Many children seem disinterested in the class room, but put them in front of the latest video game and they will soon have it mastered.
According to at least one researcher, the solution isn’t to banish the games, but to sneak learning into them.
The approach, according to educational psychologist Dr. Valerie Shute of Florida State University, is to make the learning experience more enjoyable by creating video games with educational content and assessment tools integrated into them — and to incorporate such games into school curricula.
To kids, such games would remain a pleasant diversion. But to Mom and Dad, they would provide reassurance that their child is acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to excel in an increasingly competitive world.
“The concept is known as ‘stealth assessment,'” said Shute, a professor of instructional systems. “Essentially what we try to do is disguise educational content in such a way that kids aren’t even aware that they’re being assessed while they’re engrossed in game play.”
To accomplish that, Shute employs video games that have been specially designed to give educators a means of reviewing how students solve complex tasks while immersed in virtual (computer-generated) worlds.
How students react to new challenges and put evidence together — without the pressure of having to remember a large body of information and then take a paper-and-pencil exam — can reveal a great deal about creative problem-solving skills and other important “21st-century competencies” that traditional testing cannot.
“Everybody likes to play,” Shute said. “And so much could be done to support learning using games.”
Stealth-assessment technologies also have several other advantages over more conventional teaching and testing methods.
“Based on a student’s responses to various situations that come up during the course of playing a video game, the game itself can be programmed to assess where that student might be especially strong or weak in core competencies,” Shute said.
“The game can then adapt its content so that the student is exposed to more or less information in that area. And it continues to assess the student’s progress to determine how well he or she is learning the embedded concepts and skills.
Not only can these stealth-assessment games, in theory, measure a student’s current level of knowledge in a given area, she said, they can also determine areas where that student needs to improve and then help him or her to make those improvements, using feedback, easier problems, and the like.
“In that sense, it can be a fantastic learning tool as well as an assessment tool.”
Still other important features of such games, said Shute:
- They can be used to assess a student’s knowledge on a specific topic both at the beginning and at the end of the game, thus providing numerical data that illustrate how much the student has learned.
- They can be easily customized to meet the educational strengths and weaknesses of individual students. In this manner, each student can learn at his or her own speed and be appropriately challenged.
In a related area involving computerized learning, Shute and two colleagues have received a U.S. patent for a “method and system for designing adaptive, diagnostic assessments.”
“Essentially, the patent is for a computer algorithm that we developed,” she said.
“The algorithm applies ‘weights’ to a student’s responses to specific tasks within a game, then uses those weights to measure proficiency levels. With that information, the game knows whether to assign additional tasks to the student in a particular area or move on to another area.”
“Stealth assessment within engaging learning and gaming environments might be one of the key tools we can use to improve the way we teach our children and the way they learn,” she said.
Source: Florida State University