Research Review: Empirical Studies on Computer Game Play in Science Education

Research Review: Empirical Studies on Computer Game Play in Science Education

Gunilla Svingby (Malmö University, Sweden) and Elisabet M. Nilsson (Malmö University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-495-0.ch001
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The interest for game-based learning is growing among science educators. A range of research reviews have been published regarding the educational potentials of using computer games as a tool for learning and mediation, but on a general level. This research review focuses on empirical studies conducted on computer game play specifically used to enhance science learning. 50 publications published during the last decade were found that met the criteria of presenting empirical data from students using games for learning science in school contexts. The studies are reviewed and analysed according to: type of game, research design, research interests and research methodology, school subject and content, number and age of students, time spent on the intervention, gender, and teacher roles. The scope and quality of the studies are also discussed.
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Educational Potentials Of Computer Game Play

Researchers have long suggested that science instruction should provide students with opportunities to explore the world, and to make connections between these explorations and their personal lives (e.g. Aikenhead, 2007; Linder et al., 2007; Zeidler, 2007). Science educators in many countries have, accordingly, worked for decades to infuse inquiry into the school, but good scientific inquiry seems to be hard to implement in classrooms (Ekborg et al., 2009; Linder et al., 2007). Evaluations report, that given the constraints of classroom settings, real world data collection and laboratory experiments are difficult to conduct, meaning that there are limited opportunities for teaching higher order inquiry skills in the ordinary classroom (Linder et al., 2007). The contextual clues offered to teachers by textbooks tend to lead away from inquiry (Phelps & Lee, 2003). Game-based learning approaches, on the other hand, are constructed to situate learners in complex and authentic tasks. Given the widely acknowledged lack of student interest in school science, and the downward trend in results (e.g. Jidesjö & Oscarsson, 2006; Linder et al., 2007; Osborne, 2007), the educational potential of computer game play (e.g. Aiktin, 2004; Gee, 2003; Klopfer, 2008; Williamson, 2009) might be of interest to science educators. To achieve this, authentic problems, concepts and processes are embedded in the narrative, that provide scope for scientific inquiry (Barab et al., 2007; 2007a, 2007b; Ketelhut, 2007; Magnussen, 2008; Neulight et al. 2007).

When comparing scientific literacy or science education standards (e.g. NRC, 1996; OECD, 2003) with the characteristics of computer games, some striking correspondences can be found. Squire and Jan (2007), for example, identify five core features pertinent to designing computer games for learning. (1) Games ask students to inhabit roles. Players are encouraged to create identities that blend the game player role and the role as a scientific professional. All information, experiences and rewards occur within this role, leading to the development of specific skills and competencies mediated by digital tools (e.g. digital lab equipment). (2) The activities in the game are organised around challenges and rewards, designed to support engagement, collaboration, and learning. (3) The games offer opportunities to tie goals to particular places, particularly sites of contested spaces. (4) The games allow for embedding authentic resources and tools that enable acting on higher levels. Digital tools, such as research labs and calculators, both mediate play and provide opportunities for players to interact with the environment in new ways. (5) Playing games is fundamentally social, and produces social interaction. After having been met with scepticism at the outset, and seen as “only play”, public interest in computer games as learning tools seems to be spreading internationally (Van Eck, 2006, p. 2). On the other hand, even if theoretical assumptions ascribe computer games great potential for learning, strict empirical research is still lacking, to explain if and why computer games are effective in practice, and if so, under which conditions (e.g. Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2007; Hanghøj, 2008; Linderoth, 2009; Williamson, 2009; Wong et al., 2007). Aitkin (2004) compares the nature of today’s science research with simulation games, and points to simulation as the core of most scientific research today.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Science Education: Science learning in school, including the physics, chemistry, biology.

Empirical Studies: Studies presenting results that are based upon empirical data, and not on theoretical assumptions.

Formal School Settings: Learning activities in school.

Research Review: An overview and analysis of the publications found that met the set criteria.

K-12 Students: Students aged 6-18 years.

