Using Reason Racer to Support Argumentation in Middle School Science Instruction

Using Reason Racer to Support Argumentation in Middle School Science Instruction

Marilyn Ault, Jana Craig-Hare, James D. Ellis, Janis Bulgren, Isa Kretschmer, Bruce B. Frey
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9624-2.ch053
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With secondary students reporting that they are not attracted to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) disciplines, educators are turning to games as one strategy to engage students. The goal of integrating games into science learning is to create an excitement difficult to achieve with typical instruction. This chapter reviews games in education, particularly in STEM. Recognizing that teachers often lack the time to integrate role-playing games, the use of casual games is suggested. Casual games are easy to learn and simple to play, and incorporate game features designed to compel students to repeated play. The Reason Racer game addresses the difficult skill of scientific argumentation in a casual, competitive game. Evaluated with more than 700 students, those who played the game at least 10 times during science instruction over 6-weeks improved in every aspect of argumentation, and reported an increase in confidence and motivation to engage in science, compared to those who did not play the game. Readers are walked through the game and the resources in the Teacher Portal.
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This chapter has several purposes related both to the use of games to support teaching and learning and the challenge of teaching middle school students the very difficult skill of scientific argumentation. The first part of the chapter provides an overview of the use of games in education, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, and a discussion of casual game features that are specifically designed to engage students and can impact learning. The second part of the chapter provides a synopsis of the science practice of argumentation and the effectiveness of the Reason Racer game in engaging students in this difficult skill. The remainder of the chapter focuses on the features of the multiplayer Reason Racer game and an explanation of how to use the game and the accompanying Teacher Dashboard to support scientific argumentation teaching and learning.

As with any innovation, there are issues, problems, and tentative solutions. These are presented as challenges, not caveats. Our hope is that educators and researchers will include casual games as one of many resources available to support science instruction. Games, such as Reason Racer, can be both as engaging as any arcade-style game yet challenge middle school students in the higher order skill of scientific argumentation.

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