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Center for Innovation in Teaching & Research
Member, Texas Tech University System The Princeton Review - 373 Best Colleges, 2011 Edition

Do Instructional Activities - Games and Simulations

Description: Games and simulations let people learn by playing. Studies conducted by Clark and Mayer (as cited by Reiser et al.) found simulations help students learn. Also, a study conducted by Moreno, Mayer, Spires, and Lester (as cited by Reiser et al.) “reported students learned better from a computer-based game designed to teach environmental science than when the identical material was presented as a tutorial with onscreen text and illustrations” (p. 320). Games and simulations allow learners to practice tasks, apply knowledge, and learn principles while having fun. Learning games can be designed in the form of quiz shows, board games, and video games to inspire curiosity. Most importantly, when real-world tasks present real dangers, simulations allow learners to perform such tasks without the risks of being harmed or injured (Horton, p. 141).

Types of Learning Games and Simulations

  • Quiz-show games
  • Word puzzles
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Adventure games
  • Software simulations
  • Device simulations
  • Personal-response simulations
  • Mathematical simulations
  • Environmental simulations

Best Practices for Games and Simulations

  1. Emphasize learning, not just acting. Make sure your games require applying the requisite knowledge and skills.
  2. Simulate thought-processes, not just physical actions.
  3. Avoid arbitrary limitations on how the learner accomplishes the goal. If there are three ways to do the task in the real work, allow three ways in the games.
  4. Challenge learners. A technique for challenging all learners is called scaffolding and fading. Scaffolding refers to the support provided to the learner to ensure they succeed. As learners learn the task, reduce scaffolding or support so they work more independently.
  5. Explain the game clearly – the goals, roles, how to get started, and rules of the game.
  6. Provide multiple ways to learn by linking to text documents.
  7. Manage competitiveness. Design the game or activity for learners to cooperate rather than compete (p. 160-164).