Digital Game Based Learning & Elementary Science Instruction

Meluso, A., Lester, J., Spires, H. & Zheng, M. (2012) Enhancing 5th graders’ science content knowledge and self-efficacy through game-based learning. Computers & Education. Vol. 59 pp. 497-504.

This article explores how game based learning could increase science and STEM performance of 5th grade students. Researchers believe that simulations embedded in game based learning can provide enhanced cognition through virtual real world experiences of abstract STEM concepts. It can also increase students’ motivation and interests in science careers. The researchers conducted experiments allowing students to participate in video games individually or collaboratively to determine if there was a difference in self-efficacy and learning acquisition. The research for this study was conducted at a magnet school with 100 fifth graders. The students participated in the Crystal Island game based learning regarding science concepts of North Carolina’s landforms. Pretests and posttests were administered to measure achievement and self-efficacy. According to Meluso, Lester, Spires and Zheng, “Results indicated that there were no differences between the two playing conditions; however, when conditions were collapsed, science content learning and self-efficacy significantly increased. It is possible that the collaborative group did not outperform the single-player group due to the lack of specificity of the actions that the collaborative players engaged in Shih et al. (2010).” (p. 502)

This article provides significant research that helps to propel educational technology research regarding game – based learning.  This is important because there is limited empirical evidence to validate the achievement of game based learning in science. Therefore, this study sought to add to the growing body of research. Additional research must continue to be conducted to make the results more reliable.

Game based learning in fifth grade instruction can be a motivating and engaging instructional strategy to assist students with acquiring science curriculum. Digital games such as Crystal Island can be a great activity in conjunction with traditional science instruction.

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