Gamification, Quality Feedback, Learning Environment The study seeks to answer two research questions. What learning gains are associated with the use of three SEGs (Serious Educational Games) in secondary biology classrooms? What affordances do qualified science teachers identify related to SEG integration in classrooms? The Main Roles of Teachers in Creating a Successful Gaming Environment […]23 Nov 2023
A Study of Serious Educational Games in Classrooms
October 25, 2023
Gamification, Quality Feedback, Learning Environment
The study seeks to answer two research questions. What learning gains are associated with the use of three SEGs (Serious Educational Games) in secondary biology classrooms? What affordances do qualified science teachers identify related to SEG integration in classrooms?
The Main Roles of Teachers in Creating a Successful Gaming Environment
The researchers explained that this study refers to not just any games but what they term serious educational games. SEGs differ from other games due to the use of learning theories and learning objectives that guide game design and the subsequent use of embedded assessment items to measure learning during gameplay (Loh, Sheng, & Ifenthaler, 2015).
The researchers claim that “SEGs can provide visualizations that support students’ conceptual development of phenomena by zooming in to the microscopic, invisible nature of molecular movement, then zooming back out to the macroscopic, which is more familiar to the students’ lived experience.” The study thus focuses on science content in high school which has high-level phenomena ready to be visualized in an engaging way.
The authors noted that teachers play a vital role in creating a successful gaming environment. They mentioned Kangas, Koskinen, and Krokforset al. (2017) who conducted a literature review of educational games in classrooms to explore the roles that teachers play in a gaming environment. They analyzed 15 years of research and identified five key roles for teachers: planning, playing, orienting, assessing, and reflecting. It was acknowledged that these roles are known and are important however the interaction between the two has not been researched.
Significant Learning Gains Are Associated With SEGs
The study was conducted over a period of three years. Three serious educational games were used in the study. The games were “designed as a stand-alone, 45-min learning experiences, during which students roleplay a specific scientist, who has been tasked with solving a problem.”
During Year 1 six biology teachers delivered a two-week lesson to 407 students that did not include a serious educational game. In Year 2 the same six teachers delivered the same two-week lesson to 393 students but replaced some content with the SEG. Year 3 included the SEG and included 478 students. Large amounts of data were collected throughout the 3 years and included, pre-test, post-tests, assessments within the SEG, interviews, and classroom observation and recording of the class lessons.
Significant learning gains were associated with each year the SEGs were included in the lesson. This is based on the pre and post-tests of a total of 1, 278 students. Secondly, the recordings of the lesson showed that the interaction of the teacher had an impact on the students’ outcomes. Those teachers who chose to off-load the instruction to the SEG and were seen working on other teaching tasks had lower learning gains than teachers who provided feedback, scaffolds, and individual discussion. “These data suggest that teachers who provide elaborated feedback to students during gameplay add value to the students’ learning experience.” The third finding showed that students showed improvement within the game assessments from Year 2 to 3. This was attributed to the new dashboard in the SEG that allowed for real-time feedback to students on their answers. Finally, the fourth finding focused on the benefits identified by teachers such as exposing students to visuals of real-life phenomena allowing for more student engagement and needing access to real-time data to monitor student effort on assessments.
SEGs Do Not Improve Student Outcomes Alone, the Teacher Has an Important Role To Play
Throughout the study, the researchers note that SEGs alone do not improve student outcomes. Teachers have a vital role to play. The role of the teacher is to assist in “connecting the learning goals of the class to the technology-enhanced learning experience, facilitating strategies to encourage reflection on the experience, and connecting the experience to the lives of students beyond the classroom.”
The researchers surmised that SEGs, when aligned with science outcomes and linked to real-world problems, free up the teacher to focus on individual students’ needs and provide differentiated support. In order for serious educational games to result in improved learning outcomes the games require the participation of the teacher to develop an environment of learning and a dashboard that allows teachers to provide real-time feedback.
“Serious educational games (SEGs) have emerged as a promising tool that may equip secondary science teachers to implement active learning environments in which players engage with real-world science phenomena, using scientific practices, such as collecting and analyzing data, simulating the work that scientists do (Ching & Hagood, 2019).”
“Teachers also highlighted the value of the embedded assessments as they explained that this provided students feedback in the moment instead of days or weeks later, after grading.”
“As stakeholders in education move forward in exploring how to integrate novel technologies into instruction, it is important that we learn from the past, as novel technologies, such as SEGs become available to more students and teachers. Thus, we assert that, while valuable, we must explore how teachers actually use tools such as these in classroom settings with students to determine if the technologies enrich learning experiences.”
I appreciated that the researchers acknowledged that the value of serious educational games alone does not improve learning outcomes. The role of the teacher is important. When teachers provide real-time feedback students learn better. In light of this realization, the SEG was improved to allow for teachers to see the results of assessments within the game in real-time. Thus teachers were able to provide instruction which led to better results. The study also highlighted that less expert teachers would offload the instruction to the game and attend to other teaching duties while students interacted with the game. This highlights the need for teachers to not rely on tools to get students to learn. I found these findings a good reminder that high-leverage teaching practices are fundamental and critical to helping students learn and cannot be replaced by technology.—Dana R Wells
Hodges, G.W., Oliver, J.S., Jang, Y. et al. Pedagogy, Partnership, and Collaboration: A Longitudinal, Empirical Study of Serious Educational Gameplay in Secondary Biology Classrooms. J Sci Educ Technol 30, 331–346 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-020-09868-y