Leveling Up: The Next Steps in Game-Based Learning Research

It is difficult to initiate and maintain social games with the intensity our team expended during Martian Boneyards. To advance our research and understand how games could be used for innovative new assessments in STEM education, we decided to focus on mobile app games because mobile apps are the fastest growing game platform (Entertainment Software Association, 2013) and relatively easy to develop, revise, and study. We also see mobile devices, with their affordances of augmented reality, as having potential for connections between game-based and real-world learning.

Researchers have long advocated for learning assessments designed as tools that both measure and foster deep inquiry and collaboration, and provide strong feedback and recognition of students’ progress (Clark, Englert, Frazee, Shebby, & Randel, 2009; Lee, Chan, & van Aalst, 2006). Some researchers use game assessments that build from the evidence-centered approach to assessment design (Mislevy, Steinberg, & Almond, 2003) and create Bayesian networks or other methods to predict learners’ paths through a game (Koenig, Lee, Iseli, & Wainess,

2010; Shute, 2011). These assessments are typically studied in the current model of schools.

In many typical mobile games, mechanics often rely on intuitive knowledge of a simple game mechanic that is then applied in increasingly difficult or complex situations. In a well-crafted game, learners are able to cohere their various game experiences into a larger understanding and begin to appreciate how their cumulative game experiences build a systemic picture of the properties and behaviors of the mechanic and the environment. This knowledge may be implicit and players may be unable to articulate explicitly their conceptual understanding. However, players may use these intuitive understandings to predict and navigate their way through the environment. These actions in the game may provide measurable evidence of their implicit knowledge.

EdGE’s research framework to study the development of implicit knowledge in games stems from the philosophy of scientist Michael Polanyi (1966) and has been suggested by Thomas and Brown (2011) for educators and researchers to consider when studying twenty-first century learning environments. Our research strives to describe how this measurement of emergent implicit learning takes place in games and what it offers for the development of innovative learning assessments for a new generation of learners.

Within this framework the question of transfer becomes more about how implicit knowledge can be leveraged to help explicit learning. First the implicit knowledge building that can be fostered within a game must be identified; then the connections between the emergent game-based learning and real-life phenomena can be explored.

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