Game-Based Learning: Learning settings involving computer game play.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Richard Van Eck
Patrick Felicia
Patrick Felicia
Chapter 1
Gunilla Svingby, Elisabet M. Nilsson
The interest for game-based learning is growing among science educators. A range of research reviews have been published regarding the educational... Sample PDF
Research Review: Empirical Studies on Computer Game Play in Science Education
Chapter 2
Thomas Hainey, Thomas Connolly, Mark Stansfield, Liz Boyle
Games-based learning has captured the interest of educationalists as it is perceived as a potentially highly motivating approach for learning in a... Sample PDF
The Use of Computer Games in Education: A Review of the Literature
Chapter 3
Caroline Kearney
This chapter summarizes the main results of the comparative study, How are digital games used in schools? (European Schoolnet, April 2009)... Sample PDF
European Schoolnet1’s Games in Schools Study: The Current State of Play in European Schools and the Game Ahead
Chapter 4
René St-Pierre
Playing video games stimulates affective, cognitive, and communicational processes, thus facilitating the emergence of knowledge. In order to... Sample PDF
Learning with Video Games
Chapter 5
Jan-Paul van Staalduinen
As of yet, there is no clear relationship between game elements and deep learning. This chapter used a literature review to create an overview of 25... Sample PDF
A First Step towards Integrating Educational Theory and Game Design
Chapter 6
Damien Djaouti, Julian Alvarez, Jean-Pierre Jessel
The purpose of this chapter is to introduce an overall classification system for Serious Games. ?The intention of this classification is to guide... Sample PDF
Classifying Serious Games: The G/P/S Model
Chapter 7
Manuel Ecker, Wolfgang Müller, Johannes Zylka
This chapter introduces an approach to use best-practice experiences in terms of Design Patterns to support the development of high-quality and... Sample PDF
Game-Based Learning Design Patterns: An Approach to Support the Development of “Better” Educational Games
Chapter 8
Monica Evans
Educational games often implement educational theory, but rarely implement the best practices of entertainment game structures. Currently, many... Sample PDF
I’d Rather Be Playing Calculus: Adapting Entertainment Game Structures to Educational Games
Chapter 9
Gareth Schott, Neil Selwyn
Game playing is made possible by players’ engagement in configurative practices that work in conjunction with interpretive practices, referring to... Sample PDF
Game Literacy: Assessing its Value for Both Classification and Public Perceptions of Games in a New Zealand Context
Chapter 10
David I. Schwartz, Jessica D. Bayliss
Games have impacted education, research, and industry in multiple ways, altering notions of interaction. Traditionally, instructional design and... Sample PDF
Unifying Instructional and Game Design
Chapter 11
Nicolas Szilas, Martin Acosta
This theory is then put into practice by analyzing three commercial educational games. It constitutes a first step towards Instructional Game Design. Sample PDF
A Theoretical Background for Educational Video Games: Games, Signs, Knowledge
Chapter 12
Thomas Hainey, Thomas Connolly, Mark Stansfield, Liz Boyle
While there are some teachers who are dubious about the benefits of gaming in education, language teachers make great use of simulation/gaming... Sample PDF
ARGuing for Multilingual Motivation in Web 2.0: An Evaluation of a Large-Scale European Pilot
Chapter 13
Claire Dormann, Jennifer R. Whitson, Robert Biddle
This chapter addresses how computer games can support affective learning, taking specific focus on learning for the affective domain. It first... Sample PDF
Computer Games for Affective Learning
Chapter 14
Paul Toprac
This chapter describes how to design a motivating educational game for middle school students using digital-game based learning techniques in a... Sample PDF
Motivating By Design: Using Digital-Game Based Learning Techniques to Create an Interesting Problem-Based Learning Environment
Chapter 15
Leonard A. Annetta, Richard Lamb, Brandy Bowling, Rebecca Cheng
The critical nature of engaging students in authentic learning tasks is not a new concept, but as 21st century technologies become more pervasive in... Sample PDF
Assessing Engagement in Serious Educational Games: The Development of the Student Engaged Learning in a Technology Rich Interactive Classroom (SELTIC)
Chapter 16
Menno Deen, Ben A.M. Schouten
To accomplish this fit, game designers could not conceal the learning within a game, but explicitly communicate the constructed knowledge to the... Sample PDF
Games that Motivate to Learn: Design Serious Games by Identified Regulations
Chapter 17
Nicola Whitton
This chapter considers motivation from the adult learning perspective, specifically in the context of Higher Education. It is common for the... Sample PDF
Theories of Motivation for Adults Learning with Games
Chapter 18
Iro Voulgari, Vassilis Komis
