Digital games may help students develop critical thinking skills

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Digital games

Game-based learning has gained lots of attention in science and education fields.

Previous research has focused on game playing in various fields, such as biology, computer science, psychology, math, business, physics, and chemistry.

However, it is still unknown how well games can be used in daily teaching and learning and help students learn essential 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication.

In a paper newly published in Computer in Human Behavior, researchers reviewed 137 studies that examined how digital games (e.g., educational games, entertainment games, mobile app games, design-based games, etc.) enhance students’ learning performance.

Researchers found that 29 studies directly reported the impact of games on the development of 21st century skills, and that most of them tested students in higher education, middle school, elementary school, and high school.

Important game design elements include collaboration, role-playing, exploration, competition, complexity, self-expression, interactivity and discovery.

Among the research that reported game-based learning effects, 46% showed a large impact of games on learning, and 22% showed a moderate or small effect.

The game design elements have a strong relation with students’ real-word experiences.

For example, the collaboration and competition elements can engage students in social interactions and lead to persistence in the game play.

Role-playing can give students a sense of identity in the game and enhance their real-world competency.

Researchers also found that design-based games seem to work better than simply let students play educational or entertainment games.

Researchers suggest that teachers who want to help students develop 21st century skills should focus on the game design elements mentioned above.

In the future, research work will focus on the learning effects of mobile app games since smart phones, tablets and iPads become more and more popular.


Citation: Qian M, Clark KR. (2016). Game-based Learning and 21st century skills: A review of recent research. Computers in Human Behavior, 63: 50-58. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.05.023
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