Special Report
Classroom Technology

Q&A: Designing Game-Based Assessments That Engage Students

By Robin L. Flanigan — March 10, 2014 2 min read

Game-based assessments are making it easier for teachers to more quickly evaluate students in a dizzying number of ways. Arthur C. Graesser, a University of Memphis professor of experimental and cognitive psychology and the 2011 winner of the American Psychological Association’s award for distinguished contributions of applications of psychology to education and training, spoke with Technology Counts Contributing Writer Robin L. Flanigan in a telephone interview about the current and future role of game-based assessments in the classroom.

TCGameSideQA Art Graesser 100

On a psychological level, how is it different for students to have game-based, rather than traditional, assessments?

Graesser: You’re not going to get a valid assessment if students are bored and tuning out. Having an assessment that matches their style of living would be the hope. If they’re used to playing games, the contrast between that and looking at academic material can be huge. It really intensifies the growing schism between formal and informal learning environments.

What’s next for game-based assessments?

Graesser: I’m involved in a group that’s commercializing a game with Pearson Education. In the course of a 10-hour game on research methods and scientific reasoning, it collects 6,700 measures. One of the major avante-garde waves of the future is figuring out how you map all these measures onto psychometrically valid constructs. For example, how discriminating are students in making subtle distinctions? So as they progress through the game, you can get a peek at how well they’re doing in each skill at any time.

Can there be such a thing as too much information for teachers?

Graesser: Oh, yes. Yes. And maybe there should be an open learning environment where students get to take a peek at their own profiles and don’t necessarily share them with the teacher, to help build self-efficacy before the teacher tests them in a more conventional way. All of this needs to be explored.

How can teachers be sure they’re choosing the right games to evaluate students?

Graesser: In the commercial market, there are a lot of games that look visually sensuous and captivating but don’t have deep tentacles to the learning sciences and rigorous assessments. That’s one of the challenges with informal learning environments, because if games look as if there’s anything academic in them, kids think they’re being tricked into learning something. You have to be very subtle in smuggling in serious content.

One thing to look for, and this is the real world we live in, is whether the assessments are aligned with the common core, Educational Testing Service, and other organizations that have a solid scientific foundation.

What else should teachers know?

Graesser: One purpose of the assessments is for the teachers, but there’s a different set of goals to think about, and that’s for students to become motivated enough to want to do their personal best. Just the feedback can be motivating in itself. That’s what makes assessments fun, rather than a drag.

Related Tags:


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Classroom Technology How to Talk About Social Media and the Capitol Insurrection: A Guide for Teachers
Social media played a pivotal role in the Jan. 6 mob riot at the Capitol, providing plenty of fodder for classroom discussions.
7 min read
Photo illustration shows social media symbols and crowds of people stirred to action.
Laura Baker/Education Week + iStock/Getty
Classroom Technology Zoom and Google Outages: How Schools Should Prepare for Tech Problems
Technology breakdowns are inevitable. Here's what schools should do to prepare to keep instruction going when tech is not cooperating.
4 min read
Illustration of a computer with a caution sign
Classroom Technology How Online Teaching Needs to Improve—Even After the Pandemic
The vast majority of teachers say they’ve gained skills in the last year that they’ll continue to use after the pandemic ends.
4 min read
Mary Euell helps her sons, Michael Henry, left, and Mario Henry, work through math lessons remotely in their Erie, Pa., home.
Mary Euell helps her sons, Michael Henry, left, and Mario Henry, work through math lessons remotely in their Erie, Pa., home.
Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News via AP
Classroom Technology 'No Going Back' From Remote and Hybrid Learning, Districts Say
The slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, a staffing crunch, and demand from some parents mean remote live-streamed instruction is here to stay.
13 min read
Teresa Vazquez, a teacher in Fort Wayne, Ind., remotely teaches a Spanish 1 class to students at Monroe High School in Albany, Ga.
Teresa Vazquez, a teacher in Fort Wayne, Ind., remotely teaches a Spanish 1 class to students at Monroe High School in Albany, Ga.
Courtesy of Elevate K-12