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Title: The role of representational competencies for students’ learning from an educational video game for astronomy
Educational video games can engage students in authentic STEM practices, which often involve visual representations. In particular, because most interactions within video games are mediated through visual representations, video games provide opportunities for students to experience disciplinary practices with visual representations. Prior research on learning with visual representations in non-game contexts suggests that visual representations may confuse students if they lack prerequisite representational-competencies. However, it is unclear how this research applies to game environments. To address this gap, we investigated the role of representational-competencies for students’ learning from video games. We first conducted a single-case study of a high-performing undergraduate student playing an astronomy game as an assignment in an astronomy course. We found that this student had difficulties making sense of the visual representations in the game. We interpret these difficulties as indicating a lack of representational-competencies. Further, these difficulties seemed to lead to the student’s inability to relate the game experiences to the content covered in his astronomy course. A second study investigated whether interventions that have proven successful in structured learning environments to support representational-competencies would enhance students’ learning from visual representations in the video game. We randomly assigned 45 students enrolled in an undergraduate course to two conditions. Students either received representational-competency support while playing the astronomy game or they did not receive this support. Results showed no effects of representational-competency supports. This suggests that instructional designs that are effective for representational-competency supports in structured learning environments may not be effective for educational video games. We discuss implications for future research, for designers of educational games, and for educators.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1651781
NSF-PAR ID:
10421206
Author(s) / Creator(s):
;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Education
Volume:
7
ISSN:
2504-284X
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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