DIP: Examining the Potential for Synergy or Negative Transfer when Students Learn from Multiple STEM Learning Games

This project examines the cognitive processes that take place when students engage in
multiple game-based STEM learning environments: the potential for synergy and the danger of negative transfer from the interaction of game-based learning environments.

When students learn STEM content and STEM ways of thinking through games, they learn to think about particular STEM issues from particular points of view. As the education research community envisions STEM education a decade or more in the future, where students are motivated to learn STEM concepts by playing computer games based on STEM subjects, fields, and professions, it is important to consider what happens when students play multiple STEM games, with potentially overlapping topics and approaches.

This work builds on and extends two earlier NSF-funded projects that created STEM learning
games, Land Science and Nephrotex. This project will develop a new STEM learning game, CleanWater, that overlaps in content and STEM practices with both Land Science and Nephrotex. Having students play two related STEM learning games will show whether exposure to more than one STEM game results in learning and motivational gains that are more than, or equal to, or less than playing the games independently.

The learning science technique of epistemic network analysis will be used to model how students are thinking in each game. These models will identify domain specific elements that students learn from playing a game and game general elements that they develop through game play. These models will be used to quantify whether, how, and under what conditions the impact of playing a STEM learning game is affected by having played a different but related STEM learning game beforehand.


David Shaffer




Completed on August 31, 2016