Gamification and assessment

19. October 2016

(Team of Advisor in the Education Office, Spanish Embassy for the UK and Northern Ireland)

There is one element of the curriculum that we teachers are concerned and feel worried about. It is assessment above all, that is a big issue due to the fact that it does not only assess pupils’ knowledge, but their competencies, skills, strategies and attitudes as well. We are not worried about dealing with the assessment process in general. But we tend to have difficulty selecting those assessment tools that are most suitable for both teachers’ and pupils’ needs and interests. Moreover, it is indeed a difficult task to find an assessment tool which measures a student’s level of knowledge in a modern foreign language while being motivating and engaging at the same time.

Nowadays, games are essential elements in the learning process of modern foreign languages and therefore, it is something teachers are aware of when designing their schemes of work. Bearing in mind this aspect, teachers do not only take games into account they play with the children physically, but also computer games that are on digital platforms. Games have become an indispensable element in teaching, as they are considered suitable for teaching, but appealing and motivating for pupils at the same time. The use of games, game elements or game principles in teaching is called gamification.

Gamification covers not just the use of games that can be tried in the classroom but also the scenario of the classroom that changes its physical set-up in order to make playing games possible. This new approach in language learning also means that ICT has moved into classrooms and has even changed the interior. Computer games help students getting familiar with current technology as part of the learning process. Nevertheless, teachers usually use digital games in their classes as a resource for students to acquire knowledge, but not for assessment.

The question is what would happen if there was a game that assesses students’ level of knowledge in a modern foreign language, according to international learning standards? Is this thinkable, programmable, possible to develop and use at all?

The answer to this question is THE LANGUAGE MAGICIAN, a test of 40 minutes which evaluates primary students’ knowledge in the learning of a modern foreign language assessing three skills: reading, listening and writing. This tool is a multi-platform game where pupils choose their avatar of a young magician apprentice in order to save animals that have been captured by an evil magician. Throughout the 40 minutes that the test lasts, pupils are playing an engaging and appealing game. By solving language tasks, they save animals and work their way up a dark tower, floor by floor, until they reach the final scenario. While the pupils are playing, the tool is analysing over 125 items. The result informs the teacher about the level of their pupils’ knowledge in the acquisition of a modern foreign language – on top of that, results are available instantly without marking.

This assessment tool makes it clear how meaningful gamification can be in the classroom – a truly innovative tool has been developed to support educators in the most challenging area of teaching and to bring some fun into the assessment process. What would happen if…? The vision is that one day assessment will be unthinkable without computer assistance and computer games.


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