Top 10 Research Findings 2012 #10

A few years ago, it was particularly challenging to find real empirical research related to the use of games in education and training.  Back then my PhD advisor Clint Bowers and I started an annual presentation of the Top 10 Research Findings in games in order to help raise the visibility of the few results that existed.  Over the past 6 years, the amount of good research being conducted has grown exponentially.  What started out as a hunt for 10 articles has slowly become a huge effort, with many great studies no longer making the cut.  Clint and I typically gave this presentation at the DoD Gametech conference, which allowed us to focus on the studies that were most relevant to military training and education, but this past year I was invited to present at Tech Knowledge, bringing a new element to the down select.

In preparation for this presentation, I first pull any research that is related in any way to the use of games, then I select only the papers that include empirical findings.  I then read each article and determine which studies resulted in the most relevant results for the audience I am addressing.  The list here includes a hybrid of both the Gametech and Tech Knowledge presentations, as they both had results that are applicable to anyone interested in the use of games.  They  are in no particular order, and were all published in 2012.

As you read the synopses provided here, I advise you to remember that we are but two games researchers who are trying to find the most salient results.  I have not always included all of the findings of a study, but instead extracted the results most pertinent for discussion in our industry.  I also highly recommend that you take the time to read the articles and reach your own conclusions about their results.  Everything is subject to interpretation, and here you will always get mine!

Drum roll please…..

#10  The effects of learning style and gender consciousness on novice’s learning from playing educational games.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a few hot-button phrases that I despise.  Learning Styles tops that list.  I don’t believe in them.  Research has indicated that they don’t exist.  I could write an entire post on them (and perhaps I shall).  When I found this study the title piqued my interest immediately, and I assumed I would have a good chuckle then move on.  I was surprised to find that this study was not only done very well, but with exceptional vigor.  Also, I was very happy to learn that the learning styles represented in this study were Kolb’s learning style approach, with a specific emphasis on two groups, not the learning styles that I stand so strongly against (you are not a visual learner, nobody is).

In this study, 122 eighth graders used a custom flash development tool to learn programming through game play.  They were tested for two types of learning style in particular – Divergers who were best at viewing concrete situations with multiple viewpoints and Convergers who were best at finding practical uses for ideas.  The participants were also surveyed on their gender consciousness to determine the gender roles, traits and feelings of gender equality or inequality that they possessed.  The study was designed to determine if their style and gender consciousness had any impact on their ability to comprehend programming concepts, their project performance, and their motivation.  The results were complicated and mixed.  First, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was similar and positive for all four groups.  Second, it was found that convergers comprehended abstract programming principles better than divergers, but comprehension was not impacted by gender consciousness.  Next, it was found that divergers with low gender consciousness outperformed high gender conscious divergers on project performance.  Convergers of both gender consciousnesses groups performed equally.    Finally, high gender conscious convergers outperformed high gender conscious divergers on project performance, but there was no difference between divergers and convergers of low gender consciousness.

That’s deep right?  So what does it all mean?  Kolb’s Learning Styles did indeed impact programming comprehension.  Gender consciousness impacted divergers and convergers differently.  This is most relevant for teachers and trainers who are interested in using game development to teach complex processes like programming.  Those teachers and trainers should be aware of the learning style and gender consciousness focus of their students and try to mitigate the impacts of their traits on the learning!

Wang, L. & Chen, M. (2012).  The effects of learning style and gender consciousness on novice’s learning from playing educational games.  Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal, 4(1), 63-77.

I’ll keep posting these, but didn’t want this post to get too long.  Stay tuned for #9!