A Look at the Research Behind Game-Based Learning

The AAP PreK-12 Learning Group’s 2016 Content in Context conference will feature a session on game-based learning and what content developers need to know if they want to start creating an educational game. As part of the session, the panelists will look at recent research on educational gaming and what it says about classroom effectiveness. In a recent article Mitch Weisburgh, co-founder and director of Games4Ed, examines the psychology behind why games help students learn.


  • Time on task: the more time spent playing, the greater the gain in skills and knowledge.
  • Assessment: players can only succeed through their own effort. Well-designed games allow for “graceful failure” where students learn from mistakes and can attempt the challenge again.
  • Engagement: studies show that enjoyment and interest in a task can lead to heightened concentration, increased effort in skill-building activities, and greater motivation to complete the task.

Weisburgh does caution that games work best when combined with other instructional methods and are not meant to stand on their own. Furthermore, “There is also little knowledge on the most effective ways to produce games that reliably yield pre-specified learning objectives. It’s hard to know in advance if students will master a specific standard through X hours playing any one game.” 

Read more “The Psychology Behind Why Gaming Helps Students Learn,” by Mitch Weisburgh, K12 Tech Decisions (November 2, 2015) 

For more on the Content in Context got to www.contentincontext.org.

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