Recently I did some reading about using games for assessment. It certainly sounds like more fun than a pencil paper assessment! The author used the phrase semiotic domains which are “any set of practices that recruits one or more modalities to communicate distinctive types of meanings” (Gee, 2003, pg. 18). In my best estimation I teach a semiotic domain — cooking. Cooking is a certainly a set of practices and it uses written language, images, symbols, sounds, smells, tastes, graphs, etc. to communicate distinctive types of meanings. For example, the definition of something as simple as fruit is different in a cooking domain than a biology domain. We use sounds and smells to indicate proper cooking.
After my reading I started to consider whether I could find a natural way to use a game based assessment in cooking. A great place to start would be with recipes. There are a lot of choices and consequences related to following a recipe. The choices and their related consequences are the “procedural rhetoric” (Bogost, 2007, pg. 3) of a game.
This is the plan I came up with…
I will create a game that asks students to cut a baking recipe in half and make decisions as they “make” the recipe. The decisions that they make will lead to acceptable or unacceptable baking outcomes. For example, usually when you ask someone to cut something in half, all parts get cut in half. However, in baking when you cut a recipe in half the baking temperature typically stays the same. The students will have to look at the content as though they are a chef.
I can use this game to assess students understanding of baking principles such as measurement and mise en place which have meanings that are specific to baking and different in other contexts. Also, I can assess whether the students are thinking like a chef with this game. If they make decisions that are contrary to those a chef would make then they are not “being a chef”. In the end of the game they will reach outcomes that reflect the decisions that they made along the way. From those outcomes I can make inferences about the success of the previous lessons and determine whether we can move on or spend more time reviewing this topic.
As always when I am creating an assessment I need to line it up with my Assessment Design Checklist. My checklist requires that the assessment connects to the goals of the unit or course. Reading a recipe and adjusting a recipe are goals of the course so this certainly matches that requirement. Another requirement on my checklist is that the assessment should inform future learning. Since this assessment will be used to determine whether to move on or review the topic it completes this requirement as well.
This is the game I made with that plan…
It plays out more like a formative self-assessment than a summative “grade book” assessment. The students will find out what they know about changing a recipe and have chances to make better decisions when their original doesn’t turn out well. In order to get a picture of what they knew and didn’t I would need them to report out at the end. I can’t sit beside all 80 students while they play this game. They would need to write a summary at the end of what they got right on the first try and how they can improve their performance next time. This summary would be used to determine the next lessons in our class.
Reflection on the Process –
In case you were wondering, I used Twinery.org to create this game. It’s pretty simple to use once you get the hang of it and could even be used by students. The problem is that the html code for your game is not saved in a permanent location and this creates an issue. You can download it but giving it to others to play is tricky. WordPress would not allow it to be embedded in this site because it said it was possibly dangerous code. After a few hours of hair pulling frustration I found a place to store it. I created a free account on neocities.org and created a site just for this code. I’m not sure it was the best solution but it was the only one I came up with that didn’t cost me any extra money. I’m a teacher with a family and that means there isn’t a lot of extra money lying around!
Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.