Friday, 29 June 2018

Assessment in Minecraft - Take 1 Million and ONE!

I am squarely placing the blame for this post on Neal Manegold! Well ok, so I cannot actually blame Neal for my thinking, but he prodded, and now I am going down a whole other thought process that requires a brain dump, so be prepared if you keep reading!
That tweet from Neal in response to my previous post is what prompted another look at my thinking, and what it was I was trying to get out through that last post. The idea proposed by Neal is awesome, and a great way of capturing student thinking while working in Minecraft. The initial issue from the previous post is still the same; How do I as a teacher get timely, and 'easy' access to this artifact of student thinking and progression?

It also prompts the following questions; If the artifact is in the game, and I still think feedback is important if we are looking at thinking processes, where should the feedback be? Should it be in game with the artifact, or is it OK that it is out of game and slightly removed? Is there any difference in the impact on students if the feedback is in the game and part of the artifact or out of game and slightly removed?

While stewing on those questions, and how we could try to resolve them or find some research (or do some research) to answer them, a new thought developed. When does something become a summative assessment rather than a formative assessment? Is it only when the learner is not provided with the feedback and opportunity to further develop and improve? If that is the case, then in theory, any reflection from a student on the thinking they went through, or learning they demonstrated is simply an opportunity for the teacher (and student) to go either the summative or formative path. This may well depend on the 'next task' or future opportunities and how the previous task, and any feedback impact on the path taken in the new task. Convoluted? Yup, welcome to my brain!

There are so many 'what if's' flying around in my head and yet again I feel like I am asking more questions than I am answering, but that is ok! I also know that what I am 'looking for' here is not a reality... YET! But I genuinely think it can be, I have seen what I valued from students in my own classroom, what I was using to assess them, and how I was actually assessing students all change just because I started using games in my classroom. It was not a small shift, but it was a very abrupt change, it didn't take years upon years to shift, it took possibly 1 year of really using games, and utilising them as a basis for student discussion so that I could 'hear' the students thinking and approaches, their understandings, 'aha' moments and stumbling blocks.

I am not sure I have said it in public(or writing) before, but I think Minecraft, as a 'gateway drug' for teachers (thanks go to Bron Stuckey for that simile) to using games in educational settings, has the potential to really disrupt and change the way the current education system works, at least here in Victoria. I also think it will likely be for the better. It will be far from easy, and I certainly don't think the path is clear, but the possibility is there! To shift the focus from a knowledge centric system of grading and assessment to something more relevant to the current, and possibly future, needs of our community.

Now by no means am I suggesting we throw everything out, there is a transition stage here, where we still need to look at competencies, and the current curriculum and assess 'Minecraft learning' against that. This will help grow, and support, the use of Minecraft (and hopefully other games) in classrooms, however I would hope for a gradual shift to the 'journey of learning' being the key focus, and the part we use to support and develop our students, not just the 'final product' of knowledge.

OK, enough brain dumping and rambling for now. As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any comments, leave them below, or reach out on other platforms, as Neal did!


  1. On the question of feedback within the game vs what other educational medium would you ever get/provide feedback within the activity? For example, reading some text might include some self-assessment question after each passage but not usually shared with the teacher during the reading itself. Doing a science experiment would rarely include any assessment within the procedure beyond "can this student follow directions?". So, I would think providing feedback within the game itself to be a unique event outside of what students would be used to.

    1. You make a really good point there Matt, when providing feedback, in general it is separate to the item being looked at, but that is where I start to wonder, how much more impact (if any) would the feedback have it was 'part' of the item?

      Not being a language teacher, but from what I have seen, when providing feedback on student writing, isn't it a key part that it is centered on the piece itself? There are all these great ways of assessing writing, using 'living' documents to track suggestions and changes, even audio overlays while editing the piece. That kind of feedback is edging closer to the 'thoughtful' feedback I am thinking about.

      I wonder what Minecraft could do to support this kind of feedback system, where the feedback is 'part of the process' rather than something tacked on the end to support the 'grading' of students.

      We both know that Minecraft provides a very unique opportunity in classrooms to change the way students present their work and their understanding, but as of yet, it doesn't change the assessment, and that is what I would like to see, a change in the way we value student learning and how we assess them.

      Again, as I said above, I know that this is far from a reality at this point, but I think we are at a point where the shift could start to happen, with the right tools and supports in place. What those tools and supports are, is what I think, I am trying to nut out, and if I am being honest, I am not sure where we could even start at this point, but that is why a discussion is important.

      Thanks for your comment Matt, I really appreciate you joining in!