Designing Intervention in Educational Game Research: Developing Methodological Approaches for ‘Design-Based Participatory Research

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The international focus on the learning potential of games in recent years has led to a boost in both academic research interest and the development of game formats. Numerous educational computer games are available for today’s teachers, but the implementation of games in everyday teaching is often problematic. In this paper, we argue that the focus on designing and implementing game-based learning environments in educational settings implies a need to rethink methodological questions on how to apply and study educational designs. We review the methodological approaches of design-based research and action research and discuss some of the implications of applying these methods to game research. Both methods involve combining empirical educational research with the theory-driven design of learning environments. However, whereas action research aims at changing attitudes or behavior by involving participants in the different phases of designing environments for change, design-based research has a strong focus on theory-based design and implementation of technologies and artifacts as part of the learning environment. In this paper, we present data from a study involving the design and implementation of game technology in educational settings: the game Global Conflict: Latin America, which is a role-playing game, set in a 3D environment. In the game, students play a freelance journalist who has to investigate particular issues or conflicts in the Latin American region. The game is designed to teach different subjects that involve social studies, such as geography, Danish, and history in secondary and upper secondary schools. In the first case, we conducted a study of how it is possible to integrate the game Global Conflict: Latin America in a local school practice. The involvement of game developers, researchers, students, and teachers in the different phases of the game-based educational scenario is discussed. The teacher involvement in the various design phases and student approaches and practices observed within the classes playing the games are compared as well as possibilities for the future integration of design. The case is discussed in relation to the methodological approaches of action research and design-based research. With the aim of developing approaches to modulate and integrate new game designs into school education, we suggest a design-based research approach inspired by action research with a focus on inviting teachers and players into the various phases of development of designs, intervention, redesigns, and analysis of design interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 4th European Conference on Game-Based Learning
EditorsBente Meyer
Number of pages8
Place of PublicationReading, UK
Publication date2010
ISBN (Print)978-1-906638-78-8
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-906638-79-5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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