Design Challenge Winner: Democracy Prep Public Schools

By: Miguel Rivera Rios, Democracy Prep Public School


Social emotional learning (SEL) is essential for a student’s success both in school and out of school, which is why most schools provide students and families with a set of core social emotional values that are meant to provide students with guidance on cultural expectations. Although these values are integral to a school’s mission, they are often times very difficult to directly measure/quantify and most of the effective strategies are aimed only at elementary-school-aged children (Domitrovich et al 2017). In particular, schools usually struggle with understanding how students are a) developing in these values and b) transferring these values or skills outside of the classroom. At best, schools use survey-like tools to determine a student or teacher’s perception of a student’s competencies, which do not directly assess student performance on a broad set of agreed upon standards.

Our proposal aims to illuminate how students are developing in and applying a core set of values via interactive fiction (ie text-based games), which has been shown to be a powerful tool in relating educational content in an engaging manner (Kozdras et al 2006) and has been shown to play a role in the realm of SEL (Hudson 2014). One of the primary ways players make progress in text-based games is via making various decisions in specific scenarios. Decision making in general has been shown to provide valuable insight into an individual’s underlying thoughts and values (Svenson 1992) and is also a key component of a lot of the games, tools, and assessments that teachers use to raise and evaluate student’s character traits (Meyer 2018).

The purpose of our assessment is to provide schools with one tool that is customizable to their needs, which can also approximate a student’s competency across a range of values that simultaneously engages the student, minimizes lost instructional time, and provides quality data to staff. The assessment will guide students through scenarios, which are tagged with points and a school’s core values. Scenarios are sourced from similarly-aged students, so that they reflect real life scenarios and are as developmentally and culturally appropriate as possible. A student’s experience will be tailored to their academic career (via a student information sync), such that they will be presented with relevant scenarios that provide both students and staff with immediately actionable data.

Similar to a text-based survival game, students will be required to make decisions through a series of connected scenarios, which may require them to collect or expend items depending on the choices they make. Students are scored in each value based on the cumulative points gained/lost from choices made. School staff can then use these scores for goal setting purposes  and to reflect on how their students prioritize these values and how students may respond in certain scenarios. Initially, the game will be targeted at addressing the unique set of values for high schools at Democracy Prep Public Schools, but will be able to accommodate other schools’ values and will be adaptable to students of any age.



Domitrovich, C.E., Syvertsen, A.K., and Calin, S.S. (2017) Promoting Social and Emotional Learning in the Middle and High School Years. Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania State University.

Hudson, L., (2014) Twine, the Video-Game Technology for All. The New York Times. 19 Nov. 2014.

Kozdras, E., Marui Haunstetter, D., and  King, J.R. (2006) Interactive Fiction: ‘New Literacy’ Learning Opportunities for Children, E-Learning and Digital Media, 3(4), pp. 519–533.

Meyer, H., (2018) Teachers’ Thoughts on Student Decision Making During Engineering Design Lessons, Education Sciences, 8(1), 9.

Svenson, O. (1992) Differentiation and consolidation theory of human decision making: A frame of reference for the study of pre- and post-decision processes. Acta Psychol., 80, pp. 143–168.


Disclaimer: The Assessment Work Group is committed to enabling a rich dialogue on key issues in the field and seeking out diverse perspectives. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Assessment Work Group, CASEL or any of the organizations involved with the work group.

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