DIP: Game-based Assessment and Support of STEM-related Competencies

PIs: Valerie Shute, Russell Almond, Fengfeng Ke
Florida State University
Award Details

Well-designed educational games represent a promising technology for increasing students interest in and learning of STEM topics such as physics. This project will research how to optimally combine and embed dynamic assessment and adaptive learning supports within an engaging game design to build effective educational games. The project will add enhancements to a physics game called Physics Playground. The general goal of this research is to test a valid methodology that can be used in the design of next-generation learning games. The enhancement of Physics Playground will leverage the popularity of video games to capture and sustain student attention and teach physics to a much broader audience than is currently the case in traditional physics classrooms. To be most effective, this new genre of learning games needs to not only be highly engaging as a game but also to provide real-time assessment and feedback to students; support understanding of science content (i.e.,Newtonian physics); be accessible to beginners; accommodate a range of proficiencies and interests; and support equity. The research will have particular relevance to designers developing other science games and simulation by providing information about the kinds of learning supports and feedback to students are most effective in promoting engagement and learning.

The project will systematically develop, test, and evaluate ways to integrate engaging, dynamic learning supports in Physics Playground to teach formal conceptual physics competencies. More generally, the project aims to advance the learning sciences, particularly in the fields of adaptivity and assessment in educational technology. Using a design-based research approach spanning three years, the research team will: (1) develop and test the effectiveness of various learning support features included in the game in Year 1; (2) develop and test an adaptive algorithm to manage the progression of difficulty in game levels in Year 2; and (3) test learning supports and adaptive sequencing in a controlled evaluation study. This research will provide evidence of the instructional effectiveness of an educational game designed using principles of instructional, game, and assessment design. It will advance understanding of the contributions of different kinds of learning supports (e.g., visualizations and explanations) and adaptivity to game-based learning and contribute to the design of next-generation learning games that successfully blur the distinction between assessment and learning. The project will generate research findings that can be incorporated into other types of STEM learning games.

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