In Enhancing 5th graders' science content knowledge and self-efficacy through game-based learning, Meluso et al. (2012) explains that "there is a growing interest among researchers in the transformative potential of game-based learning technologies, especially in STEM education (Prensky, 2001; Spires, 2008; Whitton, 2007). Well-designed educational games can have a transformative impact on STEM teaching for several reasons:
For this reason, the purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of a game-based learning environment (i.e., Crystal Island) in fostering students’ science content learning gains. A secondary goal of this study was to contribute to a larger understanding of the affordances of game-based learning environments when students play them collaboratively along with classroom curricula.
In addition to the growing interest around the transformative potential of game-based learning technologies, another "fruitful area" for game-based learning research is centered around science self-efficacy. Meluso et al. (2012) assert that this area of research is significant for the following reasons:
The researchers of this study are working from the belief that improving young students' science self-efficacy may increase overall interest in science education and in turn heighten interest in careers in the field of science. For this reason, the literature review focuses on developing relationships between three big ideas--game-based learning, self-efficacy and learning, and collaboration and game-based learning.
In the materials and methods section the researchers explain that the study took place at a public magnet school. The school served grades K-5 in a large district in the south-eastern part of the United States. Thirty-five percent of the students that attend the magnet school receive free or reduced lunches. The sample consisted of 100 fifth graders (45 boys and 55 girls). Students were randomly assigned to either a single-player or collaborative gameplay condition across the classes.
Students played the game-based learning technology Crystal Island after they were exposed to state curriculum for North Carolina for fifth grade science focused on landforms. Meluso et al. (2012) describe Crystal Island as "an online computer game consisting of an immersive, 3-dimensional intelligent learning environment with a cast of characters situated on an island within a story world" (p. 499).
Pre- and Post-test assessments
With the focus on gains in students' science self-efficacy science and content knowledge, questions were designed to require students to indicate to what extent they found each item to be "like" them. Fourteen multiple-choice questions were also used to measure STEM content knowledge about content covered in the game.
Items were adapted from the Sources of Science Self-Efficacy scale (SSSE) (Britner & Pajares, 2006) and from the Self-Efficacy for Self-Regulated Learning Scale (Bandura, 2001).
Science content knowledge
Measured through identical pre- and post-test assessments that aligned with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. FOSS (Full Option Science System) was used to construct assessments for content knowledge items and the fifth grade end of grade questions.
Data collection took place in sessions that occurred once a day over the course of four days. The following occurred on each day of the study:
Results indicated that there were no differences between the two playing conditions. However, the researchers assert that when conditions were collapsed, science content learning and self-efficacy significantly increased. The authors also connected their findings back to the studies theoretical base when they make connections to Howard et al. (2006). They use this connection to support their findings that as expected "students valued the usefulness of discussion with their peers while playing games, indicating that it is important to continue investigations that center around understanding the effects of collaborative gameplay" (p. 502).
Meluso, A., Zheng, M., Spires, H., & Lester, J. (2012). Enhancing 5th graders’ science content knowledge and self-efficacy through game-based learning. Computers and Education, 59(2),497-504.