Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Exploring Elementary-School Students' Engagement Patterns in a Game-Based Learning Environment

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Exploring Elementary-School Students' Engagement Patterns in a Game-Based Learning Environment

Article excerpt


In recent years, game-based learning has become a critical issue in education (Connolly, Boyle, MacArthur, Hainey, & Boyle, 2012) because games may help students engage with learning by offering fantasy and academic content (Chen, 2014; Chang, Wu, Weng, & Sung, 2012). According to previous studies, students' involvement and participation in learning activities should be constructed based on positive interactions between students and their learning environment (O'Brien & Toms, 2008). To fulfill this requirement, a game must embed fantasy content to motivate students to active participate in the task (Gunter et al., 2008). Moreover, a game should provide sufficient challenges, immediate and clear feedback, and playable experiences to increase students' engagement in the learning process (Inal & Cagiltay, 2007; Hou & Li, 2014; Kiili, 2005).

The game design mechanism includes the game goals and the learning goals (Gunter, Kenny, & Vick, 2008; Ke & Abras, 2012). The game goals must be designed to attract students' attention and to encourage their engagement in game-based learning activities (Alessi & Trollip, 2001). Therefore, we can optimistically speculate that students acquire knowledge through the game play process to achieve learning goals. Based on Chen (2014), the mini-game approach benefits the development of GBL in two ways. First, the mini-game approach maintains the structure of the materials, which makes it suitable for well-structured subject domains, where the learning materials can be decomposed into smaller lessons or units to be drilled upon. Second, the mini-game approach offers more flexibility for application in domain-independent subjects. That is, the mini-game is allowed to utilize a signal principle to set knowledge or skills that students are required to learn (Maertens, Vandewaetere, Cornillie, & Desmet, 2014). However, the influences of mini-game-based learning on students' engagement behaviors are still unclear.

To confirm whether game-based learning effectively facilitates students' learning, some available methods, such as interviews, observations, surveys, and usability tests, have been used (Reeves & Hedberg, 2003). For example, based on the technological acceptance model, researchers suggest that students' experience of both usefulness and ease of use of game design features are related to their attitude toward game-based learning (Hou & Li, 2014). In addition, researchers have emphasized the relationships among game interfaces, users' learning-skill development, and achievement (Pinelle, Wong, & Stach, 2008).

Generally, while learning in a game-based environment, individuals must engage in activities such as problem identification, hypothesis making, and reflective thinking (Maertens et al., 2014). The degree of engagement is positively related to the individual learning outcomes (Admiraal, Huizenga, Akkerman, & Dam, 2011). Typically, researchers have proposed a three-part typology, emphasizing affective, behavioral, and cognitive dimensions of engagement (Fredericks et al., 2004). Behavioral engagement refers to the observable behaviors reflected in attendance or active participation, such as asking questions or participating in discussions. Cognitive engagement refers to an individual's goal setting, self-regulation of performance, or application of learning strategies. Affective engagement refers to attitude--a sense of intention, interest, or motivation to engage in a task.

Most research has examined students' engagement behaviors in game-based learning through questionnaires. For example, most researchers have used flow assessments to measure engagement (Admiraal et al., 2011; Hsieh, Lin, & Hou, 2013; Hou & Li, 2014; Inal & Cagiltay, 2007; Kiili, 2005). However, standard questionnaires may not be easily incorporated into various game-based learning environments. Moreover, important information that arises during the task execution process may be lost. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.