CyGaMEs for Learning and Assessing Conceptual Knowledge: The How-To Primer

Debbie Denise Reese

An instructional videogame demands that its designer align the game with targeted learning outcomes. Without alignment, targeted learning will fail.

We have created a design approach — GaME — that offers a how-to guide for designing videogames that support concept learning and embedded assessment. GaME, or game-based, metaphor enhanced (GaME) design, helps make challenging concepts intuitive. With GaME, we aligned a number of theories: concept learning (Jonassen, 2006), learning science (Schwartz, Bransford, & Sears, 2005), instructional design (Merrill, 2002; Smith & Ragan, 1993), analogical reasoning (Gentner, 1983; Gentner & Holyoak, 1997), game design (Fullerton, Swain, & Hoffman, 2004; Salen & Zimmerman, 2004; Wright, 2003), and flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

Every game has a goal. Win a race. Defeat an enemy. Rescue someone in peril. For an instructional game, that goal should require players to discover and use targeted knowledge. GaME design helps learners comprehend something new by relating it to something they already have learned or experienced. This process is at the heart of analogical reasoning. Once learners can make viable inferences about what they are to learn based on what they already know, the learning becomes intuitive. GaME design builds videogames that prepare learners with requisite prior knowledge for learning challenging concepts. This workshop introduces you to the GaME design method for ensuring that your instructional game makes learning intuitive for players.

The workshop emphasizes cyber-enabled (thus, CyGaMEs) assessment and evaluation methods: how to collect, read, and interpret player data generated in-game.

This workshop surveys GaME design principles and embedded assessment using Selene: A Lunar Creation GaME. Attendees will:


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Jonassen, D. H. (2006). On the role of concepts in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology, Research, & Development, 54(2), 177–196.

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology, Research, & Development, 50(3), 43–59.