10 Important Research Findings on Games in Education

This post is based on the keynote presented by Constance Steinkuhler at the Games For Change Festival.
See the whole Games For Change series of posts.

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  1. Games provide a 23% gain over traditional learning. 2013 research shows that games can increase learning outcomes by two grade levels.
  2. Co-play is better. A study on motivation shows that when kids play together, outcomes are improved by 2 standard deviations.
  3. intrinsic motivation is greater than extrinsic motivationContent should be married to game mechanics. A great 2011 study shows that dames are powerful motivators, but they function better when the learning is the playful part and not just a side note. See more in my discussions about what makes a good game and intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation for more information.
  4. Games are more powerful combined with paratexts. A 2011 examination of simulation games shows that the text surrounding games aids, when combined with the game, in improving student outcomes more than the game alone.
  5. Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 12.44.30 PMAction games enhance attentional control. A 2012 study demonstrates that games are even effective at training us how to learn and shapes our attention.
  6. Games are great for language gains. The research even showed that the language acquisition didn’t even require that the game was a language game.
  7. Reading gains are inherent to gaming, but choice is a key factor. If students were allowed choice in their in-game reading, the impact was more powerful than the game alone according to Steinkuhler’s own research.
  8. Games are useful for overcoming bias and cognitive dissonance. The 2015 study demonstrates the power of games to overcome cognitive dissonance and reduce stereotypes.
  9. Despite popular opinions, games promote learning and discourage negative behaviors. In fact the study illustrates that regular game-play improved mental health as well as cognitive and social skills.
  10. Games in research don’t reflect games in the market. Sadly a forthcoming study shows that game makers and game researchers often have a disconnect in studying what is being created and creating what studies show is best. We can do better.

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