traditional classroom instruction and offer more interaction,
immediate feedback and user control.
As the research evolves, ensuring good assessment practices
is critical for ensuring effective learning in games.
“We really need a set of criteria to help people sort through
all of this, because the number of games purporting to help
students learn is only going to grow,” Baker says.
Researchers have started to fill that knowledge gap. In 2013,
researchers at New York University and the City University
of New York found that math video games can enhance
middle-schoolers’ motivation to learn (Journal of Educational
In the study, 58 middle-school students played the video
game FactorReactor, which is designed to build math skills
through problem-solving. The researchers found that when
students played the game with one another — as compared
with playing alone — they adopted a mastery mindset that is
highly conducive to learning. Moreover, students’ interest and
enjoyment in playing the game increased when they played with
“We found support for claims that well-designed games
can motivate students to learn less popular subjects, such as
math, and that game-based learning can actually get students
interested in the subject matter,” says Jan Plass, PhD, a professor
in NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human
Development and one of the study’s lead
However, he adds, the results may be
limited to the educational content of the
game or its design.
“Future research will need to examine
design features that optimize learning
across curricula,” he says.
Psychologists are also studying
Operation ARA (Acquiring Research
Acumen), a learning game for high
school and college students that teaches
research methodology via a narrative
about aliens invading Earth with “bad
science.” In the game, students are
tutored by avatars on research examples
taken from psychology, biology and
chemistry, and then asked to identify
flaws in that research.
A series of studies were conducted
by psychologist Art Graesser, PhD, of
the Institute for Intelligent Systems at
the University of Memphis, and his
colleagues, who developed the game.
They reported improvements in scientific
reasoning and critical thinking skills
among students at three different types
of higher education institutions — an
open admissions community college, a state university and a
highly selective private college ( Thinking Skills and Creativity,
“Every component of the game was backed by one or more
principles of learning,” says Graesser. “That’s different from a lot
of commercial games that often try to optimize motivation but
not learning. We really tried to do both.” n
Amy Novotney is a journalist in Chicago.
• Blumberg, F. (Ed.). (2014). Learning by playing: Video
gaming in education. New York, NY: Oxford University
• Mayer, R. E. (2014). Computer games for learning: An
evidence-based approach. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
• The A-GAMES project: http://gamesandlearning.
• Young, M. F., Slota, S., Cutter, A. B., Jalette, G.,
Mullin, G., Lai, B., . . . Yukhymenko, M. (2012). Our
princess is in another castle: A review of trends in serious
gaming. Review of Educational Research, 82( 1), 61–89.
www.apa.org/pubs/books • 800-374-2721
Consensual Qualitative Research
A Practical Resource for Investigating
Social Science Phenomena
Edited by Clara E. Hill
2012. 329 pages. Hardcover.
ISBN 978-1-4338-1007-7 • Item 4313031 • List: $69.95 • APA Member/Affiliate: $49.95
Qualitative Strategies for Ethnocultural Research
Edited by Donna K. Nagata, Laura Kohn-Wood, and Lisa A. Suzuki
2012. 280 pages. Hardcover.
ISBN 978-1-4338-1149-4 • Item 4316139 • List: $69.95 • APA Member/Affiliate: $49.95
Methodological Approaches to
Edited by Leonard A. Jason and David S. Glenwick
2012. 264 pages. Hardcover.
ISBN 978-1-4338-1115-9 • Item 4316136 • List: $49.95 • APA Member/Affiliate: $39.95
Quantitative Models in Psychology
Robert E. McGrath
2011. 241 pages. Hardcover.
ISBN 978-1-4338-0959-0 • Item 4313028 • List: $59.95 • APA Member/Affiliate: $49.95
Methodology in Psychology