Learning games as tools for learning and assessment in higher education
This paper reports results from a study which employed and evaluated the use of a digital Escape room game as a learning and assessment tool in English linguistics courses in Norway. Students in Norway usually have high communicative competence in English. However, students who enroll in English programs often struggle to understand linguistic terminology and many fall behind during the first weeks, which makes it difficult to follow the more advanced lectures later in the semester. Research on motivation shows that learners with higher levels of intrinsic motivation, specifically when they experience competence, autonomy, and relatedness, perform better, and playing games as part of the learning process can contribute to students' motivation and their willingness to invest time in their own learning. To test this premise, the author has developed and tested a digital Escape room game targeting English morphosyntax and phonetics using Active Presenter software. The game was played by six student groups (n=110) under several conditions (as a learning task or an assessment task, in groups or individually, in class or at home). The participating students were invited to an anonymous online survey (answered by n=75) which mapped the time spent, gaming experience, success rate, and attitudes towards games used as learning and assessment tools. The results show that the students invested the most time and reported the highest gains in the high-stakes condition (assessment task). However, a high degree of communication among students was reported regardless of whether they were asked to work individually or in groups. It is thus concluded that a game of this type is more suitable for formative assessment where the desired outcome of the assessment is increased learning than for summative assessment or final evaluation in a higher education course or a study program.
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