Most primary school testing is done through paper-and-pencil tests or computer versions of those tests. Such tests are usually given after instruction in an attempt to measure student learning. But there are flaws in this model; outside of school, how often are paper-and-pencil tests used to measure competency? Rather than being part of a learning activity, school tests are not only separate from the learning, but they carry the stress of judgment of the student that may have consequences.
The American K-12 education system, which had been the gold standard of teaching and learning around the world, has now been overtaken by many nations. In general, those more successful schools have been more innovative and disciplined in their teaching strategies than U.S. schools. In response to this challenge, American educators and policy makers have turned to increased testing in the hope of identifying learning problems early both in individuals and in entire schools.
Class Compete is designed primarily to train students to be as comfortable taking timed tests as they are playing computer games. While games and testing may seem to be unrelated, they actually have much in common. Both can be challenging, but in a game environment, students welcome the challenge. Both reward quick analysis and response, and both assess performance with a score at the end. Familiar game elements create a less threatening learning environment in which students use their game-style multitasking skills to engage more deeply in solving academic problems, all to improve their game performance. Fast, accurate answers earn the student coins, faster times for completing the race, and a higher score.
This approach has been highly successful in teaching skills to adults such as first responders, healthcare workers, and military personnel. Class Compete attempts to focus these powerful ideas of game-based learning into a game-based assessment system that is well designed to address some of our pressing learning problems in individual students and in entire schools.
Students benefit from learning to apply test-taking strategies in the “real-time” game environment. These strategies include:
The inclusion of game elements such as creating an individualized avatar, collecting coins, racing against a clock, and having a designation of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for students based upon their score results in students approaching the challenges with a “game mindset” instead of a “school test mindset.” The game elements help to answer academic questions as though it was a computer game!
The greatest strength of Class Compete is the way academic questions are embedded in an engaging game format. The questions are not just “bolted on” to an existing game, but rather the game was thoughtfully designed to fit the sequence and timing of answering academic questions, even providing a mental break between questions.
Good games are highly motivating to players, and Class Compete dares to use the motivation for high scores and winning a game to help students practice and master academic content. Our team, their children, and the data analysis from pilot schools all suggest that Class Compete is an effective approach to learning and assessment.