Educational gaming and STEM learning…can you name a more iconic duo!?
From our celebrated plant growth and structures game Reach for the Sun, to our in-development sandbox robotics game RoboCo, and even our popular fractions puzzle game Diffission, our team is adept at creating high-quality, player-friendly learning games across nearly all platforms, subjects, and age ranges. But what do researchers have to say about the connection between game-based learning and STEM instruction? Today, we’re taking a closer look at several recent studies – let’s jump in!
Programming video games and simulations in science education: exploring computational thinking through code analysis
Kicking off today’s list is a study which attempted to measure the impact of game-based techniques for teaching fundamental computational thinking (CT) skills, compared to more traditional simulation-based approaches. Over a five-week period, students were separated into two groups – one taught to represent the function of a basic electric circuit by creating a simulation, the other presented with the same material within a score-based video game context – before assessing their knowledge through pre- and post-test projects. Ultimately, the study found that learners who experienced the video game intervention submitted projects exhibiting greater computational thinking (CT) skills as measured via analysis of their code.
Designed to measure the impact of a collaborative and competitive video game (titled Space Race) on teaching computing fundamentals to first-year engineering students, our next study used surveys along with pre- and post- assessments to measure player reception and learning outcomes. Using a sample of 485 students – one group assigned the learning game, the other more traditional instructional methods – researchers found that students overwhelmingly enjoyed the game, with 82% of the students who played indicating that they would recommend it to others. Furthermore, many game participants outperformed non-participants on course exams, indicating that other learning games could prove to be effective tools for teaching computing in similar higher education contexts.
Next up, a study designed to measure the impact of custom educational games on learning and motivation among first year undergraduate industrial engineering students. When asked to respond to a questionnaire, the overwhelming majority of students indicated their receptiveness to the game-based intervention, reporting that the game was helpful in motivating them to participate and better understand the course content. Researchers note that these positive responses were likely motivated by the unique ability of digital games to present course content in an integrated, comprehensive, and dynamic manner – allowing for greater availability for professors to augment instruction with individual interactions.
This next exploratory case study aimed to determine the impact of game-based learning on students’ academic performances and behaviors in STEM classrooms. Through detailed analysis of 101 students’ pre and post-test scores, researchers found that students’ STEM learning performance improved as a result of implementation of game-based learning teaching strategies- and in addition, students’ learning behaviors were positively affected as well, with participating teachers noting that students remained focused and engaged throughout the entirety of the game-based learning study.
Rounding out today’s list is a study which attempted to measure the impact of BrainQuake’s popular math learning game Wuzzit Trouble on student number sense. Using a pre- and post-assessment to measure the number sense (mathematical proficiency in numeracy) of two groups of third grade students, researchers had one group play Wuzzit Trouble, while the control group used other traditional instructional methods instead. Following the study, researchers found that the group who experienced the game-based intervention showed a far more significant increase in number sense between pre-and post-assessment, compared to the control group which did not. Though the sample size of this particular study was small, the results bode well for the future of similar research on the impact of digital games on mathematics learning outcomes.