Limited Learning Effects but Increased Motivation from Educational Video Games - © Anissa All

Educational games

But do these educational video games succeed in reaching those objectives? Or have these learning effects been gravely exaggerated?

Anissa All - researcher at iMinds - MICT - Ghent University - teamed up with master student Dries Meesschaert to investigate if educational games are more effective than traditional learning methods in learning English vocabulary in elementary school. They also examined if a debriefing - a reflection on the learning experience together with the teacher - had any impact on learning effects.



The study compared three groups:

  • one group played the first two missions of an educational video game and then received a debriefing;
  • one group played the first two missions during the course of an entire class, and
  • one group learned the vocabulary in a classroom lesson with a teacher.

The vocabulary was identical for all three groups and each received an equally long instruction period of 40 minutes. Before and after the lesson, the students took an English language test. Three weeks later, they took another.

Games Increase Interest, Classes Increase Knowledge

In the short term, results show that the game scores just as high as the class. In the longer term, however, students who received the classroom lesson scored significantly higher. The vocabulary was thus remembered for longer when a teacher had taught it. The students did feel the learning experience of games was more enjoyable than the traditional lesson. The debriefing session did not result in added learning effects compared to merely playing the game.

Games to Support Classroom Lessons

Does this mean games are completely useless within school walls? Not at all! Students find games much more enjoyable, they can be used as a teaser to arouse curiosity and achieve an initial learning effect. The teacher can then play into this in a more traditional way, to achieve longer-term learning effects.
This approach offers opportunities for children who are less motivated to go to school. Games can also help boost the self-esteem of low-achieving children in traditional classes and possibly help them reach the same entry level as high-achieving students at the start of a classroom lesson.

© Anissa All is working on a PhD on the effectiveness and learning effects of digital games.


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