Wednesday, August 2, 2017

10 Important Studies You Need to Know About Concerning Video Games and Learning

Dr. Constance Steinkuehler
Can students and teachers learn from computer games and gaming? Many people say yes-- but sometimes parents and policymakers who wield influence in how education is funded, built, or enacted need more convincing. My colleague Constance Steinkuehler is a professor at the informatics department at the University of California, Irvine (and who formerly was a games advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) offered 10 studies that all skeptics—and anyone talking to them—should read and reference. -Dr. Petrosino

1. Research conducted by SRI and commissioned by GlassLab found that kids playing educational games showed a 23 percent gain over their peers learning via traditional materials.

2. Cooperative play can also lead to higher gains, according to a 2013 meta-analysis (PDF) in the Journal of Educational Psychology. “Collaborative play outperforms individual play by over two standard deviations,” says Steinkuehler.

3. The most effective games are those where “the educational content is married to the game mechanics,” she adds, referencing a 2011 study (PDF). “You don’t study the content and play the game as a reward; they’re embedded.”

4. All the surrounding activities and online communities that are built around a game offer learning moments, Steinkuehler states, referring to findings from a 2011 study published in Personnel Psychology. Watching other people play video games may seem lame and boring, she admits, but the popularity of Twitch has tapped into a valuable (and lucrative) market.

5. Games can also enhance attentional control. According to these researchers, “the true effect of action video game playing may be to enhance the ability to learn new tasks.” Steinkuehler adds: “The capacity to enhance attentional control means games are training the executive centers of attention. That means games have the capacity to train people how to learn.”

6. “Across all domains, language gains are one of the biggest effect sizes,” she says, referencing a 2012 study published in the Review of Educational Research. “Even when the game was not intended to increase vocabulary or language, games improve language and literacy.”

7. Steinkuehler’s own research found that a student’s interest is a “key variable” in the level of reading gains he or she enjoys. “When students are allowed to choose the text, when they cared about the topic, they fixed their own comprehension problems on the fly,” she says. “When you care about something, you will sit and persist through the challenges because you care.”

8. Games can change minds and challenge stereotypes, according to this study. “Games that allow for reflection and cause players to challenge their bias are more engaging,” she explains.

9. “Even if we treat games as a single category—which they’re not—you’ll find that games are correlated with intellectual performance and social competence,” Steinkuehler says, referring to this 2016 study.

10. This is probably the most concerning: “Games on the market have almost no relationship with research. And research have almost no relationship with games on the market,” Steinkuehler says, referring to a forthcoming study she will co-author. “If we are going to make products that are not just beautifully designed, but also make good on the claims that they’re for impact, then we have to be able to marry design and research in some fashion,” she implores.