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  • Writer's pictureJames Kerr

Peer Reflection: Assessment and Video Game Sample

For this assignment, the goal was to play a video

game that was specifically designed as an

assessment. The first goal for this reflection was to

consider what semiodic domain (defined by

James Paul Gee in 2003 as "any set of practices that recruits one or more modalities") was chosen for the game. The game, created by Quinn Levandoski, is based on an Arther Miller play, "The Crucible."

Employing the backdrop of play, diverse semiodic domains are possible. Students need to grow an

appreciation for language and culture of a New England community in the late 1600s, but not just any community, a space in time and setting famous for witch trials. The story is recounted here in the format of a play which in itself has unique structure, including plot and setting, and in particular for this assessment, dialogue. The play has its own forms including acts and scenes. Students encounter the basic structure of a play while they also must gain an understanding of the history that informs the characters' actions in the context of the play's plot.

As I consider what I know about this domain, I find that I am somewhat familiar with the Salem witch trials. I have seen the Crucible performed live on stage and on television. I know a little about the historical setting, and I understand that the play is based on real historical events. The spiritual interactions of Puritan authority and social structure in a new world context define rule-based restrictive life in Salem. There may be specific vocabulary associated with setting of the late 1600s, but I cannot say that I would be familiar with many terms that are unique to the setting. I am very experienced with the semiotic domain of drama, including how a play is written, as a book or script, and all of the associated specific directions that appear in the book for a play. I have a great appreciation for dialogue and the role that it plays in the formation of meaning for a character in a play.

Based on my knowledge and experience, I thought I would be successful in the game, even before I had my first opportunity to play it. From the onset, it appears that to do well might mean that I make choices that lead the judges to accept my arguments to save my life. If I can persuade the judges using effective dialogue, I can avoid the fate of many of my peers.

I do not know how my performance will be evaluated, but I feel comfortable with having choices of dialogue to deliver.

I learned as I played the game that an understanding of the Ten Commandments might have been an advantage. I eventually learned that it made no difference to the final outcome of the game if I was well versed in the knowledge of the Ten Commandments or if I was completely uniformed. The outcome for this game was the same, as it also was in the Salem witch trials.

The plan, as I understand it, is that students will play the role of an accused Salem resident. By playing the game, a student will gain a greater appreciation for the culture of accusation and the format of the trials that existed in Salem. By experiencing the game several times and choosing several options, the students find how flawed the system was, and also how fruitless any testimony was against the pre-decision of the Salem court. This experience serves as a springboard for classroom discussion which will be a vehicle for receiving feedback from students, and providing feedback to students. Based on the feedback, the teacher can plan the next steps of instruction.

Reflecting on this online game assessment based on my Assessment Design Checklist, I have the following observations:

1) Are the assessment goals specific? The goal is to play the game, to follow the sequence of questions and make choices. Through a student’s decisions, an argument for the fate of the student will be presented. Within the game parameters, the context of the Salem community is more fully grasped. Students may more fully understand the context and flaws in the spirituality of the Salem community by participating in their own defense. By playing the game, students deepen their appreciation for the unfair treatment of some Salem community members.

2) Does the assessment factor in the needs of varied students? There are no accommodations for students who may have visual impairment. However, students appear to have access to a Chromebook, and the Chromebook features may extend support.

3) Does this assessment require students to practice self-regulation? Students have to make decisions. The decisions are based on information provided in the game. Students encounter one question at a time, and then choose an option. Self-regulation requires a student to press on through the game until the student's fate becomes known.

4) Is the feedback in this formative assessment timely? Students receive immediate feedback based on their choices.

5) How does the assessment inform my teaching going forward? The next step in the instructional plan provides students with an opportunity to discuss what they encountered in the Salem culture. By using the game as a personalized experience, students have new understanding of the Salem community and its malfunctions. The personal experience leads to the same end for each student, but students may wish to reflect on how the game related to their understanding or appreciation of the characters that are portrayed in the drama. Can they identify with any of the characters? Do any of the experiences in the play relate to their current personal experience in their social context? The game experience should be very helpful to generate a meaningful discussion, which might reveal what the students learned by playing the game and lead to transfer and application in contemporary settings.

The game fits into broader plan of the principles of assessment by addressing where the assessment sits in the progression of learning. The game is designed as experienced-based learning, providing an innovative and alternative venue to approach the learning goals for the assessment. The online game supports clearly stated objectives. The student and the teacher both receive timely feedback that can be useful to support the next steps in instructional design.

The game has a solid design. One possible alternative would be to allow students to choose a role within the game as judge or defendant or accuser. Students might gain a greater perspective if they could experience the trial from differing playing perspectives.


Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

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