 An online education project
designed to engage
students in learning civics
 It is a legacy project of
Justice Sandra Da...
A formative evaluation of the Balance of
Power game and Curriculum was
conducted to determine:
The extent to which the in...
The extent to which the instructional
program meets the needs of the users;
The extent to which the instructional
progra...
Students will learn the primary functions of
each branch of the federal government
Students will learn how well the bran...
The data sources for the Balance of Power
evaluation included:
Program participants (students);
Program instructors;
Ex...
There were approximately 28 student
participants: 16 males and 12 females, ranging
from 12-15 years old, in an 8th grade s...
The lesson plan instruction took place in a
regular classroom, while the game play
took place in a school computer lab wh...
 An initial lesson plan was taught on day
one.
 Day two of the field test consisted of
students playing the Balance of P...
 The follow-up lesson plan was taught on
day four and then a second 12-item posttest
was administered to students.
 Inte...
Two interesting
survey results:
Students would
rather learn through
games and they felt
they had a better
understanding of...
The teacher either agreed or strongly agreed
to all of the survey questions.
The teacher indicated that she felt the
stu...
The students interviewed indicated that
they liked the Balance of Power game and
lessons very well.
Limited time prevent...
The Balance of Power game engaged the
students and increased their interest in the
subject matter, particularly in refere...
The results indicate that the instructional
unit as a whole is meeting its stated
instructional goals.
An increase in te...
The student surveys also indicated that the
students felt that they learned new
information regarding how the three branc...
Areas of perceived improvement for the
instructional package:
The improvement of technological
problems, which may have r...
Minor revisions to the game itself including
a larger character selection and removal of
town hall questions that student...
Determining methods of engaging more of
the female students who indicate that they
do not regularly play video games.
De...
This instructional plan could also be tested
with a different middle school class with a
traditional 55 minute class peri...
Improvements to this current study include
conducting a higher number of student
interviews as well as the teacher
interv...
A special thank you to Nikki Gusz and
Abby Taylor for their help and guidance
during this study.
Thank you to Justice Sand...
Our courts presentation
Our courts presentation
Our courts presentation
Our courts presentation
Our courts presentation
Our courts presentation
Our courts presentation
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Our courts presentation

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  • Our Courts was the former name of the iCivics project.
  • The game is now called Branches of Power instead of Balance of PowerThe Balance of Power game is among the stable of games being offered by iCivics and it is designed to help students understand the process the three branches of government go through in order to make a law. Additionally, students learn how each branch is necessary to balance each other.Students can choose from multiple social issues and walk the issue through a town hall, a press conference, a congressional meeting and a presidential approval depending upon the branch of government they are exploring. The game emphasizes the need to balance the three branches and receive approval from all three before a bill can become a law. The pre-game lesson plan walks the students through creating a mock bill and the post-lesson plan reinforces the role that citizens play in the process of sponsoring a bill. The combined pre-game lesson, game play, and post-game lesson are planned to take four class days. The instructional unit includes handouts, overheads, a PowerPoint, and answer keys in addition to the lesson plan.
  • A mixed-method evaluation approach was used in the evaluation of the Balance of Power instructional unit: data was collected from these sources in the form of attitudinal surveys, pretest and posttest, Interview and observation checklists.
  • The pretest and posttest results consists of 20 students, as eight of the students did not complete all three tests. The pretest was issued prior to day one, before the implementation of the “What’s for Lunch?” pre- game lesson plan that accompanies the Balance of Power instructional package.
  • The results for the pre-test are shown in Table 2. The mean percentage for the entire pre-test was 43%. Additionally, the questions were broken down into the four topic categories as illustrated in Table 2. The first posttest was issued after game play on day three of the instructional module. The results of this test show a slight improvement over the pre-test, a mean score increase of 1.8 points. In this first post-test we can see a marked improvement in performance in both the Category 2 (+ 23%) and Category 4 (+18%) questions.The second post-test was issued after completion of the follow-on lesson plan and review on day four of the instructional module. The results of this test show a mean score percentage of 63%. This second post-test shows improvement in the overall scores, and specifically in the Category 2 (+10%) and 3 (+9%) questions. An increase of 1% is seen in the Category 1 questions and no change was evident for the Category 4 questions. Additionally, there was a 0.6 point increase from posttest 1 to posttest 2 indicating a slight improvement in scores overall. This result should be looked at with caution as seven student scores (35%, n = 20) decreased from posttest 1 to posttest 2. Although a determination of the cause for a high number of decreased scores cannot be ascertained, it should be considered, as evidenced by the survey and observation data, that some students may have become confused with the extraneous information presented in the follow-up lesson plan.
  • The student surveys also indicated that the students felt that they learned new information regarding how the three branches of government worked and the role citizen’s play in government processes. The attitudinal surveys of both the teacher and the students indicated that the Balance of Power game engaged the students and increased their interest in the subject matter, particularly in reference to the issues of kids’ rights. The observations of the evaluators also support these assertions.
  • This indicated that the teacher’s perceived value of the Balance of Power game itself and educational games as a whole was very high. The teacher made several suggestions regarding the improvement of the game and lesson plans, with the focus of mainly on the accompanying lesson plans. The suggestions specific to the game focused on both the technical issues that the students experienced (i.e. the freezing screens) and restricting the freedom of movement of the avatars.
  • The attitudinal surveys of both the teacher and the students indicated that the Balance of Power game engaged the students and increased their interest in the subject matter, particularly in reference to the issues of kids’ rights. The observations of the evaluators also support these assertions. However, both sets of surveys also indicate that the level of engagement was much lower during both the pre- and post- game lesson plans. Whether this was due to the shorter class periods or the material is difficult to determine. The evaluators also noticed that the student engagement during the “What’s for Lunch?” lesson plan was very low, stemming from apparent confusion about the procedure as well as the perceived disconnect between the lesson plan material and the topic of the Three Branches of Government.
  • The attitudinal surveys of both the teacher and the students indicated that the Balance of Power game engaged the students and increased their interest in the subject matter, particularly in reference to the issues of kids’ rights. The observations of the evaluators also support these assertions. However, both sets of surveys also indicate that the level of engagement was much lower during both the pre- and post- game lesson plans.
  • Our courts presentation

