Theses Doctoral

Science Teachers' Perceptions of the Relationship between Game Play and Inquiry Learning

Mezei, Jessica M.

The implementation of inquiry learning in American science classrooms remains a challenge. Teachers’ perceptions of inquiry learning are predicated on their past educational experiences, which means outdated methods of learning may influence teachers’ instructional approaches. In order to enhance their understanding and ultimately their implementation of inquiry learning, teachers need new and more relevant models. This study takes a preliminary step exploring the potential of game play as a valuable experience for science teachers.
It has been proposed that game play and inquiry experiences can embody constructivist processes of learning, however there has been little work done with science teachers to systematically explore the relationship between the two. Game play may be an effective new model for teacher education and it is important to understand if and how teachers relate game playing experience and knowledge to inquiry. This study examined science teachers’ game playing experiences and their perceptions of inquiry experiences and evaluated teacher's recognition of learning in both contexts. Data was collected through an online survey (N=246) and a series of follow-up interviews (N=29). Research questions guiding the study were: (1) What is the nature of the relationship between science teachers’ game experience and their perceptions of inquiry? (2) How do teachers describe learning in and from game playing as compared with inquiry science learning? and (3) What is the range of similarities and differences teachers articulate between game play and inquiry experiences?
Results showed weak quantitative links between science teachers’ game experiences and their perceptions of inquiry, but identified promising game variables such as belief in games as learning tools, game experiences, and playing a diverse set of games for future study. The qualitative data suggests that teachers made broad linkages in terms of parallels of both teaching and learning. Teachers mostly articulated learning connections in terms of the active or participatory nature of the experiences. Additionally, a majority of teachers discussed inquiry learning in concert with inquiry teaching which led to a wider range of comparisons made based on the teacher’s interpretation of inquiry as a pedagogical approach instead of focusing solely on inquiry learning.
This study has implications for both research and practice. Results demonstrate that teachers are interested in game play as it relates to learning and the linkages teachers made between the domains suggests it may yet prove to be a fruitful analogical device that could be leveraged for teacher development. However, further study is needed to test these claims and ultimately, research that further aligns the benefits of game play experiences to teacher practice is encouraged in order to build on the propositions and findings of this thesis.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Rivet, Ann
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 7, 2015