Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Educational Research and Methods
In the past decade, games have developed an increasingly strong theoretical and empirical basis for effectiveness as pedagogical tools, and interest in the use of games has increased in engineering education. To date, most game-based learning (GBL) research treats GBL as a single, unifiable pedagogy, implying that learning fostered by one GBL activity should be comparable to learning fostered by others. This implication has led to many studies that aggregate findings across games to make broad statements about the pedagogy's effectiveness. In our experience, though, we have seen games that contribute to learning in several disparate ways, from fostering specific skills to offering common conceptual experiences. Further, while some games are relatively simple attachments to existing learning activities, others are intricate systems that help transform learning processes. Some influential authors have attempted to theoretically capture the variety of ways games can contribute to learning, but more work is needed to examine this variable in the landscape of current empirical applications of games for learning.
Accordingly, the purpose of this research was to survey contemporary engineering education literature and categorize the different ways that digital and non-digital games have contributed to learning in engineering. To do so, we conducted a qualitative, secondary analysis of a recent systematic literature review that cataloged publications of games in engineering education from 2000 – 2014 (Bodnar et al., 2016). We analyzed these publications to answer the following research questions: (1) What have been the primary learning contributions of digital and non-digital games to the learning process in engineering education? (2) To what extent have digital and non-digital games transformed the engineering education learning process? To answer the first question, we open-coded for primary learning contributions by examining patterns in the different kinds of learning processes enabled by each game. We answered the second question by classifying these primary learning contributions according to the Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation (RAT) framework. This framework allowed us to determine if each game acted as a simple replacement for traditional engineering learning activities, offered affordances that amplified traditional engineering learning activities, or transformed learning with new types of activities. In total, we reviewed 181 papers and found 58 unique digital games and 30 unique non-digital games.
We found evidence of seven different contributions to learning, spanning all three RAT classifications. The majority of digital games amplified engineering problem-solving activities by offering instantaneous practice-feedback loops, or replaced classrooms as spaces to establish narratives for engineering design projects. The majority of non-digital games transformed learning by offering hands-on experiences that could then be leveraged in discussions as analogies for real engineering work, or served as gamified replacements for common classroom activities like quizzes or homework. For researchers, results reinforce that learning objectives—reflected in the primary learning contributions of each game—should be considered a key variable when studying game-based learning. For instructors, results support the merit of non-digital games as resource-effective means of transforming engineering learning processes, and suggest that teaching processes will likely change based on the game’s intended learning contribution.
Reference: Bodnar, C. A., Anastasio, D., Enszer, J., & Burkey, D. D. (2016). Engineers at Play: Use of Games as Teaching Tools for Undergraduate Engineering Students. Journal of Engineering Education, 105(1), 147-200.
Morelock, J. R., & Matusovich, H. M. (2018, June), All Games Are Not Created Equally: How Different Games Contribute to Learning Differently in Engineering Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/29766
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