We designed based on best practices on educational games research, modern methods for science teaching, and have conducted original research pilots showing efficacy.
Educational games have been used for decades, and there is considerable research about what makes one more powerful for your classroom learning.
Here’s a few key pieces of research that have informed our design:
Gameplay itself should involve the learning objectives in order to beat the game, rather than using unrelated gameplay with pop-up multiple choice questions. Research shows this has better outcomes, and students chose to play 7x longer with embedded learning in one study… it’s more engaging, too! (1)
Powerful learning games often involve simulations, as this aligns with the Next Generation Science Standard vision of exploring concepts with science practices in order to learn. One study also showed students’ academic achievement improved 23% when using simulations! (2)
Play Multiple Sessions
Studies also show that playing multiple game sessions results in better learning outcomes than not playing, or only playing once. (3)
Immersive and role-playing games show increased academic performance, and better transfer of skills than other types of games. (4)
We have conducted pilots in order to study the impact of Tyto Online, and are planning additional longer-term studies as we progress. This information is used to show its impact, but the learning also drives iterative improvements to the product to constantly improve our impact.
This pilot tested the Phase I work of a new expansion to Tyto Online, where students work together collaboratively in groups to solve problems — first collecting data to come to a consensus about what the problem is, and then testing engineering solutions to create a recommendation.
Our top-line result was a 12% increase in Science and Engineering Practices.
We didn’t only base our design and approach on game-based learning research, we also pulled from a strong general learning and science learning research base.
Here’s a few key items that are critical to our pedagogical approach:
Engage in Science & Engineering Practices
Science curriculum that gives students opportunities to engage in practices improved achievement on next generation science assessments. (5)
Students must have direct experience with the phenomena they are learning about, including raising questions and drawing new conclusions through experiences. (6)
Utilizing a problem-based learning approach is shown to encourage accessing of prior knowledge and high-road transfer, improving metacognitive awareness and long-term retention. (7)
Cooperative learning has a broad set of diverse, positive outcomes for students, including better communication, improved motivation, and even feelings of acceptance and inclusion among group members. (6)
Habgood, M.P., Jacob and Ainsworth, Shaaron E (2011). Motivating children to learn effectively: exploring the value of intrinsic integration in educational games. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 20(2), 169-206.
D’Angelo, C., Rutstein, D., Harris, C., Haertel, G., Bernard, R., & Borokhoski, E. (2014). Simulations for STEM Learning: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Menlo, Park, CA: SRI International.
Clark, D.B., Tanner-Smith, E.E., & Killingsworth, S. (2014). Digital games, design, and learning: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
Takeuchi, L. M., & Vaala, S. (2014). Level up learning: A national survey on teaching with digital games. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
Harris, C. J., Penuel, W. R., DeBarger, A., D’Angelo, C., & Gallagher, L. P. (2014). Curriculum Materials Make a Difference for Next Generation Science Learning: Results from Year 1 of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
Worth, K., Duque, M., & Saltiel, E. (2009). Designing and implementing inquiry-based science units for primary education. Montrouge, France: Pollen, Seed Cities for Science.
Hmelo, C.E., & Evensen, D.H. (2000). Problem-based learning: Gaining insights on learning interactions through multiple methods of inquiry. In. D.H. Evensen & C.E. Hmelo (Eds.), Problem-based learning: A research perspective on learning interactions (1-18). New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.
Gavriel, S., & Perkins, D.N. (1989). Rocky roads to transfer: Rethinking mechanics of a neglected phenomenon. Educational Psychologist, 24(2), 113-142.
Gillies, R.M., & Ashman, A.F. (2003). An historical review of the use of groups to promote socialization and learning. In R.M. Gillies and A.F. Ashman (Eds.), The social and intellectual outcomes of learning in groups (1-18). New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.