< Back to Blog

Research Roundup: Game-based Learning and Critical Thinking Skills

Let’s illuminate the symbiotic relationship between game-based learning and critical thinking skills! Today, we have a research roundup that does just that. From exploring the nuanced dynamics of student discourse in an 8th-grade social studies classroom to witnessing the immersive impact of digital role-playing games on high school students, each of the following studies contributes unique insights into how game-based learning stimulates critical thinking. 

Read on for a collection of research where educators, game developers, and researchers alike can glean valuable considerations from the intersection of game-based learning and cognitive development!

via Giphy

Before we get into the research, we want to invite you to follow us on Facebook and X. Every day, we post updates, news, interviews, or thought-provoking articles on game-based learning. Keep up with us on social media so you never miss out on a new development in the educational gaming community

Using Game-Based Learning to Foster Critical Thinking in Student Discourse

Our first featured study took place in the 8th-grade social studies classroom, where researcher Marc I. Cicchino explored how game-based learning influences critical thinking through student discourse in a traditional classroom setting. Drawing on parallels to problem-based learning, Cicchino’s findings reveal that specific features of the game-based learning intervention, combined with distinct cycles of gameplay, effectively promote higher levels of critical thinking among students. 

Notably, Cicchino reports that students developed independent beliefs before engaging in collaborative discourse, indicating a nuanced understanding of critical thinking within the game-based learning context. This study’s insights have implications for game-based learning framework developers, researchers exploring learning games, and educators seeking to integrate games into their classrooms, providing valuable considerations for fostering critical thinking skills in students.

From experiencing to critical thinking: a contextual game-based learning approach to improving nursing students’ performance in Electrocardiogram training

Exploring a novel pedagogical approach for improving nursing students’ performance in Electrocardiogram (ECG) training, this study addresses the challenges associated with memorizing diverse ECG waveforms and their clinical significance. In traditional instruction, learners often struggle with this crucial skill, risking potential life-threatening situations if correct judgments are not made promptly. 

Researchers introduced a two-week experiment that compared the learning outcomes of nursing students engaging with a contextual game designed for ECG learning to those receiving traditional instruction. The experimental results revealed that students involved in the contextual game exhibit superior learning performance, attitudes, motivation, and critical thinking tendencies compared to their counterparts undergoing traditional instruction. Given our experience in creating educational games for healthcare and medical contexts, these results don’t surprise us!

A digital role-playing game for learning: effects on critical thinking and motivation

This article delves into how digital role-playing game-based learning impacts high school students’ critical thinking ability and motivation. The study involved 32 participants who engaged in a digital game created with RPG Maker, incorporating critical thinking questions into its storylines. Through a four-day workshop camp, students practiced critical thinking skills while researchers assessed changes in their critical thinking performance and learning motivation. Researchers’ findings showed significant improvements in both overall critical thinking performance and learning motivation among student participants.

Effects of Game-Based Learning on Students’ Critical Thinking: A Meta-Analysis

Through conducting a comprehensive meta-analysis, the researchers of this next study aimed to unravel the impact of game-based learning on students’ critical thinking, delving into 20 empirical studies encompassing 1,947 participants. The results unveiled a substantial positive effect of game-based learning on critical thinking. Notably, role-playing games emerged as the most impactful game type (echoing the study above!). Furthermore, this research highlights the nuanced influence of cultural context, revealing that game-based learning had a more pronounced effect on students in collectivistic countries compared to those in individualistic nations. 

Additionally, the study debunked claims suggesting that game-based learning might impede critical thinking through cognitive biases or cognitive load distractions. Overall, this study emphasizes game-based learning’s role in fostering complex problem-solving, diverse strategy exploration, and critical evaluation of decisions!

Game-Based Learning as an Effective Tool for Enhancing Problem Solving and Critical Thinking Skills

In this article, researchers document the integration of game-based learning as a tool to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills in students, particularly within the context of an online course on “Internet Applications.” By incorporating a role-playing game divided into two stages, the researchers aimed to create an engaging and collaborative learning experience. 

The results indicated a positive reception from participants, with 77% of students expressing enjoyment, deep engagement, and satisfaction with the game as a learning tool. The collaborative nature of the game, where students worked together to solve a common problem, contributed to the development of critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and enhanced understanding of the course concepts. This study’s conclusion supports the efficacy of game-based learning in fostering thriving communities of practice, improving student learning outcomes, and providing a motivating and engaging environment for collaborative interaction in online classrooms.

The effects of digital storytelling games on high school students’ critical thinking skills

In a quest to enhance critical thinking skills among high school students, this study introduced Ren’py software as a digital storytelling (DST) tool within the framework of a civics education course named “Thinking Utopia.” The 9-week course involved 46 students working collaboratively in groups of 3 to 4, engaging in activities focused on designing DST games. 

Although quantitative analysis of critical thinking test scores showed no significant improvement, qualitative insights from interviews revealed a consensus among students. They acknowledged that the collaborative game script writing and the design of original hurdle questions indeed sparked their critical thinking abilities while fostering other essential skills like communication, problem-solving, and media literacy. This article contributes not only a model course plan for integrating game-based design into civics education, but also provides insight into the multifaceted impact on students’ critical thinking and learning experiences in collaborative settings.

The evidence is clear—game-based learning acts as a powerful catalyst for fostering critical thinking abilities! If you’re intrigued and would like to create a custom learning game for your specific educational endeavors, we encourage you to reach out to us. Harness the power of play to unlock new heights of critical thinking in any learning environment!

More compelling game-based learning research:

© 2024 Filament games. All rights reserved.