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Learning from Gaming

How can we use assessment to drive effort and achievement? How do we engage our students to take ownership of their learning? How can we encourage students to address how they learn and guide them to want to learn and apply their learning to new situations?

Assessment isn’t something teachers or students enjoy talking about. It often conjurers up fear and anxiety. Students dread taking assessments that lack purpose. Teachers dislike feeling judged by test scores. But the fact of the matter is, when used correctly, assessment can drive student learning and our instructional techniques.

One Solution

Look to the gaming world. Chances are you noticed the Pokemon Go craze this summer. My game of choice is a few games of Candy Crush Soda a day. I find it relaxing and enjoy advancing through the levels – some easy, some frustrating. When I see or take part in games such as these my mind always goes to the classroom. Do students have the same level of engagement in their learning as they do with video games?

John Hattie, author of  Visible Learning for Teachers, mentioned at a recent workshop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that the gaming world gets assessment right.

  • The games know what you know already.
  • They scaffold your learning.
  • They utilize the goldilocks theory placing you at the “just right level.”
  • They don’t change the level of success.
  • They give you deliberate opportunities to practice.
  • They motivate us (adults and kids alike) to spend hours in the pursuit of learning.
  • We don’t want to get to the end. We want to keep playing and achieving higher levels.

How do we take these elements in the gaming world and adapt them to our classrooms? Back in 2011 I used the analogy linking the popular video game Angry Birds to assessment for learning. You can read the post here. The main points from the post included that video games do the following:

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Assessment for Learning

All 5 of these areas can support assessment for learning and each component ranks in John Hattie’s Zone of Desired Effects. I recently had the honor of seeing John Hattie in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He mentioned, that learning intentions and success criteria add to teacher clarity. He has found that teacher clarity has an effect sizes of 0.75 putting it towards the top of his list impactful strategies. (0.40 is considered average and the start of The Zone of Desired Effects).  Hattie defines teacher clarity as “teacher clarity quoting the (unpublished) work of Fendick (1990) as “organization, explanation, examples and guided practice, and assessment of student learning — such that clarity of speech was a prerequisite of teacher clarity.” If these are made clear to students and even developed with students, learning increases. His website provides this video as an example. The other components of Assessment for Learning ranked high as well. Feedback (0.73), self-questioning (0.64) and self-assessment (via self-reporting grade 1.33) all are within the zone of desired effects. If you aren’t familiar with Hattie’s work I have listed several of his books at the end of this post.

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Putting it Together

I recently had the opportunity to start this conversation through a free webinar sponsored by ClassFlow on EdChat Interactive. You can download the slides I used here and view the recording here.

If we are cognizant of the elements used in the gaming world that engage players we can work to replicate them in the classroom. We can do so whether we have low tech or high tech environments. The key is the way we involve our learners. If our formative assessments are merely mini “tests” and our learners don’t see the necessity in their learning journey, the assessments are worthless.  One teacher, now instructional coach, I’ve worked with calls all assessments (whether formative or summative) Celebrations of Learning!

In order for students become engaged in the celebration of learning in the day-to-day classroom journey, I’d like to add another acronym to the field of education (like we don’t have enough already!) My acronym is G.A.M.E. The components may make sense from the teacher’s point of view as we often use these components when it comes to analyzing data to drive our instruction with peers or in PLCs. But what if we explicitly teach and involve our students in the components of G.A.M.E. to help them drive their learning.  We can even point out the analogy to the video games they love, perhaps they will engage in the process.

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Students and adults alike are constantly involved in assessing things using the G.A.M.E. components in their daily lives.

An Adult Example:  Many of us drive a car. To keep the car running properly we gather information. One quick piece of information is checking our fuel supply. At a moments notice, we can glance at our gas gauge, gather information, analyze it and make a decision. Our decision may be to continue on our journey or stop to refuel. If we arrive at our destination without running out of fuel or end up stranded on the side of the road we evaluate the outcome of our decision.

A Student Example:  Students need to decide whether to wear a jacket to school. They can gather information (from TV, an app, a parent or walking outside). They can analyze that information, make a decision and evaluate the outcome (while waiting for the bus or playing outside for recess).

We can involve our students in the same process in the classroom, whether using low tech or high tech ways to monitor learning. For example, a favorite low tech idea I shared in the EdChat Interactive session was an idea called My Favorite No, found on the Teaching Channel. In this type of activity a teacher could use the G.A.M.E. acronym along with the approach. I like this strategy because it encourages students to risks and learn from mistakes in a very safe environment. There are many places students are gathering information (doing the problem, the class discussion, etc…). They can analyze the information especially from the class discussion and the way they solved the problem. They will make a decision about how to use the information the next time they solve a similar problem and evaluate the outcome of their learning. But to do this, students need this reflective process modeled often.

There are many, many other low tech ways to monitor student learning. You can find a few in a blog post I wrote about checking for understanding. Please share your own low tech ideas in the comment section so we can all learn and grow together!

Technology opens the door for more immediate feedback for both teachers and students. As I stated earlier, the webinar I presented was sponsored by ClassFlow. I am ambassador for ClassFlow and help to spread the word about this FREE web-based platform. Within the platform there are 13 was to monitor student learning and gather and provide feedback instantaneously! ClassFlow can also help teachers differentiate the types of questions for students. For example, a student learning English as a second language could receive an image to label or multiple choice question, whereas other students could receive a constructed response item to show their learning. To learn more about ClassFlow visit CampClassFlow, the ClassFlow Webinar Series and follow the ClassFlow Facebook Page!

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What are other ways you incorporate technology in engaging students in the learning process. Please add your ideas to the comment section!

The next time you use a low tech or high tech formative assessment option think about how to involve students. How can you use elements from the gaming world to engage your learners? How can they be reflective partners in monitoring their progress using G.A.M.E.? I’d love to hear how you are using this information!


screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-10-18-22-pm Just hanging out with John Hattie and Steve Ventura!


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