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  1. Matt Silberglitt
  2. http://simscientists.org/
  3. Senior Research Associate
  5. WestEd, Intelligent Automation Inc
  1. Edys Quellmalz
  2. https://www.wested.org/personnel/edys-quellmalz/
  3. Director Technology Enhanced Assessment and Learning Systems
  5. WestEd

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

NSF Awards: 1503481

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

This video showcases ecosystem games under development to be used in classrooms as formative assessment resources during a middle school unit on ecosystems. The game designs are shaped by the frameworks of system modeling and evidence-centered assessment design. Ecosystems Game 1 is a 45-minute, in-class game designed to follow a  SimScienitsts curriculum-embedded assessment on building food web models of the flow of energy and matter in an ecosystem.  Game 1 reinforces and extends students’ use of NGSS ecosystem core ideas, practices, and cross-cutting concepts in  formative assessment gameplay that produces evidence of learning progress. Game 2 will provide formative assessment information on population dynamics.

The games also provide opportunities for assessment of collaboration through dialogs with a virtual scientist and peer. These games-as-assessment are inserted into ongoing ecosystem instruction after curriculum-embedded simulation-based assessments, both of which will generate individual and class-level Progress Reports on specified NGSS assessment targets.

Development of game 1 is in progress. Initial playtesting has shown the promise of the games for engaging students in fun and authentic problem solving as they collect clues and build a food web, while collaborating with a virtual peer and scientist to construct explanations, argue from evidence, and make predictions about possible problems for the focal organism in the game: fennec foxes. The game was also a finalist in the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), where it was tried out by 100s of students and by other game developers and researchers. Feedback from use of these early prototypes informed revisions to the game prototype. Classroom feasibility testing is planned for mid-April; successively larger pilot tests of the full suite of ecosystems assessments and games are planned in subsequent school years.

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Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase (9 posts)
  • Icon for: Matt Silberglitt

    Matt Silberglitt

    Lead Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 15, 2017 | 10:01 a.m.

    Hello and welcome to our presentation on SimScientists Games. The games are part of a suite of computer-based modules for middle school ecosystems that includes simulations and games, embedded into a teacher's regular instruction on the topic. The simulations and games provide real-time feedback to students and feedback to students and teachers that can be used formatively, to adjust and differentiate instruction, in addition to a summative, simulation-based assessment at the end of the unit. As you view the presentation, consider how simulations and games can be part of instruction and part of a multi-level system of assessments from classroom embedded, end-of-unit, interim, to the end of the year.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Pati Ruiz
  • Icon for: Pati Ruiz

    Pati Ruiz

    Dean of Studies, CSHNYC
    May 16, 2017 | 09:17 a.m.

    Hi! Thank you for sharing your project. It looks like a great opportunity to help students develop problem-solving and collaboration skills. Have you thought of having students play the game in pairs or is it meant to be played individually. Also are you thinking of developing a training module for teachers to be able to use the reports effectively?

    This seems like a good game for informal learning environments as well, will you be testing in informal learning environments? I look forward to hearing more!

  • Icon for: Edys Quellmalz

    Edys Quellmalz

    Director Technology Enhanced Assessment and Learning Systems
    May 16, 2017 | 04:19 p.m.

    Students can talk together as they play, however teachers seem to prefer getting progress reports for individual students to use as formative assessment. The SimScientists projects have developed online PD that includes guidance on how teachers can use the progress reports to differentiate and adjust instruction. Our current research plan for our NSF grant is to study classroom use of the games as they reinforce and extend concepts and practices the progress reports from the prior curriculum-embedded simulation-based assessment indicate need strengthening.

  • Icon for: Rowena Douglas

    Rowena Douglas

    Program Officer; Asst. Executive Director; Director for PD
    May 17, 2017 | 03:35 p.m.

    Greetings.  Great work!  Love this! As you develop the game(s) do you find that teachers who have been given more professional development in using certain (such as NSF funded) instructional materials for ecosystems have greater success in differentiating and adjusting their instruction? 

  • Icon for: Matt Silberglitt

    Matt Silberglitt

    Lead Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 21, 2017 | 11:34 p.m.

    Hi Rowena,

    Thanks for your interest in the project. We provide PD to teachers as part of the project. We haven't tracked participation in other types of PD.

  • Icon for: Amy Kamarainen

    Amy Kamarainen

    May 17, 2017 | 05:31 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your work. It looks really exciting - we are hungry for assessments that are aligned with NGSS. Is there a way we could try the assessments? They may be a nice complement to our research on ecosystem science learning through virtual environments (e.g., EcoXPT). Also, do you think these could be used or adapted to serve the needs of younger children (e.g., 3rd grade)? 

  • Icon for: Matt Silberglitt

    Matt Silberglitt

    Lead Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 21, 2017 | 11:35 p.m.

    Hi Amy,

    Thank you for your interest in the project. Please contact us directly at wested.org if you would like to follow up.

  • Icon for: Lisa Samford

    Lisa Samford

    Executive Director
    May 17, 2017 | 05:55 p.m.

    This seems like a project that could be very easily adapted for a slightly younger audience, as well. Is there a group-play component? How will this be distributed to educators/classrooms?


  • Icon for: Matt Silberglitt

    Matt Silberglitt

    Lead Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 21, 2017 | 11:38 p.m.

    Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for your interest in the project. Students will play individually or in pairs. It will be distributed via our Learning Management System (LMS) developed for the SimScientists program. This allows teachers to review students' results individually or by class, and is designed to allow quick, convenient formative use of the data.

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.