    1. 1.  An online education project designed to engage students in learning civics  It is a legacy project of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.)  Includes accompanying lesson plans and materials that are designed to excite and educate students about participating in their own government processes.
    2. 2. A formative evaluation of the Balance of Power game and Curriculum was conducted to determine: The extent to which the instructional unit as a whole meets its instructional goals; The extent to which the instructional unit engages the students and increases their interest in the subject matter;
    3. 3. The extent to which the instructional program meets the needs of the users; The extent to which the instructional program is usable and marketable to schools and school districts.
    4. 4. Students will learn the primary functions of each branch of the federal government Students will learn how well the branches interact with each other Students will learn how citizens can influence the government
    5. 5. The data sources for the Balance of Power evaluation included: Program participants (students); Program instructors; Expert judgment of the evaluator.
    6. 6. There were approximately 28 student participants: 16 males and 12 females, ranging from 12-15 years old, in an 8th grade social studies course. Participants were already students in the classes in which the teacher agreed to participate in the study.
    7. 7. The lesson plan instruction took place in a regular classroom, while the game play took place in a school computer lab where students accessed the Balance of Power game through the Our Courts website: http://www.ourcourts.org/play-games. Prior to day one of the field-test, a 12-item pretest consisting of questions about the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches of the government was administered to students.
    8. 8.  An initial lesson plan was taught on day one.  Day two of the field test consisted of students playing the Balance of Power game in the school’s computer lab.  Day three started with further game play and then a 12-item posttest was administered to students.
    9. 9.  The follow-up lesson plan was taught on day four and then a second 12-item posttest was administered to students.  Interviews were also conducted on day 4.  Observations were conducted on all four days.
    10. 10. Two interesting survey results: Students would rather learn through games and they felt they had a better understanding of the content after playing the game!
    11. 11. The teacher either agreed or strongly agreed to all of the survey questions. The teacher indicated that she felt the students were very engaged, both in the game play and in the idea of playing an educational game. The teacher made specific suggestions regarding the improvement of the What’s for Lunch? pre-game lesson plan
    12. 12. The students interviewed indicated that they liked the Balance of Power game and lessons very well. Limited time prevented extensive interviews with students and the interview with the teacher.
    13. 13. The Balance of Power game engaged the students and increased their interest in the subject matter, particularly in reference to the issues of kids’ rights. The student engagement during the “What’s for Lunch?” lesson plan was very low.
    14. 14. The results indicate that the instructional unit as a whole is meeting its stated instructional goals. An increase in test means was evident between the pre-test and the second post- test.
    15. 15. The student surveys also indicated that the students felt that they learned new information regarding how the three branches of government worked and the role citizen’s play in government processes. This instructional program as a whole meets the needs of the users and could be marketable to schools and school districts, given that school or districts’ ability to meet the technological requirements of game play.
    16. 16. Areas of perceived improvement for the instructional package: The improvement of technological problems, which may have resulted from the computers and not the game A revision of the “What’s for Lunch?” lesson plan to include a specific timeline and to scaffold more into the game play
    17. 17. Minor revisions to the game itself including a larger character selection and removal of town hall questions that students perceive to be easy or silly. Game revisions may be necessary to retain student engagement, particularly as students who regularly play games are accustomed to choosing their avatar and personalizing their environment.
    18. 18. Determining methods of engaging more of the female students who indicate that they do not regularly play video games. Determining the effects of possible modifications on the “What’s for Lunch?” lesson plan that give the students more structure and connection to the topic of the three branches of government.
    19. 19. This instructional plan could also be tested with a different middle school class with a traditional 55 minute class period to see if the lesson plans and game play results are significantly different than those presented here.  This study could also be conducted with a different grade level, to determine if this unit is appropriate for high school students.
    20. 20. Improvements to this current study include conducting a higher number of student interviews as well as the teacher interviews and the inclusion of observation protocols. Using a control group to determine content mastery
    21. 21. A special thank you to Nikki Gusz and Abby Taylor for their help and guidance during this study. Thank you to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for being the driving force behind this project and of course for the honor of meeting her at the conclusion of the study.

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