In this chapter a theoretical framework is proposed for the investigation of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) as environments for the... Sample PDF
Collaborative Learning in Massively Multiplayer Online Games: A Review of Social, Cognitive and Motivational Perspectives
Chapter 19
Daniel Aranda, Jordi Sánchez-Navarro
This study presents the results of three investigations on the use of digital gaming in non-formal (leisure institutions) and informal (household... Sample PDF
How Digital Gaming Enhances Non-Formal and Informal Learning
Chapter 20
Priscilla Haring, Dimitrina Chakinska, Ute Ritterfeld
This chapter argues the importance of understanding the process of serious gaming, i.e. playing a game with a purpose other than solely... Sample PDF
Understanding Serious Gaming: A Psychological Perspective
Chapter 21
Flaithrí Neff, Ian Pitt
Game technology often offers solutions to problems that are difficult or impossible to solve in traditional educational settings. Maturing spatial... Sample PDF
Using Spatial Audio in Game Technology for Expressing Mathematical Problems to Blind Students
Chapter 22
Namsoo Shin, Cathleen Norris, Elliot Soloway
This study was conducted to investigate the relationship of students’ attitude toward mathematics, attitude toward a game, gaming performance... Sample PDF
Mobile Gaming Environment: Learning and Motivational Effects
Chapter 23
Eva Hudlicka
Games are being increasingly used for educational and training purposes, because of their unique ability to engage students, and to provide... Sample PDF
Affective Gaming in Education, Training and Therapy: Motivation, Requirements, Techniques
Chapter 24
Roman Danylak
Emerging game interface design increasingly incorporates human gestural learning. Electronic gestural games, when effectively designed, offer high... Sample PDF
Gestural Motivation, Learning and Evaluation using Interactive Game Design
Chapter 25
Jean-Charles Marty, Thibault Carron
In this chapter, the authors propose to address two main items contributing to motivation in Game-Based Learning Environments: the flexibility of... Sample PDF
Hints for Improving Motivation in Game-Based Learning Environments
Chapter 26
Eugenia M. W. Ng
The gender differences have long been an issue in computer games, but there is very little empirical research on the behavior and performance of... Sample PDF
Exploring the Gender Differences of Student Teachers when using an Educational Game to Learn Programming Concepts
Chapter 27
Penny de Byl, Jeffrey E. Brand
The objective of this chapter is to develop guidelines for targeted use of games in educational settings by presenting a typology of learning... Sample PDF
Designing Games to Motivate Student Cohorts through Targeted Game Genre Selection
Chapter 28
Krestina L. Amon, Andrew J. Campbell
Whilst biofeedback video games are still new to AD/HD treatment options, this Chapter demonstrates that with children growing up in a... Sample PDF
Game-Based Learning: Current Research in Games for Health, a Focus on Biofeedback Video Games as Treatment for AD/HD
Chapter 29
Stephanie B. Linek
Game-based learning is based on the idea of using the motivational potential of video games within the educational context. Thus, when designing an... Sample PDF
As You Like It: What Media Psychology Can Tell Us About Educational Game Design
Chapter 30
John Carr, Peter Blanchfield
Computer games offer an extremely engaging experience and are an overwhelmingly popular pastime for today’s youth. As such, they make an attractive... Sample PDF
Engaging the Un-Engageable
Chapter 31
Dennis Maciuszek, Alke Martens
Educational computer games may improve learning experiences and learning outcomes. However, many off-the-shelf games still fail at smoothly... Sample PDF
A Reference Architecture for Game-Based Intelligent Tutoring
Chapter 32
Joel C. Perry, Julien Andureu, Francesca Irene Cavallaro, Jan Veneman, Stefan Carmien, Thierry Keller
Games possess highly favourable attributes to bring to the field of neurorehabilitation by means of providing motivation and goal-directed exercise... Sample PDF
Effective Game use in Neurorehabilitation: User-Centered Perspectives
Chapter 33
Stephen Howell, Tony Veale
Serious games, especially word-based games, have long been popular in print and in modern computer games. Bringing serious word games into the... Sample PDF
Serious Linguistic Games as Intelligent Tutoring Systems
Chapter 34
Maria Saridaki, Constantinos Mourlas
Findings from the educational literature and experimental observations, as well as case studies from field studies will be presented and discussed... Sample PDF
Motivating the Demotivated Classroom: Gaming as a Motivational Medium for Students with Intellectual Disability and their Educators
Chapter 35
Wolfgang Bösche, Florian Kattner
This chapter reports on the transformation of a classical seminar paper presentation course into a completely virtual classroom experience beginning... Sample PDF
Field Report: Using a Violent Multiplayer Game as a Virtual Classroom for a Course on Violent Video Games
Chapter 36
