowledge and skills. Second, we know that games are engaging and motivating and that assessments are more valid when students are more motivated by them (Schmit & Ryan, 1992; Sundre & Wise, 2003). Third, we know that the vast majority of students (for example, 97% of teens aged 12-17 in the United States) already play digital games (Lenhart et al., 2008). This means we do not have to stop students' daily activity in order to gather assessment information. Rather, we can tap into the digital ocean of data already being produced by their online activity to identify and accumulate evidence about what players know and can do from that (DiCerbo & Behrens, 2012). Finally, games and assessment share a similar process loop of activity presentation, activity completion, evidence identification, evidence accumulation, and presentation of the next activity (Behrens, Frezzo, Mislevy, Kroopnick, & Wise, 2006), making games ready targets for assessment efforts.

However, before the potential of games as assessments of 21st century skills can be realized, there are a number of practical challenges to be addressed. New interactive digital experiences such as games elevate the importance of micro-patterns in data which often reflect variation in strategy or evolving psychological states. Highly granular data about minute human-computer interactions are now available in vast quantities. While the richness of the data holds promise, standard methods by which to turn these data into inferences about knowledge, skills, and attributes are not well-developed. We must be able to identify evidence of our constructs of interest in large files that log the small details of in-game events and we need models for the accumulation of this evidence into estimates of students' skill proficiency. Many of our current models of assessment design and delivery will have to be modified, and some completely discarded and re-imagined, in order to conduct game-based assessments of 21st century skills.

Evidence-centered design

A framework to assist with both the conceptualization and implementation of game-based assessment can be found in Evidence-Centered Design (ECD; Mislevy, Steinberg, & Almond, 2003). …

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