Investigating Game-Based Design Elements: Affective Dimensions of Genetics Learning

Friday, 14 February 2014
Grand Ballroom C North (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
David Kanter , Kanter Learning Design and Research, New York City, NY
When we observe kids “glued to games” (Rigby & Ryan, 2011), it is natural to want to harness that eagerness for educational ends. The New York Hall of Science’s Center for Play, Science and Technology Learning (SciPlay), in partnership with Concord Consortium, set out to explore the impact of an educational game on students’ motivation, engagement, affect, science aspirations, and learning. Thus we created GeniGames, an online game where high school students breed dragons – dragons that are based on real lizard genes.  In order to generate a gaming experience, we built into the game the three game-based design elements of narrative, competition, and sociality.  Our research compared the following conditions: (1) GeniGames with its game-based design elements (GG), (2) GeniGames without any game-based design elements (GLO) and (3) business as usual (BAU).  GG and GLO used similar technology and GLO imparted the same genetics content taught through a project-based science curriculum; BAU teachers taught the content using their typical approaches. This spring, 18 New York City high school biology teachers received professional development and they and their 812 students participated in one of these three interventions.

During this session, we will share what we have learned about the impact of game-based design elements on students’ affective dimensions and learning using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies.  Surveys, originating from psychological research on affective dimensions, were administered to students.  Additionally, a genetics assessment was constructed and administered that integrated what is known in the literature about typical student misconceptions in genetics. Initial results using Hierarchical Linear Modeling indicated that by the end of the study, GG students as a whole felt significantly more intrinsic motivation regarding science learning than BAU students (F=6.57, p<.01).  We will also present portraits of sub-populations of students who differed from their group as a whole in being more positively or negatively impacted with regard to their learning and/or their affective dimensions. Classroom observation and focus group data were analyzed and combined with our quantitative findings to gain further insight into the importance of game-based design elements.  Finally, we will discuss how computer trace logs were used to supplement our understanding of students’ behavior and thinking.