Massively Multiplayer Online Games as Spaces for Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning

Massively Multiplayer Online Games as Spaces for Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning

Anastasia Lynn Betts (University at Buffalo, State University of New York, USA) and Meagan K. Rothschild (Age of Learning, Inc., USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2015-4.ch004

Abstract

Metacognition, or the ability to be consciously and intentionally aware of one's thinking and the ways in which one's thinking impacts one's learning, has been shown in the research to be a critical component of learners' abilities to learn effectively. One area of research on metacognition has focused on the role of metacognition in video games, specifically in massively multiplayer online games, known as MMOs. Through examples of metacognition in a popular video game such as World of Warcraft or in Adventure Academy, a new educational MMO for children ages 8–13 years old, this chapter highlights the ways in which MMOs can act as spaces that support the development of metacognitive behaviors through the components of planning, monitoring, control, and evaluation, toward improving learning overall.
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Introduction

Despite decades of progress in increasing the academic performance of students, international assessments consistently report that students in the United States are falling behind (de Brey et al., 2019). As education stakeholders examine the complex issues affecting students’ ability to achieve, one area that has received attention is that of metacognition, which is often defined as ‘thinking about one’s thinking.’ This definition is somewhat simplistic and does not effectively describe the multifaceted processes that make up metacognition, including self-knowledge about the ways in which one remembers and learns new information, selects and employs strategies for learning, effectively problem-solves, analyzes one’s own thoughts, draws conclusions, and makes decisions about what is known, what needs to be known, and how to better know it (Downing & Leung, 2018; Hacker, 2017; Kim, Park, & Baek, 2009). In other words, metacognition is a student’s awareness about his or her own thinking and the ability to take appropriate action based on that awareness in order to effectively learn and achieve. A student with strong metacognitive skills has the ability to understand his or her own thoughts and the implications and consequences of those thoughts (Kim, Park, & Baek, 2009). As a result, metacognitively-skilled students are more likely to set rigorous learning goals and employ successful strategies for achieving those goals. They are aware of their learning abilities, are better able to develop and execute plans, employ and devise strategies to improve, and monitor their learning in ways that lead to academic achievement (Callan et al., 2016; Schraw & Dennison, 1994).

Stronger metacognitive skills are associated with improved learning and higher academic achievement (Bryce, Whitebread, & Szücs, 2015; Callan et al., 2016; Downing & Leung, 2018; Sourmelis et al., 2017). For example, one study that evaluated the performance of thousands of 15-year-olds (n = 475,460) on the 2009 International Programme for International Student Assessment (known as the PISA), found that the use of metacognitive strategies was a significant predictor of achievement, and was as predictive as the students’ socio-economic status (Callan et al., 2016). Moreover, research suggests that even though not all students demonstrate metacognition, metacognitive behaviors and skills can be taught and improved with training and practice (Downing & Leung, 2018; Dawson, 2008; Schraw, 1998). If metacognition helps students to become better learners, and metacognition can be taught and improved, then learning environments that foster the development of metacognitive skills may provide opportunities to increase student learning and achievement.

Recent research has focused on the development of metacognition in digital environments, including “serious” games and commercial video games (Hacker, 2017). Trends show that student engagement with digital resources continues to increase, both in and out of school (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). Students today are growing up in a world that, for them, has never existed without the internet or learning, playing, socializing, and thinking online. To this can be added the popularity and pervasiveness of video games, which provide simulated virtual spaces where learners can exercise agency, make decisions, and experiment with different ways of learning, thinking, and knowing (Kim, Park, & Baek, 2009). As a result, interest in examining the potential of video games as environments that can develop students’ metacognitive skills has grown.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Quest: A problem-based learning opportunity that establishes (1) a problem to be solved, (2) a call-to-action (i.e., Will you accept this quest?), (3) a list of steps that must be completed in order to solve the problem, and (4) a reward that is given upon completion.

Let’s Play: A type of video in which a video game player films him- or herself simultaneously playing and thinking aloud about his or her performance while playing a video game; usually posted on various social media sites or sometimes streamed live.

Metacognitive Knowledge: An individual’s knowledge of strategies, how to use strategies, and when and why to use strategies to be, think, feel, act, and learn in the world.

Agency: The ability to act or of acting intentionally upon one’s thoughts or feelings, rather than being acted upon.

Massively Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG): A type of MMO in which players adopt a specific “role” (e.g., a thief, a mage, a warrior) through which they engage in the world and with large numbers of other players and nonplayer characters (NPCs).

Self-Regulated Learning: The ability of an individual to effectively engage in metacognitive regulation (planning, monitoring, evaluating) in service of controlling or regulating one’s ability to successfully set and achieve learning goals ( Zimmerman, 2002 ).

Let’s Players: Video game players who film themselves while playing and discussing their performance during the play of a video game.

Massive Multi-Player Online Game (MMO): An online video game that allows large numbers of players to play and interact simultaneously, usually featuring a persistent virtual world with clear goals, problem-solving objectives, and interactions between characters and nonplayer characters (NPCs).

Metacognition: One’s ability to be aware of one’s thinking, feeling, and learning processes—before, during, and after events, tasks, and conditions—along with one’s ability to act or make intentional choices based upon that awareness.

Think-Aloud: The process of expressing one’s thoughts at the moment they occur, as when commenting aloud on narrative or characters while reading a book or commenting on one’s performance when playing a video game.

Nonplayer Character (NPC): A character in a video game that interacts with human players, but that is not performed by an actual human player and is a feature of the game or part of the video game narrative.

Self-Regulation: An individual’s ability to effectively control his or her behavior through various processes such as monitoring, goal setting, reflecting, making decisions, planning, evaluating, and in general, managing one’s self ( Kopp, 2001 ).

Metacognitive Regulation: An individual’s ability to take intentional action based on one’s metacognitive knowledge in the form of planning, monitoring, and evaluating one’s thought processes and actions.

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