Information gained from assessment tells us where children are, so we can help them get where they need to go. In the school environment, there’s an increasing push to use technology to better assess children’s knowledge and progress in a number of domains. Using games for social emotional skill assessment is potentially beneficial for a number of reasons.
Games are engaging and motivating
It’s not surprising that children prefer to participate in games rather than in traditional classroom activities. Digital games are especially appealing to children today because technology is a ubiquitous part of their lives. The tide of professional opinion is beginning to turn from viewing digital games as a distraction in the classroom to an understanding that gameplay through virtual or simulated environments can be a great motivator and a valuable part of learning and development.
Games are well-suited for assessment of SEL and 21st century skills
There is an increasing emphasis in education on social emotional learning and 21st century skills. Why? Content knowledge is no longer at a premium – kids can Google content knowledge. What’s far more valuable is what children DO with that knowledge. Children need to be able to collaborate and communicate with others, integrate and evaluate information, effectively and appropriately use digital technology, and solve real-world problems.
Dynamic assessment of these high-level skills is very difficult with traditional methods but a natural fit for game-based assessments, which give children the opportunity to demonstrate strategic and critical thinking in authentic environments. Games enables us to measure what children know, and what they can do with that knowledge.
Games are ideal vehicles for formative assessment
Formative assessment (assessment while learning is ongoing) helps educators and counselors to adjust, inform and plan instruction. When we know where children are having difficulty, we can intervene and provide more focused attention to problem areas. If a particular lesson or instructional method isn’t working for a child, we can present it differently, adjust the difficulty of a task, or provide more opportunities for practice. Conversely, if we see that a child has mastered a concept, we can offer new or more advanced challenges. Using this adaptive strategy improves children’s achievement.
Games provide unique opportunities for “stealth” assessment
When children are aware they’re being assessed, they may behave differently than they would in typical circumstances. For example, if a child struggling with impulse control knows she is being evaluated, it’s likely she will demonstrate greater control than what teachers see on a day-to-day basis. If that same child is playing a game in which cognitive, social, and or physical impulse triggers are “invisible” as part of the play, the child is more likely to demonstrate her true behavior pattern. Assessment embedded in gameplay is called “stealth assessment.” 20 By integrating assessment directly into the game environment, we eliminate observer effects and test anxiety, and ultimately get a more accurate result.
The technology used in computerized adaptive assessments tailors the level of difficulty by adjusting the specific item presented based on how the child has responded to that point. The advantage of this technology is that it uses an underlying measurement model of proficiency—or aptitude—to individualize each student’s testing experience.
In this way, adaptive assessment addresses one of the major challenges of assessment, namely, creating a measure that appropriately addresses the needs of a group with varying abilities. An assessment that is too easy will not provide good information on the high performers, one that is too difficult won’t tell you much about the low performers, and one calibrated to the average child will miss important information about both the high and low performers. Similarly, a game that is too easy or too challenging will quickly lose the engagement of a child. To address this challenge, we can use games to employ adaptive assessment, changing the game to meet the needs of individual children.