AGENCY AND LEARNING
AGENCY AND LEARNING IN IMMERSIVE AND VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS (ALIVE)
Current assessment approaches are inadequate at identifying how students develop critical and reflective thinking – competencies key to education and careers in the 21st century. Facilitating authentic problem solving and scientific inquiry through environments similar to video games has shown considerable promise in the assessment literature. The Agency for Learning in Immersive and Virtual Environments (ALIVE) project builds on a successful SSHRC Insight Development Grant, which examined how 3D immersive virtual assessments (3DIVEs) and game-based environments can be designed to formatively assess inquiry learning. As an analytic assessment instrument, we found that 3DIVEs can be designed to simulate authentic tasks where students apply knowledge and reasoning to situations similar to those they encounter in the real world – such as conditions that approximate how scientists and engineers work through problems. The results were instructive and have led to further questions around – and how students make choices and think creatively to solve problems through inquiry learning in these novel contexts.
As creative thinking, problem-solving and inquiry learning are primary goals of teaching and learning, immersive and virtual environments designed using principles relevant to solving authentic ill-structured problems are critical for lifelong learning and transfer to novel contexts. Further, on the axiom that ‘learners are agents’, it follows that an understanding of human agency is necessary to fully appreciate how learning occurs. Agency is an emergent capability manifested in a students’ ability to interact with personal, behavioural, environmental, and social factors in the learning context. Agency is inherent in students’ ability to regulate, control, and monitor their learning. Research suggests that agency mediates goal orientations, student perceptions of the learning environment, social identification, the learning strategies they use, and overall academic performance. Agency enables students’ decision-making around what and howsomething is learned. In other words, learner agency is a capacity of students to act and engage within the learning environment, ultimately enabling student voice and choice in their education. Building on our previous SSHRC-funded research using evidence-centred game design (ECGD), this project aims to examine learner agency and complex STEM inquiry reasoning by enhancing a novel evaluation framework built on the use of 3DIVEs as a formative assessment platform.
Jillianne Code, PhD
Rachel Ralph, PhD
Centre for Digital Media
Nick Zap, PhD
Paula MacDowell PhD