1. Charlie Mahoney
  3. WestEd
  1. Andrew Grillo-Hill
  2. Co-Principal Investigator
  4. WestEd
  1. Matt Silberglitt
  2. http://simscientists.org/
  3. Senior Research Associate
  5. WestEd

SimScientists Games: Development of Simulation-Based Game Designs to Enhance ...

NSF Awards: 1503481

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

This project embeds formative assessment into two games that engage students in applying scientific practices and the crosscutting concept of energy and matter flows to their understanding of ecosystem components, interactions, and population dynamics. The games are part of a suite of simulation-based formative assessments for middle school science, and include real-time feedback and coaching from virtual scientists, as well as opportunities to collaborate with virtual peers. Dialogs between the player, scientists, and peers generate a game narrative while also assessing the player’s scientific explanations and providing helpful feedback to the players.
In order to gather a wider range of data on players’ understanding, the game employs “stealth assessment” to track the natural actions that players make during gameplay. These data, along with players’ responses to chats from the virtual scientist and peer, are used in an evidence model for interpreting student's progress in mastering NGSS practices such as Developing and Using Models and Engaging in Argument from Evidence. Along with the other SimScientists modules, assessment data are provided to teachers to inform classroom instruction.
In the current phase of development, the project is using evidence from playtesting to refine the interface, dialogs, and evidence models in preparation for pilot testing in middle school science classrooms. Data from think-aloud studies, classroom observations, and logs of students' use of the games will be used to further improve the games and our understanding of how games can be used as formative assessments for science learning.

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