Teaching systems thinking through game design

Abstract

In this mixed-methods study, we examined if students benefitted from a game design course offered during an enrichment hour in terms of gains in their system analysis and design skills. Students at a rural middle school in Southeast US (n = 19) attended a 1-hour game design course offered weekly during an academic enrichment class period, for the duration of a school year, learning basics of digital game-design and practicing system design skills such as making flowcharts. The results of quasi-experimental data indicated that the treatment group’s pretest–posttest system analysis and design skills, compared to the control group, which did not receive any training, further improved, F(1,33) = 16.516, p < 0.001. Results from the interviews showed that the participants were able to verbalize how they applied system analysis and design skills developed during the course to problem-solving in different contexts. We discussed the instructional aspects of learning game-design that align with systems thinking. We also explored the possible influence of initial cognitive skills on student learning outcomes from such interventions.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Dr. Tarcin for sharing his pearls of wisdom and unwavering support with us during the course of this research.

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Correspondence to Mete Akcaoglu.

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Appendix

Appendix

Interview questions

  1. 1.

    Questions about the test

    1. a.

      look at items and ask how and why they solved it the way they did (how did you get this answer)

    2. b.

      when you were learning how to create games, were there things that helped you in thinking how to solve problems like these?

  2. 2.

    Questions about their game design, programming, and overall experience

    1. a.

      what did you like or didn’t like about the process of designing games?

    2. b.

      is there anything you wish you could do differently?

    3. c.

      is there anything that you wish you knew to make your game better?

    4. d.

      while making a game, when you are trying to program characters in your game (SCREENSHOT ATTACHED), what do you usually do? (for example, if you run into a challenge, what was your first instinct: raise hand, ask friend, ask instructor, online?) Why?

    5. e.

      Do you (or did you) continue to create games outside school?

      1. i.

        was this the game that you were already working on?

      2. ii.

        use Kodu?

    6. f.

      Do you have any coding/programming experience (with any software/language)? Have you done anything like this before?

      figurea

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Akcaoglu, M., Green, L.S. Teaching systems thinking through game design. Education Tech Research Dev 67, 1–19 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-018-9596-8

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Keywords

  • Game design
  • Problem solving
  • Systems thinking
  • System design
  • Design