Professor Neil Anderson, Lyn Courtney
This chapter describes an educational intervention to introduce and develop design thinking skills with two groups of Australian Indigenous high... Sample PDF
Students Using Indigenous Knowledge in Video Game Creation to Develop Design Thinking Skills
Chapter 37
Eleni Rossiou
Higher Education could be seen as an ideal field for the development and wide use of modern technologies and pedagogical methods of cooperative and... Sample PDF
Integration of Educational Games in Synchronous Virtual Classroom: A Case Study
Chapter 38
Ben Williamson, Richard Sandford
Game-based learning is proliferating in formal school classrooms, yet to date there is relatively little evidence to demonstrate its benefits. This... Sample PDF
Playful Pedagogies: Cultural and Curricular Approaches to Game-Based Learning in the School Classroom
Chapter 39
Wee Hoe Tan, Sue Johnston-Wilder, Sean Neill
This chapter is an instance of the deployment of game-based learning (GBL) in an upper secondary school in the UK. A retrospective case study was... Sample PDF
Game-Based Learning with a Dialogic Teaching Approach: A Case of Deep Learning and the Use of SporeTM in A-Level Biology Lessons
Chapter 40
Ryan Flynn
The use of computer and video games in education is not a new phenomenon. However, the use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) games, specifically... Sample PDF
Modifying Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) Games for Use in Education
Chapter 41
Arul Chib
The spread of contagious STDs, HIV/AIDS, and unintended pregnancies amongst marginalized youth in developing nations is a source of concern. This... Sample PDF
Promoting Sexual Health Education via Gaming: Evidence from the Barrios of Lima, Peru
Chapter 42
Vinod Srinivasan, Karen Butler-Purry, Susan Pedersen
This chapter presents an experience with the development of an educational game focusing on digital systems design for undergraduate electrical... Sample PDF
Developing Educational Games for Engineering Education: A Case Study
Chapter 43
Kostas Anagnostou, Anastasia Pappa
This chapter reviews the potential of videogames to enhance physics education, and provide guidelines for designing educational videogames that... Sample PDF
Developing Videogames for Physics Education
Chapter 44
Helen Axe, Helen Routledge
There exists a growing body of evidence which supports the use of serious games in education: highlighting increased motivation, engagement, and... Sample PDF
Practical Applications of Serious Games in Education
Chapter 45
Dimitra Pappa, Ian Dunwell, Aristidis Protopsaltis, Lucia Pannese, Sonia Hetzner, Sara de Freitas, Genaro Rebolledo-Mendez
The increasing pervasiveness of digital technology is having a profound effect on how younger generations interact, play, and learn. The use of... Sample PDF
Game-Based Learning for Knowledge Sharing and Transfer: The e-VITA Approach for Intergenerational Learning
Chapter 46
Anna Åkerfeldt, Staffan Selander
The aim of this chapter is to explore two educational video games as a repository for action and meaning-making. Rixdax and El Patron feature two... Sample PDF
Exploring Educational Video Game Design: Meaning Potentials and Implications for Learning
Chapter 47
Nicola Lettieri, Ernesto Fabiani, Antonella Tartaglia Polcini, Rosario De Chiara, Vittorio Scarano
Over the last years, despite few exceptions, legal education has dropped behind in the use of digital game-based learning methods. Law schools... Sample PDF
Emerging Paradigms in Legal Education: A Learning Environment to Teach Law through Online Role Playing Games
Chapter 48
Sahar Shabanah
Data structures and algorithms are important foundation topics in computer science education. However, they are often complex and hard to... Sample PDF
Computer Games for Algorithm Learning
Chapter 49
Vasiliki Dai, Vasilis Daloukas, Maria Rigou, Spiros Sirmakessis
A discussion regarding the integration of video games in education has been going on lately. Recent studies indicate a positive shift in attitude... Sample PDF
Context-Free Educational Games: Open-Source and Flexible
Chapter 50
Andrea Corradini
This chapter explores the use of a set of 2D recreational puzzle games for training basic spatial skills such as tilting, rotating and flipping. An... Sample PDF
A Study on Whether Digital Games can Effect Spatial Reasoning Skills
Chapter 51
Brent D. Ruben, Kathleen M. Immordino, Sherrie Tromp, Brian Agnew
Leadership and leadership development have become increasingly frequent topics of discussion in popular, professional, and academic discourse. There... Sample PDF Using Interactive Scenario-Based Simulations for Leadership Development
Chapter 52
Boaventura DaCosta, Angelique Nasah, Carolyn Kinsell, Soonhwa Seok
There is a growing interest among educators to use video games in the classroom as part of the curriculum to meet the educational needs of today’s... Sample PDF
Digital Propensity: An Investigation of Video Game and Information and Communication Technology Practices
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