The Pedagogies in Game Based Learning: A Case Study of Teacher Attitudes & Perceptions

As some of you may know I’m studying a Masters in Technology in Learning and have been focusing on Serious Games. I wanted to share my project with the community! I built a Serious Game using a platform called ThinkingWorlds to showcase the pedagogies in games and to investigate how teacher attitudes and perceptions changed before and after playing a game based learning serious game.

If you are interested you can play the serious game itself, PC only I’m afraid. Instructions for playing can be found here: http://portaldust.com/seriousgames/installation/

The serious game was designed using a role-playing strategy to allow the user to become embodied in a virtual environment and identify with objects and characters. The player assumes the role of a new teacher on the first day of school and the principal “Principal Daily” assigns “Mr. Rooney” (the player) tasks and challenges that he must complete before the day is over. At the end of each level, the player is given information on the pedagogy embedded in the game level and when all tasks are finished, “Principal Daily” requests a short reflective report on the player’s experience.

Game Objective

The objective of the learning game was to provide a tailored contextual experience in a school environment that would have a positive affect on preconceptions, and change negative attitudes towards the role of serious games in the classroom. The learning game was designed to allow teachers to experience a range of educational activities, each built upon a clear and established pedagogy.

I conducted a literature review to examine the pedagogies applicable to games that resulted in five prominent theorists being chosen as the basis for designing the technology enhanced learning game artifact.

  • Gagné’s (1985) ‘Nine Events of Instruction’
  • Mayer’s (2002) cognitive theory of multimedia learning
  • Lave and Wenger’s situational learning theory (Lave and Wenger 1991)
  • Kolb (1984) experiential learning theory
  • Skinner’s (1954) operant conditioning

Pedagogies & Game Levels

Four learning game levels were developed with activities to match a specific learning theory. The learning game activities were designed around recommendations found in the literature.

  • Level 1: Cognitive Learning Theory
    Playing learning games can help develop cognitive functions such as memory skills (Boyan and Sherry 2011) and learning comes from a combination of words and pictures (Mayer 2002). In order for the participant to experience a serious game that embodies Cognitive learning theory, it was necessary to design a scenario that focused on a specific cognitive function. The Level 1 game that was designed involved a drag and drop picture puzzle game to support the development of memory skills.
  • Level 2: Games Based Situated Learning
    Learning in a contextual environment will help support retention of knowledge (Lave and Wenger 1991), so game Level  2 was designed to replicate a real life scenario allowing the user to make consequential crisis decisions. The player faces a fire scenario in a school café and to heighten the sense of realism, smoke simulations and explosion sounds were incorporated with animated characters.
  • Level 3: Experiential Learning
    There are four stages of learning: concrete learning, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation (Kolb 1984). To support these stages, a branching story with characters relaying information and instant feedback was implemented. The learner is required to complete a task, make a decision, deal with the consequences and reflect on changing their actions.
  • Level 4: Behaviorism
    Learning is shaped by positive and negative reinforcement (Skinner 1954). In order to execute this theory, the player is given a set of tasks to complete within a certain time frame. If completed correctly they are rewarded with points and reinforcing statements such as ‘well done’, but if decisions are wrong they receive instant negative feedback from characters.

If you do play the learning game, I’de be interested in your feedback as I will be expanding the project further this year.

About the author : sam