Education and Information Technologies

, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 3311–3327 | Cite as

Understanding learning in video games: A phenomenological approach to unpacking boy cultures in virtual worlds

  • Jason A. EngermanEmail author
  • Alison A. Carr-Chellman
  • Monique MacAllan


This paper describes the findings of a phenomenological research study to uncover possible skills that boys learn through peer supported activities using Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) video games. By drawing on a cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) conceptual framework and prioritizing student voice, this study found that boys engaged in a variety of non-cognitive skills through their COTS video gameplay. The boys in this study expressed experiences that mirrored twenty-first century skills and aligned with the Partnership for twenty-first Century Learning Framework through digital gameplay. These findings are both novel and profound as they suggest that the ways boys engage in COTS video gaming may offer valuable learning traits that may be used by educators in traditional classroom settings, which may help to re-engage boys and improve academic performance in a twenty-first Century education system.


Game-based learning COTS Gender studies Boys Twenty-first century skills Learning outcome 


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study in accordance with Pennsylvania State University’s IRB protocols.

Conflict of interest

No authors have any known conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.East Stroudsburg UniversityEast StroudsburgUSA
  2. 2.College of EducationUniversity of IdahoMoscowUSA
  3. 3.Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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