Innovation In School Testing

January 27, 2017

A better way to test students has emerged: Video games may be able to replace standardized tests and provide more accurate data through an engaging learning environment. 

By Alex Deitz

Editor’s Note: The Millennial Voices series is written by and for Millennials to foster nonpartisan discussion. Alex Deitz is a senior at the University of Oregon. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

As the use of standardized tests in public schools increases, so does the evidence of its limits. The future of standardized testing could look very different from current systems like the Common Core.

Superior to standard written exams, video game-based assessments are emerging as the next generation of school testing: A student’s academic proficiency can be measured more successfully through interactive video games than standardized tests.

Source: GlassLab Institute of Play

Game-based assessments are video games that students play to measure aptitude in a variety of different subjects and skills. The software creates a report by recording students’ choices and actions as they play the game.

“We are creating a suite of interactive assessments that evaluate the choice to critically think, persist, plan, seek negative feedback, pursue a general explanation, and more.”

— AAA Lab

Two main companies are pioneering these games: AAA Lab at Stanford University and the Institute of Play’s project Glass Lab. According to the Institute of Play, educational games are designed in a partnership between commercial game creators and learning experts. These games are being developed specifically for the purpose of measuring student ability and future success.

Source: AAA Lab at Stanford University

They do so by showing students thought process through “learning in action.” In other words, these tests can track how students utilize their problem solving skills while they are leaning. This data can provide better insight to a student’s overall intelligence, as opposed to standardized tests, which are inherently limited by their focus on knowledge previously obtained.

Game-based assessments have an additional value in allowing students to engage creatively with the learning process. Creativity can easily become stifled when the curriculum is geared toward standardized tests. There is nothing imaginative about filling in test bubbles. With game based assessments though, more aspects of intelligence, like imagination and creativity, can play a role in measuring a student’s overall intelligence.

Source: Flickr, Creative Commons

In addition, the high level of anxiety students often experience during exams is enough to depress results, making it challenging to extract accurate data from standardized tests. Interactive games, on the other hand, are able to reduce testing anxiety for many students and increase student engagement.

Using game-based assessments gives teachers the freedom to create distinct lesson plans and to provide students with a more diverse education. Video games also have the potential to create a more engaging learning environment. Overall, standardized tests fail in comparison to game based assessments to evaluate student’s current intelligence and future learning potential.

Alex Deitz is the MAP Operations intern and a senior at the University of Oregon, majoring in political science with a minor in public speaking. As a Gilman scholar, she spent time studying comparative politics in Russia and has since focused on research in constitutional law.

As a tax-exempt nonprofit organization governed by Section 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, Millennial Action Project (MAP) is generally prohibited from attempting to influence legislative bodies in regards to policy and legislation. It is important to note guest authors frequently take firm stances on issues and policy matters that are currently being debated by policymakers; when they do, however, they speak for themselves and not for MAP, its board, council or employees.

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