Unobtrusive Assessment

One key feature to my game idea is to use unobtrusive assessments. Involving players in some sort of obvious test activity at the beginning of the game would eliminate the possibility of a player approaching this game as a game. It will be obvious that this game is a learning activity, a school task, not a game. So it is important that assessment throughout the game is done in the background. Players will not know that the game is pulling data, making inferences, and re-shuffling the learning environment “deck” to serve up the next activity the player will need in order to succeed.

In order to be successful in the game, players will have to understand and be able to compute within the base-ten number system. If they can’t, the first tasks will involve concept-based activities that feel like a game but get at the concepts underlying the base-ten number system. Once they are in that game, their actions in the game will serve to assess their understanding. The data resulting from their actions will build upon each other fine-tuning the data-based inference results.

But before they can be placed within any of the tasks/scenarios of the game, some minimal assessment needs to occur. I need to consider several questions before I can determine the type of task that would provide the data needed to determine a player’s understanding of the base-ten number system. These questions include:

  1. What do people do in everyday situations that show their basic understanding of the base-ten number system?
  2. What are the important elements in these situations?
  3. What do people need to know and do, beyond manipulating mathematical symbols, that is related to the base-ten number system?

Using some guidance and an assessment planning tool from, On the Structure of Educational Assessments [1], I created the following diagram to show my thinking around the initial assessment. The basis for the initial assessment idea comes from Gersten and Chard [2].


[1] Mislevy, R. J., Steinberg, L. S., & Almond, R. G. (2003). On the structure of educational assessments. Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Perspectives, 1(1), 3–62. doi:10.1207/S15366359MEA0101_02

[2] Gersten, R., & Chard, D. (1999). Number Sense Rethinking Arithmetic Instruction for Students with Mathematical Disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 33(1), 18–28. doi:10.1177/002246699903300102

AECT Standards

1.1 Instructional Systems Design
One key aspect to designing an instructional system is knowing what you want the student to learn. Once you know that, the next step is to plan the assessment. The assessment is the “bones” of the system. Without it, you can have wonderful activities that go completely astray and go around the mastery of the skill you wanted the student to learn.

1.3 Instructional Strategies
It is important to be aware of foundational skills in mathematics. Number sense skills are the foundation to math, much like phonics skills are foundational to reading. Knowing this, you know where the “fall back” position is. If students struggle in any area in mathematics, number sense is suspect.

2.3 Computer-Based Technologies
Embedded assessment is an exciting possibility with computer-based technologies. Technology is great at collecting data and, following programming rules, use the data to guide user experience. “Data-based decision making” is a high priority in education and technology can make it easy and effective.