Games Can and Do Teach

In the Gamification debate

The evidence is clear that games can and do teach. We also know that online learning and lectures often do not teach. In the end, it is not the vehicle delivering the instruction that makes the difference, it’s the design.

  • Original Research [DOWNLOAD PDF]
    Does Game-Based Learning Work? Results from Three Recent Studies
    Richard Blunt, Ph.D.
    Advanced Distributed Learning

Summarizing the gamification research, in an article from Learning Solutions Magazine:

The findings indicated that the mean scores of students in classes using the game were significantly higher than those of students in classes that did not. There were no significant differences between genders, yet both genders scored significantly higher with game play. There were no significant differences between ethnicities, yet all ethnic groups scored significantly higher with game play. Students 40 years and under scored significantly higher with game play, while students 41 and older did not. Blunt further indicates that “these studies add definitive research in the area of game-based learning. The DoD now has studies proving the efficacy of digital game-based learning and how it can improve learning.”

While three studies indicating learning from games is a start, and already debunks the myth that “games don’t teach,” one could make an argument that it is hardly a foundation for making the assertion that games teach. True, but this is not the only research indicating games are effective teachers.

Connolly, et al. (2011) looked at more studies and reached the same conclusion. They conducted a meta-analysis (study of studies) by reviewing 129 papers reporting evidence related to the impacts and outcomes of computer games and serious games with respect to learning and engagement. The majority of the studies reviewed—121 (94 percent)—reported quantitative data, with eight (six percent) reporting qualitative data. One strong conclusion they reached was that the most “frequently occurring outcomes and impacts were knowledge acquisition/content understanding and affective and motivational outcomes.” Certainly, knowledge acquisition and content understanding are learning—learning from games.

In the two meta-analysis papers Clark reports on, both authors indicated that games teach (see comments on original article). These findings from Blunt, Connolly, et al., Hays, Sitzmann, and others support the argument that games teach and positively impact motivation. This isn’t looking at one isolated study. It is looking at over a hundred studies both qualitative and quantitative, from different meta-analysis studies and individual studies. The evidence is clear and compelling.

 

About kevin

A long-time technology enthusiast who, in the mid 80's, thought the internet might be something that would catch-on, so he taught himself programming. That started him on a very satisfying road as a course developer, trainer, online teacher and elearning evangelist. Thirty years later, he fancies himself to be a "futurist" and "thought leader".... those thoughts are more about learning that doesn't involve expensive technology and a vision of the future that makes education more critical than ever! More information at: http://kevincorbett.com/who-is-kevin-corbett/