Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 285–305 | Cite as

Teacher Implementation and the Impact of Game-Based Science Curriculum Materials

  • Christopher D. WilsonEmail author
  • Frieda Reichsman
  • Karen Mutch-Jones
  • April Gardner
  • Lisa Marchi
  • Susan Kowalski
  • Trudi Lord
  • Chad Dorsey


Research-based digital games hold great potential to be effective tools in supporting next-generation science learning. However, as with all instructional materials, teachers significantly influence their implementation and contribute to their effectiveness. To more fully understand the contributions and challenges of teacher implementation of digital games, we studied the replacement of existing high school biology genetics lessons over a 3- to 6-week period with Geniverse, an immersive, game-like learning environment designed to be used in classrooms. The Geniverse materials infuse virtual experimentation in genetics with a narrative of a quest to heal a genetic disease; incorporate the topics of meiosis and protein synthesis with inheritance; and include the science practices of explanation and argumentation. The research design involved a quasi-experiment with 48 high school teachers and about 2000 students, student science content knowledge and argumentation outcome measures, and analysis using hierarchical linear modeling. Results indicate that when Geniverse was implemented as the designers intended, student learning of genetics content was significantly greater than in the comparison, business-as-usual group. However, a wide range of levels of Geniverse implementation resulted in no significant difference between the groups as a whole. Students’ abilities to engage in scientific explanation and argumentation were greater in the Geniverse group, but these differences were not statistically significant. Observation, survey, and interview data indicate a range of barriers to implementation and teacher instructional decisions that may have influenced student outcomes. Implications for the role of the teacher in the implementation of game-based instructional materials are discussed.


Educational games Game-based learning Genetics Argumentation Teacher implementation Fidelity of implementation 



We are grateful to Randy von Smith, Paul Szauter, and the Jackson Laboratories for crafting drake genes and genotypes, to Lisa Carey at BSCS for her help with data collection, to the Geniverse research teachers for their hard work and timely feedback, and to Arthur Libby for his design work on advanced genetics challenges. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Funding Information

This work was funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-0733264.

Supplementary material

10956_2017_9724_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 17.7 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher D. Wilson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Frieda Reichsman
    • 2
  • Karen Mutch-Jones
    • 3
  • April Gardner
    • 1
  • Lisa Marchi
    • 4
  • Susan Kowalski
    • 1
  • Trudi Lord
    • 2
  • Chad Dorsey
    • 2
  1. 1.BSCSColorado SpringsUSA
  2. 2.The Concord ConsortiumConcordUSA
  3. 3.TERCCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Maine Mathematics and Science AllianceAugustaUSA

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