game-based learning

5 ways educational games improve learning, according to teachers

A new study cites impressive learning gains and increased classroom engagement when educational games are incorporated into existing instruction.

Special education students involved in the study authored lengthier responses to open-ended questions, displayed greater confidence in the subject matter after playing the games, and achieved more than a whole standard deviation difference.

After the study established that educational games must engage students and must product meaningful and substantial learning outcomes, it also revealed that teachers cited five specific outcomes achieved by using the educational games:
1. Deeper content games supported in-depth learning, developing investigative, critical thinking, and problem solving skills
2. The subset of quiz-style games reinforced lessons and helped review material
3. Different types of game play simulated interest and engagement, particularly in students prone to being off-task
4. Games prompted student-led discussions, collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge
5. Simple and complex games increased confidence and content mastery

Teachers said they would like to use the educational games for more than 30 percent of their classroom time, citing the way the games supplemented and strengthened existing curricula. Two-thirds of teachers said the educational games made traditional instruction more effective.

The study also found:

  • Increased engagement: Teachers reported dramatic increases in engagement among students who learned with the games.
  • Enthusiastic teachers: Ninety-two percent of teachers who used the education games said they would like to use similar games again because of the impact on student performance and engagement.
  • Improved attention spans: Teachers said students who normally were off-task became more focused on their learning.

“The results highlight the potential of digital games for enhancing instruction, particularly in light of the teachers strongly positive experiences and interest in continuing to use games like these in the future,” said researcher and co-author Douglas Clark, professor, Vanderbilt University’s College of Education and Human Development. “This study is important because it is based on data collected with a large set of games used by teachers in extended curricula across multiple school districts.”

Laura Ascione

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