Game-based Assessment Pt. 2

Games for Learning

In this module, students in CEP813 were asked to learn about how games can be used for assessments. Previously, I’ve only thought about games as something done in my leisure, not necessarily for academic purposes. As a PE teacher, rarely do we use online assessments, let alone online gaming systems. That is, we’d rather see the students out on a field playing rather than using a remote to play. This module got me thinking about how I can definitely take advantage of an online game, however, to gain better insight into what my students are learning and understanding.

First, it’s important to consider my semiotic domain. Gee (2003), described semiotic domains as, “any set of practices that recruits one or more modalities (e.g., oral or written language, images, equations, symbols, sounds, gestures, graphs, artifacts, etc.) to communicate distinctive types of meanings.” This can be anything from chemistry to Super Mario Bros. For the purpose of this planning, I chose the semiotic domain of lacrosse. As a PE teacher, there are many semiotic domains, however, given that I also coach the Varsity girls’ lacrosse team, I thought it was an excellent idea to create a game that would not only help me teach, but also help me coach (after all, they’re basically one in the same!).

Second, it’s important to understand the different internal and external grammars that exist in lacrosse. Internal grammar is “the principles and patterns in terms of which one can recognize what is and what is not acceptable or typical content in a semiotic domain” (Gee, 2003). In the lacrosse world, this includes the specific rules of what is allowed and what isn’t allowed, the techniques of lacrosse (cradling, shooting, saving, checking, etc). External grammar is “the principles and patterns in terms of which one can recognize what is and what is not an acceptable or typical social practice and identity in regard to the… group associated with a semiotic domain” (Gee, 2003). For lacrosse, this includes how players use those rules and techniques to successfully play the game. This can include the strategies and concepts of the game to sportsmanship on and off of the field.

Finally, if I’m creating a game for my semiotic domain of lacrosse, I want to make sure that the procedural rhetoric matches that. Procedural rhetoric is how the game actually shapes up and ultimately reinforces the way things in the world work. In Mario Bros, for example, this is banging your head to get coins or jumping on mushrooms for lives, in Monopoly this is the math and accounting that is used to build buildings. For my game, the procedural rhetoric should reinforce the internal and external grammars of lacrosse. That is, it should not be a game that involves math to be successful or outside understanding of geography. Conversely, I need to ensure that the procedural rhetoric that I employ aligns with actual lacrosse. That is, the game must penalize a player who chooses to check illegally and reward one that approaches correctly. It must honor decision making that capitalizes on sound strategies while requiring a player to rethink should she choose unfounded strategies. Simply put, the choices and actions in my game must align with what I would want to see in the actual game of lacrosse.  It should make a claim about how the world or lacrosse works, not an objective that could not be carried over to a live game of lacrosse. Ideally, I want to make sure that the strategies of the game help provide insight into my students’ understandings of both internal and external grammar (the rules but also how to play the game of lacrosse).

Planning the Game

So, how will this happen? After exploring Twine, an open source create your own adventure (CYOA) game creation platform. Basically, Twine allows users to create interactive, non-linear stories. This can be anything from your imagination! Knowing where I want to end (a game that helps me identify strengths and areas of improvement in my students’ understandings of lacrosse), I can now use UbD to create a plan of how my assessment will reach that design:

What the Game Will Look Like

Overall, I envision using Twine to create a strategy game where players will select their character (position) which will give them a goal. Then, they will work through a series of situations where they can choose their own course of action. These situations involve internal grammar (such as abiding by the rules of the game) and external grammar (reading a defense and choosing how to attack it). This will include some desirable answer selections (correct), some that indicate some understanding, and some undesirable answer selections (incorrect). All of these will lead to another situation where the student will have to make another selection. Each “adventure” or situation will have varying levels of difficulty which will challenge the student. Ultimately, the player will either achieve his/her goal or not. Below, is a quick look at my storyboard that has been created based off of my original plan. It’s important to note, that only the defensive side has really been built out.

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 7.25.16 AM

Built Out

As you can see, the player is guided through real-game situations, falling in line with the previous notion that the procedural rhetoric should match the semiotic domain and reinforce internal and external grammars. Each player is asked to decide what to do in a variety of circumstances, ranging from basic defensive principles to how rules are applied within a game setting. Each passage leads to an explanation of why it was, or was not, the correct choice. If incorrect, there are some opportunities to retry, while in others, the game simply ends. While fun, this game completely challenges the player to their understanding of lacrosse. It allows a coach to understand where players might be lacking in understanding for both internal grammar (i.e. the rules of where to go after a foul is committed) and external grammar (i.e. a fast break vs. settled situation strategy). After the actual creation, I still think this will be a great way to assess lacrosse player’s knowledge! With all of this in mind, it would appear that the procedural rhetoric of this game will match my semiotic domain. That is, my domain is lacrosse, and the game will reinforce the internal and external grammar of actual lacrosse. Furthermore, most of the questions on my ADC 3.0 checklist have been met, as seen below:

ADC 3.0

ADC 3.0 Table

QuestionsAssessment PlanActual Assessment

Is this assessment dynamic and adaptive to each student? 

Indeed, this assessment will be. CYOA naturally allows students to guide their own learning in an open-ended assessment.Giving the students a CYOA allows it to be naturally open-ended and for students to guide themselves. With a teacher/coach present, it also allows for natural opportunities to scaffold.
Does this assessment provide insight to levels of understanding?The idea that students can choose different paths of varying difficulty should not only allow for insight into different levels of understanding but also pinpoint them to specific areas of understanding, too.This assessment very well could provide insight into levels of understanding. There are questions based off of internal grammar (rules, etc) and external grammar (strategies, etc). So, not only can one understand if the player knows how to play lacrosse, but also indicates if there is a particular area of strength/weakness.
Does this assessment provide effective feedback for learning?First and foremost, it’s important to note that the feedback is based solely off of an individuals decision making (ie not taking other student’s actions into account). Allowing for immediate feedback off of the process and tasks that the student has chosen to perform (you scored a goal/defended one) should also provide effective feedback for the student.I believe this assessment does. Immediately after each passage is chosen the user is told whether that was the desired response or not. There are some opportunities to go back and rework the solution, and some that tell the player immediately that it was the incorrect answer and why.
Does this assessment inform instruction?The biggest thing that needs to be ensured is that the teacher can see the progress and decision-making that every student makes. If those results are available, then this assessment using Twine should inform instruction.It appears there is a code out there that will provide insight into the answers chosen. Should a coach be present while students are doing this assessment, I think they would gather enough information to inform assessment. That being said, it would be a lot more beneficial if the program naturally tallied chosen paths to better inform assessment.
Does this assessment have clear goals/criteria?sThere needs to be a clear goal of this game. I envision that a player chooses whether they wish to be defensive or offensive and from there a goal will be set (defend or score). Assuming this takes place, the assessment will have a clear goal.I would still maintain that this assessment does have clear goals and criteria. From the get go, it is stated that you either are aiming to “Score a goal” or “Defend the goal.”


Overall, I found this to be a very enlightening way to assess lacrosse players. While not perfect (I would still love to mess around with it more to get stats on each play), I do think it is a valuable resource. Furthermore, I think it is a FUN way of assessing, which is important to me as a coach!

Want to play the game? Check it out HERE. Remember, only the defensive side is really built out!

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