Developing Science Problem-solving Skills and Engagement Through Intelligent Game-based Learning Environments

The project draws upon intelligent tutoring and narrative-centered learning technologies to produce a suite of intelligent game-based learning environments for upper elementary school science students. The games explicitly model student knowledge and problem solving and dynamically customize feedback, advice, and explanation as appropriate. Unlike its predecessor, the platform is multi-user so it can support collaboration; offer dynamically generated feedback, advice, and explanation; and provide a pedagogical dashboard that generates student progress reports.

Project Email: 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Friday, August 1, 2008 to Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Project Evaluator: 
SERVE Center of North Carolina
Full Description: 

Recent years have seen a growing recognition of the transformative potential of game-based learning technologies for STEM education.  The proposed project addresses the DR-K12 Frontier Challenge of assuring that all students have the opportunity to learn significant STEM content by investigating the following research question: How can intelligent game-based environments promote problem solving and engagement in STEM learning for upper elementary students?  The proposed research on intelligent game-based learning environments investigates problem solving, engagement, and STEM learning by targeting the following three objectives:

1. Design a suite of intelligent game-based learning environment technologies for elementary science education.  To promote effective science learning, we will create intelligent game-based learning environment technologies that leverage the rich interactive 3D game environments provided by commercial game engines and the inferential capabilities of intelligent tutoring systems.  Building on our experience in these two areas, we will create an engaging intelligent game-based learning environment for 5th grade science.  

2. Implement an empirically-based research program to provide a comprehensive account of elementary students’ problem-solving processes and engagement with STEM content as they interact with intelligent game-based learning environments.  To understand the cognitive mechanisms by which learning occurs, we will take a mixed method approach to investigating science learning with an intelligent game-based learning environment for 5th grade science.  These studies will investigate the central issues of problem solving (strategy use, divergent thinking, and collaboration), and engagement (motivation, situational interest, presence) with respect to achievement as measured by both science content knowledge and transfer.  With diverse student populations drawn from both urban and rural settings, the studies will determine precisely which technologies and conditions contribute most effectively to learning processes and outcomes.

3. Evaluate the design and implementation phases of the research in order to assure high quality processes and results.  To ensure the success of the project, an external evaluator will provide formative and summative feedback to the project team.  

It is expected that the proposed work will have a significant impact on the theory and practice of science education.  By taking advantage of the high degree of interactivity offered by intelligent game-based learning environments, the project holds significant potential for creating compelling learning experiences for STEM content.  Because the research will be conducted with a highly diverse student population in both urban and rural settings, and because of the synergistic interaction of the technology and learning science research, the project offers significant potential for creating compelling learning experiences that lead to higher achievement for all students.