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Computer Game to Measure Children's Mental Development Launched by MSUPE

CC0 / / Baby playing with a laptop
Baby playing with a laptop - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.09.2021
Researchers from Moscow State University of Psychology and Education (MSUPE) have developed a computer game system to measure higher-order cognitive skills implying mental actions of analysis, planning, and reflection by middle school pupils of the 5th and 6th grades.
The experts claim that the elaborate computer game can be used as an additional diagnostic tool to measure cognitive skills. The present empirical results offer valuable diagnostic possibilities for analysing the mental development of school pupils, the scientists believe. The research was published in the international scientific journal ‘Cultural-Historical Psychology’.
The ‘Game of computer balls’
The researchers at MSUPE developed the “PL-modified” system which can be described as a computer game system for assessment of higher-order mental actions of analysis, planning, and reflection. Such means of assessment, presented in game form will be more useful than standard paper tests, by providing detailed and precise information about thinking processes.

“The main core of the system lies in a popular game algorithm where participants need to collect balls (five or more) of the same colour in one line vertically, horizontally or diagonally, which then disappear so that the player wins points. The fundamental difference of the newly developed game is that the balls appear on the playing field not randomly but according to a certain logic or sequence. In order to play the game well, the player needs to recognise the patterns,” Evgeniya Gavrilova, a research associate at the MSUPE Centre for Applied Psychological and Educational Research, said.

At the end of each game, pupils were asked whether they could recognise the game patterns correctly. This technique assessed the player's ability to analyse, plan, and reflect via specific indicators – ie understanding the rules, using patterns to score more points, and adaptability to new rules, the scientists explained. Scientists plan to use the developed system to assess the dynamics of the thinking process during the game.
Two Heads Are Better Than One
Researchers also evaluated the higher-order cognitive skills of school pupils when working in pairs: a player had to discuss each of his or her actions with a partner. The turn was passed to each of the participants in pair. The overall result showed that the students performed better under game conditions when two players had to agree on an action. Moreover, pupils with equal intellectual abilities showed the highest results in those pairs. In other words, playing together does not lead to a simultaneous qualitative result: the outcome is determined, by both players' cognitive abilities.

“In general, the assessment of various indicators of pupils' mental actions under conditions of active and meaningful communication represents a relatively new, but rather promising research area for modern psychodiagnostics in Russia,” Arcady Margolis, Professor of the Educational Psychology Chair and acting rector of MSUPE, commented.

Scientists believe that the data on school pupils working in pairs would allow them to assess how greatly working in pairs contributes to levels of success of different mental tasks.
New System Capabilities
Teachers and psychologists require simple and relatively easy diagnostic tools for assessing the mental actions of schoolchildren within modern educational programmes. However, traditional paper-based tests are not always able to provide a mobile response to the demands of the diagnostic situation since they do not take into account motivation and focus solely on the result of intellectual processes, scientists believe.
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According to the researchers, using a computer game system to assess mental actions is a rather rare phenomenon for Russian psychodiagnostics. Another important core is that the developed system has flexible properties and its complexity can vary according to the age of the players.
The use of modern computer technology in psychology can greatly facilitate the entire testing process by increasing the speed and compactness of assessment and data processing. Furthermore, such testing arouses keen interest in children, experts believe.
The practical significance of the results lies in developing the potential of the PL-modified computer system. According to the scientists, further research in this direction would enable this system to be regarded as an additional tool to assess the cognitive development of pupils.
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