Thursday, May 31, 2012

Serious Games: Developing a Research Agenda for Educational Games and Simulations

The folks over at SharpBrains are trying to get a means of evaluating the use of educational games and simulations.

The research overview pro­vided by Tobias, Fletcher, and Dai (this vol­ume) is very help­ful in sum­ma­riz­ing stud­ies to date on var­i­ous dimen­sions of edu­ca­tional games and sim­u­la­tions. The next chal­lenge for the field is to move beyond iso­lated research in which each group of inves­ti­ga­tors uses an idio­syn­cratic set of def­i­n­i­tions, con­cep­tual frame­works, and meth­ods. Instead, to make fur­ther progress, we as schol­ars should adopt com­mon research strate­gies and models—not only to ensure a higher stan­dard of rigor, but also to enable stud­ies that com­ple­ment each other in what they explore. As this book doc­u­ments, we now know enough as a research com­mu­nity to under­take col­lec­tive schol­ar­ship that sub­di­vides the over­all task of under­stand­ing the strengths and lim­its of games and sim­u­la­tions for teach­ing and learn­ing. Fur­ther, through a con­tin­u­ously evolv­ing research agenda we can iden­tify for fun­ders and other stake­hold­ers an ongo­ing assess­ment of which types of stud­ies are most likely to yield valu­able insights, given the cur­rent state of knowledge.

Research agen­das include both con­cep­tual frame­works for clas­si­fy­ing research and pre­scrip­tive state­ments about method­olog­i­cal rigor. (For an exam­ple of a research agenda out­side of gam­ing and sim­u­la­tion – in online pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment – see Dede, Ketel­hut, White­house, Breit, &McCloskey, 2009.) In addi­tion, research agen­das rest on tacit assump­tions often unstated, but in fact bet­ter made explicit, as dis­cussed below. In this chap­ter, to inform a research agenda for edu­ca­tional games and sim­u­la­tions, I offer thoughts about fun­da­men­tal assump­tions and a con­cep­tual frame­work that includes pre­scrip­tive heuris­tics about qual­ity. In doing so, my pur­pose is not to pro­pose what the research agenda should be – that is a com­plex task best done by a group of peo­ple with com­ple­men­tary knowl­edge and per­spec­tives – but to start a dia­logue about what such an agenda might include and how it might best be formulated.
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