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Assessment Frameworks for Epistemic Games

Final Report Summary - AFEG (Assessment Frameworks for Epistemic Games)

Contemporary video games are profoundly engaging and motivating to young people, and a growing body of research on epistemic games, or games based on professional practices shows that games that simulate professional training can make deep and powerful learning available to students. This project addressed a critical issue in the use of such game technologies for learning, namely: How can we assess innovative and creative thinking developed by computer games? We addressed this question by developing a tool to distinguish between novice and expert thinking in the problems, concepts, and domain of the innovative profession of urban planning. In so doing, we also formed an international collaboration between researchers in the Netherlands and the United States in the assessment of game-based learning and innovative thinking.

Unless we can assess meaningful development of innovative and creative thinking through professional training, there is no way to test the efficacy of epistemic games as learning tools for the digital age of global competition. Such games provide students with authentic real life learning experiences, with their complexity and limitations, and stimulate students to more higher-order thinking processes and active learning. However, it is imperative that assessment practices also change to being based on a theory of game-based learning.
To accomplish this, we developed an international collaborative, including researchers from the United States and the European Union, and developed a new online assessment instrument to identify the ways of thinking characteristic of the profession of urban planning.

Dr. David Williamson Shaffer, a leading educational games researcher from the University of Wisconsin—Madison visited Utrecht University from August 2009 to August 2010. As a result of Dr. Shaffer’s visit:

1. The Epistemic Assessment Collaborative was formed including researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Utrecht University, and the Open University of the Netherlands.
2. An online instrument for determining expertise in urban planning, the Urban Planning Epistemic Inventory (UPEI) was developed and pilot tested in the Netherlands. The results of the pilot were disseminated in a technical report.
3. The UPEI is being tested in the United States, and the results will be analyzed by members of the international collaborative.

The online instrument, described in more detail in the technical report, uses clinical interview questions asking players to explain their understanding of professional practice [4-6] , and transfer scenarios asking players to analyze problem situations in urban planning [4, 5, 7].
The instrument was analyzed by collecting data from experts and novices in the field of urban planning, and using epistemic network analysis, a new statistical and measurement technique developed by members of the EAC, to assess their relative performance. (Details are available in the technical report.)

The work of the project is documented on the Epistemic Assessment Collaborative website: