Meredith K. DiPietro
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Meredith K. DiPietro is a PhD candidate in the School of Teaching and Learning at University of Florida ’s College of Education . Her research focuses on the psychological aspects of technology use and the cognitive potential of video games. She is also interested in the development and design of video game environments to support embodied cognition.


The role of experience in learning from video games: A comparison of expert and novice cases

A case has been made for the educational potential of video games (Gee, 2004). However, the role of individual differences, specifically the experiential level with gaming technology, has not been addressed. Psychological research investigating differences in expert and novice performance validate experience as a necessary consideration when looking at the learning effects of video game play. This is based on the relationship that exists between domain knowledge and the development of highly effective knowledge structures, or schema, which affect individual’s ability to learn (Chi, Feltovich, & Glaser, 1981; Elio & Scharf, 1990; Snyder, 2000; Zeitz, 1994). In learning new information experience dictates how attentional and processing resources are utilized. Recognizing video game play as a domain of expertise (Pillay, 2003, VanDeventer & White, 2002) anticipates learning differences for individual’s with differing experiential levels based on their use of attentional and processing skills developed through practice.

Contrasting game play of experts and novices can provide a method to examine the influence of experience on the attentional and processing resources used by each (Daley, B. J., 1999, Hassebrock, F., Johnson, P. E., Bullemer, P., Fox, P. W., & Moller, J. H., 1993). This presentation will discuss the results of an in depth case comparison of an expert and novice video game player and the implications made in terms of the educational potential of video games. The data used in this study included interviews and observations of four participants playing the video game Lego Star Wars . Two participants were identified as experts and two as novices. Participants were selected and categorized based on their demonstration of the seven characteristics of expertise outlined by Chi, Glaser, and Farr (1988).

Analysis of the data revealed a consistency with the expert literature. Attentional and processing resources of the novice participant concentrated on superficial elements of the game such as the manipulation of the controller in relation to their avatar’s navigation. The expert participant demonstrated a deeper reading of the gaming environment, applying general strategies and skills to navigate through the game and concentrated his or her resources on information presented in the environment to guide his or her play. The differences in how each engaged with the game suggest that the novice participant’s superficial focus on learning to play creates interference and may counteract any potential learning from the game. The contrasting cases in this study point to considerable differences in how players with different levels of experience derive meaning and learn from the game environment making implications for both the use of video games to deliver content based information, and their optimal design to minimize interference effects.


Chi, M. T. H., Glaser, R., & Farr, M. J. (Eds.). (1988). The nature of expertise. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Daley, B. J. (1999). Novice to expert: An exploration of how professionals learn. Adult Education Quarterly, 49(4), 133-147.

Elio, R., & Scharf, P. B. (1990). Modeling novice-to-expert shifts in problem-solving strategy and knowledge organization. Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 14(4), 579-639.

Gee, J. P. (2004). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hassebrock, F., Johnson, P. E., Bullemer, P., Fox, P. W., & Moller, J. H. (1993). When less is more: Representation and selective memory in expert problem solving. The American Journal of Psychology, 106(2), 155-189.

Pillay, H. (2003). An investigation of cognitive processes engaged in by recreational computer game players: Implications for skills of the future. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34(3), 336-350.

Snyder, J. L. (2000). An investigation of the knowledge structures of experts, intermediates and novices in physics. International Journal of Science Education, 22(9), 979-992.

VanDeventer, S. S., & White, J. A. (2002). Expert behavior in children's video game play. Simulation Gaming, 33, 28-48.

Zeitz, C. M. (1994). Expert-novice differences in memory, abstraction, and reasoning in the domain of literature. Cognition and Instruction, 12(4), 277-312.

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