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Three Research-Based Guidelines for Implementing Games Into Instruction
Friday, July 31, 2015
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A number of meta-analyses (statistical methods for contrasting and combining results from different studies) have been conducted in the field of game-based learning attempting to create widely usable findings that can help instructional designers select and create meaningful educational and instructional game experiences. Here are three guidelines culled from research on the subject.

1. Embed the Instructional Game Into the Curriculum

Games should be embedded in instructional programs that include debriefing and feedback so learners understand what happened in the game and how these events support the instructional objectives. The best learning outcomes from using a game in the classroom occur when a three-step process is followed.

  • The instructor should first introduce the game and learning objectives covered in the game to the learners. In addition, the instructor should inform learners about what they will be learning by playing the game.
  • Then the learners play the game.
  • Finally, after the game is played, the instructor should offer a debrief on what was learned.

This process ensures that learning occurs from playing the game.
Sources:

  • Hays, R. T. (2005). The effectiveness of instructional games: A literature review and discussion. Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (No 2005-004).
  • Sitzmann, T. (2011). “A meta-analytic examination of the instructional effectiveness of computer-based simulation games.” Personnel Psychology, 64(2), 489-528.

2. Games Need to Include Instructional Support

In games without instructional support, participants will tend to learn how to play the game rather than learn domain-specific knowledge embedded in the game. Instructional support to help learners understand how to use the game increases the effectiveness of the gaming experience by allowing them to focus on the instructional information rather than the requirements of the game. Instructional support features can include elaborative feedback, pedagogical agents, and multi-modal information presentation.

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Sources:

  • Hays, R. T. (2005). The effectiveness of instructional games: A literature review and discussion. Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (No 2005-004).
  • Ke, F. (2009). A qualitative meta-analysis of computer games as learning tools. In R. E. Ferdig (Ed.), Effective Electronic Gaming in Education (Vol. 1, pp. 1-32). Hershey: Information Science Reference.
  • Wouters, P., van Nimwegen, C., van Oostendorp, H., & van der Spek, E. D. (2013, February 4). “A Meta-Analysis of the Cognitive and Motivational Effects of Serious Games.” Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031311.

3. Ensure Game Objectives Align with Curriculum Objectives

Learning outcomes achieved through computer games depend largely on how educationalists align learning (such as learning subject areas and learning purposes), learner characteristics, and game-based pedagogy with the design of an instructional game. In other words, if the game objectives match the curriculum objectives, disconnects are avoided between the game design and curricular goals. The more closely aligned curriculum goals and game goals, the more the learning outcomes of the game will match the desired learning outcomes of the student.

Sources:

  • Ke, F. (2009). A qualitative meta-analysis of computer games as learning tools. In R. E. Ferdig (Ed.), Effective Electronic Gaming in Education (Vol. 1, pp. 1-32). Hershey: Information Science Reference.
  • Schifter, C. C. (2013). Games in learning, design, and motivation. In M. Murphy, S. Redding, &. Twyman (Eds.), Handbook on Innovations in Learning (pp. 149–164). Philadelphia, PA: Center on Innovations in Learning, Temple University; Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Retrieved from www.centeril.org.

Want to learn more about game design? Join Karl for the LearnNow: Game Design event, December 8-9 in San Francisco.


About the Author

Karl Kapp is a professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA and is the author behind the widely read “Kapp Notes” blog and a regular contributor to ASTD’s “Learning Circuits” blog. Karl has written or co-authored six books on the convergence of learning and technology including the bestselling book “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.” In that book, Karl explores the research and theoretical foundations behind effective game-based learning. He examines everything from variable reward schedules to the use of avatars to the use of games to teach pro-social behaviors. Karl’s latest book is a fieldbook which takes the ideas from the Gamification book and provides instructions for implementing those ideas. It’s called “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Ideas into Practice.” Karl is committed to helping organization’s develop a strategic, enterprisewide approach to organizational learning. He believes that effective education and training are the keys to increased productivity and profitability. He can be reached at www.karlkapp.com.

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