In addition to game design, we are driven to explore how games can enhance learning. Although playing games is well known to enhance student engagement, evidence regarding the effects of games on academic achievement remain inconclusive. Due to our scientific research background, we are uniquely positioned to conduct such studies.
We are developing a research program to determine the impact of games on learning. In these studies, we are examining how games affect the education of specific knowledge content, not general critical thinking skills. In other words, can games be used as content delivery tools in the classroom?
Our Published Evidence
In collaboration with the Yale University Center for Teaching and Learning, we conducted a study exploring how a game impacted learning in a case-based lesson plan. For this project, we designed a digital game called “Operation: Ebola!” that was tested in an immunology course. Interestingly, the more the students played the game, the higher their gain on pre-/post-test knowledge scores. This research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Simulation & Gaming.
Next Phase – Tabletop Games
The field of “serious games” has exploded in the past few decades. A “serious game” is defined as one in which the primary purpose is for teaching specific concepts, even though the game incorporates fun elements designed to engage the player. Most emerging serious games take the form of digital media, due to the advent of modern technology. However, tabletop games may actually offer several advantages as serious games due to their low-tech, inexpensive qualities that allow them to be more accessible to users of all socioeconomic status.
We propose to develop a game-based curriculum for K-12 education centered on skills from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The curriculum will focus on tabletop games (board and card games), a cost-effective, widely accessible platform that will allow schools of all socioeconomic backgrounds to implement these lesson plans. The units will focus on STEM topics covered by games which we have designed, including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Technology, and Engineering. We will also create pre- and post-assessments to measure academic outcomes of the game-based curriculum.
Pilot evidence for this study was collected by Joseph Barrett, a senior at Fauquier High School and Mountain Vista Governor’s School, for his senior capstone project during the 2018-19 school year. He tested 2nd-5th graders throughout Fauquier County with both our genetics game Crazy Cats and our coding game Tacto.
Preliminary data shows that both of these games improved content knowledge, as reported on his website: STEM for Children.