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An Earthquake Engineering Education Research Methodology for Game-Based Learning

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Classroom Practice II: Technology - and Game-Based Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Abigail Christine Perkins Texas A&M University

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Abigail C. Perkins has a B.S. and M.S. in physics and is a former physics instructor. She is a Ph.D. candidate in curriculum and instruction, specializing in game-based learning for science and engineering education. Her research interests include game-based learning research and development methodologies for 21st century science and engineering education.

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Gary T. Fry Ph.D., P.E. Texas A&M University

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Dr. Gary Fry is Director of the Center for Railway Research at Texas A&M University and an Associate Professor in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering. His research focuses on solid mechanics and materials science. His speciality is welding physics and the fatigue and fracture behavior of structural weldments under cyclic loading. Results from his research have been incorporated in national and international codes of recommended practice for buildings as well as railway and highway bridges.

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Carol L. Stuessy Texas A&M University

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Dr. Carol Stuessy has been associated with Texas A&M Univerrsity since 1989 as a professor of science education in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture. Her specialties include research design using mixed methods approaches, broader impacts associated with scientific and engineering research, and innovative curriculum design in STEM-related fields.

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The authors present a research paper about an innovative research and development (R&D) methodology for game-based learning to integrate engineering education and 21st century learning. Prior to game development, a literature review on gaming revealed a lack of systematic methods for integrating research into design and implementation strategies of any sort of game-based learning environment, much less one for enhancing learners’ understanding of engineering and advancing abilities to think critically, argue scientifically, and use metacognition to analyze strategic thinking. We employed a non-linear, holistic methodology framed by Dick, Carey, and Carey’s instruction-based R&D template to develop a collaborative-competitive board game for middle and high school students, entitled “Earthquake.” We integrated critical game-design techniques for the game to be enjoyable while increasing players’ knowledge and expertise through repetitive play. The instruction-design template contains five R&D phases: Analyze, Develop, Design, Implement, Evaluate. In the Analyze phase, we established learning objectives to introduce players to earthquake engineering while enhancing critical thinking, scientific argumentation, and metacognition. With learning objectives established, we began the Develop phase for game prototyping, assisted by nine focus groups of experts (n=16) from various backgrounds, including science education, civil engineering, gaming, teaching, and educational administration. We used this resulting prototype in the Design phase for teachers (n=14) to test-play. The use of teacher-participants satisfied fundamental game-design principles: that three to five game-testers sufficiently elucidate mechanical and aesthetic kinks, and that prototype-testers represent a sample of individuals familiar with the context in which the game would eventually be implemented. Four teacher-groups played “Earthquake” once in a professional development engineering education workshop. Abiding by game-design protocol, each group contained three or four teachers. After the test-play, we conducted semi-structured interviews of each teacher-group. Questions probed what teachers learned about earthquake engineering, what they did and did not like, what they would change, and how effective they thought the game was in teaching interconnectivity of urban infrastructure components. We analyzed interview transcripts with constant comparison qualitative methodology to capture emergent patterns among teachers’ comments. Results indicated needs for more player roles, clarifications in playing cards, and the production of an introductory video to highlight the game’s function. We integrated these Design-based results during the Implement phase to modified “Earthquake” again for the Evaluate phase. During the Evaluate phase, six high school students formed two groups to play the game twice in one after-school session. Students remained in the same group for both games. We video-recorded students’ game-play for both games. Using a game-based learning checklist (inter-coder reliability of 87%), we analyzed videotapes to identify qualities of students’ dialogue and actions. The checklist served to document and compare evidence of met learning objectives. Our comparisons of first and second plays showed student-gains for earthquake engineering content knowledge, critical thinking, scientific argumentation, and metacognition, thus providing evidence of effectiveness of this particular instructional innovation in advancing students’ knowledge and abilities in engineering. Furthermore, we found the R&D methodology provided an appropriate, systematic framework for integrating research methodologies at every phase in the R&D process.

Perkins, A. C., & Fry, G. T., & Stuessy, C. L. (2016, June), An Earthquake Engineering Education Research Methodology for Game-Based Learning Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27279

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