We are developing a new method of assessment for STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) called epistemic network analysis (ENA). ENA focuses not on whether students master specific scientific facts, math skills, or engineering concepts, but on whether and how students link the skills, knowledge, identity, values, and epistemology of a STEM practice into a coherent way of thinking about complex STEM problems.
This development is inspired by and facilitated by the development of computer games as learning tools. Digital media create new models, approaches, and techniques for STEM learning—as well as new educational outcomes, goals, and needs. Digital learning environments emphasize learning in action. So assessments of STEM thinking in games need to focus on performance in context. Fortunately, digital learning environments provide the potential to assess performance in context, because digital tools make it possible to record rich streams of data about the learning process.
The conceptual and statistical machinery of ENA as an assessment technique are not limited to epistemic games, to STEM learning games in general, or to any specific hypothesis about the nature of STEM learning. Rather, ENA is an approach to assessment that could be used in any situation of complex STEM thinking where the connections between things being learned are more important than isolated pieces themselves.