RML: What Do Students Learn? Connecting Classroom Games and Measures of Student Learning

Do games really help students learn in classrooms and other learning spaces? How do we
know what they learn? For those of us who work in the realm of games and education, this
question is at the core of our efforts to re-imagine new, innovative, and effective learning
environments. To gauge the connection between the use of playful games and learning
growth, these questions must be addressed. Thoughtful, well-planned, and innovative
processes and tools are needed to effectively integrate gaming, learning, and assessment.
The Institute of Play, a non-profit design lab and learning center, and Quest to Learn, a New
York City public middle school, are working together to develop evaluative processes and
tools to meld the creative and re-imagined use of games in classrooms with quality
measures of student learning.

Quest to Learn, founded by a partnership between the Institute of Play and NYC Department
of Education, is designed to provide students with an innovative learning environment
grounded in situated, game-like experiences. In collaborative teams, teachers, game
designers, and curriculum developers design games and challenge-based activities aligned
with specific learning goals. To fully gauge whether students meet the learning goals during
and after playing games, curriculum teams developed a three-tiered evaluative process with
aligned tools to measure student learning.

The three-tiered evaluative process consists of:
•    Curriculum Team Play-Test – This play-test by the curriculum team (curriculum
designer, game designer, and teacher) is focused on the clarity of the game and alignment
with student learning goals.
•    Student Play-Test – This play-test by a subset of students is focused on the game
clarity, level of engagement/fun, and student learning outcomes.
•    Classroom Game Play – When the game or learning activity is played in the
classroom, the teacher uses formative assessments to gauge student learning during the
game and summative assessments after the game. Following the game, students provide
directed feedback on game clarity, level of engagement/fun, and learning outcomes.

Along with classroom games, this three-tiered evaluative process has started to be adapted
by the Institute for use in the informal learning space as well.

The outcomes of this evaluative process are multi-layered. The first outcome is a stronger
connection between games and their specified learning goals. Secondly, a clearer and more
explicit link is made for students and educators between games students play and learning
goals students achieve. Lastly, curriculum team members’ collaborative work is
strengthened because all team members play varying roles, such as designers, researchers,
evaluators, and revisers during the evaluative process.

This panel will share the three-tiered evaluative process and aligned tools from multiple
perspectives of a teacher, game designer, curriculum designer, professional developer, and
an informal learning specialist. As we work to successfully connect the worlds of games and
education, the role of assessment is essential to the design of quality challenge-based
activities that support the achievement of student learning goals. In the end, the
development of processes and tools to meld games and assessment will support the power
and value of learning through and with games.

Eliza Spang
Brendon Trombley
Dan O' Keefe
Leah Gilliam
Alicia Iannuchi
Nicole Mirra, Discussant