Research on the use of digital games suggests they can enhance students’ learning; however, teachers often play an important role in mediating gameplay and a game’s educational goals. The purpose of the study was to investigate implementation approaches of nine biology teachers using an immersive digital game in their science classes, focusing on factors that contributed to their ability to instruct with the game, and how their enactment of the game influenced the class experience. Analysis of teacher data, which included daily feedback and pre- and post-implementation surveys, multiple classroom observations, teaching artifacts, and an extended interview, identified a range of individual instructional decisions as well as similarities and differences across the cohort. Most notably, a pattern of instructional orchestration emerged, resembling co-teaching—a reciprocal and supportive “relationship” between the teacher and the game. The game informed teachers’ thinking about their genetics curriculum and enhanced their instructional practice, while teachers leveraged digital tools to shape students’ gameplay and to improve on what the game offered. Key descriptive findings are discussed, identifying digital game features that may improve teacher instruction with games in classrooms.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
All teacher names are pseudonyms.
Barab, S. (2014). Design-based research: A methodological toolkit for engineering change. Handbook of the Learning Sciences, 2, 233–270.
Bates, M., & Usiskin, Z. (Eds.). (2016). Digital curricula in school mathematics. IAP.
Beavis, C. (2012). Video games in the classroom: Developing digital literacies. Practically Primary, 17(1), 17.
Beavis, C., Rowan, L., Dezuanni, M., McGillivray, C., O’Mara, J., Prestridge, S., Stieler-Hunt, C., Thompson, R., & Zagami, J. (2014). Teachers’ beliefs about the possibilities and limitations of digital games in classrooms. E-Learning and Digital Media, 11(6), 569–581.
Bell, A., & Gresalfi, M. (2017). Teaching with videogames: How experience impacts classroom integration. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 22(3), 513–526.
Biggers, M., Forbes, C. T., & Zangori, L. (2013). Elementary teachers’ curriculum design and pedagogical reasoning for supporting students’ comparison and evaluation of evidence-based explanations. The Elementary School Journal, 114(1), 48–72.
Blackburn, B. R. (2018). Productive struggle is a learner’s sweet spot. ASCD Express, 14, 11.
Boyle, E. A., Connolly, T. M., Hainey, T., & Boyle, J. M. (2012). Engagement in digital entertainment games: A systematic review. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(3), 771–780. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2011.11.020
Boyle, E. A., Hainey, T., Connolly, T. M., Gray, G., Earp, J., Ott, M., Lim, T., Ninaus, M., Ribeiro, C., & Pereira, J. (2016). An update to the systematic literature review of empirical evidence of the impacts and outcomes of computer games and serious games. Computers & Education, 94, 178–192.
Buckley, B. C., Gobert, J., Kindfield, A. C., Horwitz, P., Tinker, R., & Gerlits, B. (2004). Model-based teaching and learning with BioLogicaTM: What do they learn? How do they learn? How do we know? Journal of Science Education and Technology, 13(1), 23–41. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JOST.0000019636.06814.e3
Buckley, B. C., Gobert, J. D., Horwitz, P., & Dwyer, L. M. O. (2010). Looking inside the black box: Assessing model-based learning and inquiry in BioLogicaTM. International Journal of Learning Technology, 5(2), 166–190. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJLT.2010.034548
Clark, D. B., Tanner-Smith, E. E., & Killingsworth, S. S. (2016). Digital games, design, and learning: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 86(1), 79–122.
Correia, C. F., & Harrison, C. (2019). Teachers’ beliefs about inquiry-based learning and its impact on formative assessment practice. Research in Science & Technological Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/02635143.2019.1634040
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. SAGE.
Cviko, A., McKenney, S., & Voogt, J. (2012). Teachers enacting a technology-rich curriculum for emergent literacy. Educational Technology Research and Development, 60(1), 31–54.
Cviko, A., McKenney, S., & Voogt, J. (2014). Teacher roles in designing technology-rich learning activities for early literacy: A cross-case analysis. Computers & Education, 72, 68–79.
Dickey, M. D. (2015). K-12 teachers encounter digital games: A qualitative investigation of teachers’ perceptions of the potential of digital games for K-12 education. Interactive Learning Environments, 23(4), 485–495.
Dillenbourg, P. (2013). Design for classroom orchestration. Computers & Education, 69, 485–492.
Duncan, R. G., & Reiser, B. J. (2007). Reasoning across ontologically distinct levels: Students’ understandings of molecular genetics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching: The Official Journal of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, 44(7), 938–959.
Fishman, B. J., Penuel, W. R., Allen, A. R., Cheng, B. H., & Sabelli, N. O. R. A. (2013). Design-based implementation research: An emerging model for transforming the relationship of research and practice. National Society for the Study of Education, 112(2), 136–156.
Forbes, C. T., & Davis, E. A. (2010). Curriculum design for inquiry: Preservice elementary teachers’ mobilization and adaptation of science curriculum materials. Journal for Research in Science Teaching, 47(7), 820–839. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20379
Freidenreich, H. B., Duncan, R. G., & Shea, N. (2011). Exploring middle school students’ understanding of three conceptual models in genetics. International Journal of Science Education, 33(17), 2323–2349.
Gee, J. P. (2007). Good video games+good learning: Collected essays on video games, learning, and literacy. Peter Lang.
Gee, J. P. (2013). Games for Learning. Educational Horizons, 91(4), 16–20.
Gericke, N. M., Hagberg, M., dos Santos, V. C., Joaquim, L. M., & El-Hani, C. N. (2014). Conceptual variation or incoherence? Textbook discourse on genes in six countries. Science & Education, 23(2), 381–416.
Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory (pp. 1–19). Weidenfield & Nicolson.
Hickey, D. T., Kindfield, A. C., Horwitz, P., & Christie, M. A. T. (2003). Integrating curriculum, instruction, assessment, and evaluation in a technology-supported genetics learning environment. American Educational Research Journal, 40(2), 495–538.
Inan, F. A., & Lowther, D. L. (2010). Factors affecting technology integration in K-12 classrooms: A path model. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(2), 137–154.
Jansen, C., & van der Merwe, P. (2015). Teaching practice in the 21st century: Emerging trends, challenges and opportunities. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 3(3), 190–199.
Jong, M. S., Dong, A., & Luk, E. (2017). Design-based research on teacher facilitation practices for serious gaming in formal schooling. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 12(1), 19.
Jong, M. S., Lee, J. H., & Shang, J. (2013). Educational use of computer games: where we are, and what’s next. In R. Huang & J. M. Spector (Eds.), Reshaping learning (pp. 299–320). Springer.
Kollar, I., & Fischer, F. (2013). Orchestration is nothing without conducting–but arranging ties the two together!: A response to Dillenbourg (2011). Computers & Education, 69, 507–509.
Lord, T., & Reichsman, F. (2018). A dashing new look into dragon genetics. Concord Consortium Newsletter, 22(2), 10–11.
Marklund, B., & Taylor, A. S. (2015). Teachers’ many roles in game-based learning projects. In R. Munkvold & L. Kolås (Eds.), European conferences on games based learning (pp. 359–367). Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited.
Marklund, B. B., & Taylor, A. S. A. (2016). Educational games in practice: The challenges involved in conducting a game-based curriculum. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 14(2), 122–135.
McElroy-Brown, K., & Reichsman, F. (2019). Genetics with dragons: Using an online learning environment to help students achieve a multilevel understanding of genetics. Science Scope, 42(8), 62–69.
Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldana, J. (2014). Qualitative data analysis. SAGE.
Montrieux, H., Raes, A., & Schellens, T. (2017). ‘The best app is the teacher’ introducing classroom scripts in technology-enhanced education. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 33(3), 267–281.
Mutch-Jones, K., Gasca, S., Pallant, A., & Lee, H.-S. (2018). Teaching with interactive computer-based simulation models: Instructional dilemmas and opportunities in the high-adventure science project. School Science and Mathematics, 118(5), 141–201.
Nehm, R. H. (2019). Biology education research: Building integrative frameworks for teaching and learning about living systems. Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research, 1(1), 15.
Patton, M. Q. (2002). Two decades of developments in qualitative inquiry: A personal, experiential perspective. Qualitative Social Work, 1(3), 261–283.
Pavlova, I. V., & Kreher, S. A. (2013). Missing links in genes to traits: Toward teaching for an integrated framework of genetics. The American Biology Teacher, 75(9), 641–649.
Perrotta, C., & Evans, M. A. (2013). Orchestration, power, and educational technology: A response to Dillenbourg. Computers & Education, 69, 520–522.
Prieto, L. P., Holenko Dlab, M., Gutiérrez, I., Abdulwahed, M., & Balid, W. (2011). Orchestrating technology enhanced learning: A literature review and a conceptual framework. International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 3(6), 583–598.
Remillard, J. T. (2016). Keeping an eye on the teacher in the digital curriculum race. In M. Bates & Z. Usiskin (Eds.), Digital curricula in school mathematics (pp. 195–204). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Remillard, J. T., & Heck, D. J. (2014). Conceptualizing the curriculum enactment process in mathematics education. ZDM Mathematics Education, 46(5), 705–718.
Roschelle, J., Dimitriadis, Y., & Hoppe, U. (2013). Classroom orchestration: Synthesis. Computers & Education, 69, 523–526.
Sangrà, A., & González-Sanmamed, M. (2010). The role of information and communication technologies in improving teaching and learning processes in primary and secondary schools. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.1020
Schmitz, B., Klemke, R., Walhout, J., & Specht, M. (2015). Attuning a mobile simulation game for school children using a design-based research approach. Computers & Education, 81, 35–48.
Sharples, M. (2013). Mobile learning: research, practice, and challenges. Distance Education in China, 3(5), 5–11.
Sitzmann, T. (2011). A meta-analytic examination of the instructional effectiveness of computer-based simulation games. Personnel Psychology, 64(2), 489–528.
Srisawasdi, N. (2014). Developing technological pedagogical content knowledge in using computerized science laboratory environment: An arrangement for science teacher education program. Research & Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 9(1), 123–143.
Steinkuehler, C., & Squire, K. (2014). Videogames and learning. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 377–396). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Stieler-Hunt, C., & Jones, C. (2019). A professional development model to facilitate teacher adoption of interactive, immersive digital games for classroom learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 50(1), 264–279.
Takeuchi, L. M., & Vaala, S. (2014). Level up Learning A national survey on teaching with digital games. In Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. New York
Tokarieva, A. V., Volkova, N. P., Harkusha, I. V., & Soloviev, V. N. (2019). Educational digital games: models and implementation. In 6th Workshop on Cloud Technologies in Education (CTE 2018), Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, December 21, 2018 (Vol. 2433, pp. 74–89). CEUR-WS
Tondeur, J., Forkosh-Baruch, A., Prestridge, S., Albion, P., & Edirisinghe, S. (2016). Responding to challenges in teacher professional development for ICT integration in education. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 19(3), 110–120.
Vega, V. (2013). Technology integration research review. Retrieved 2019, from http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-research-learning-outcomes
Wang, P., Tchounikine, P., & Quignard, M. (2018). Chao: A framework for the development of orchestration technologies for technology-enhanced learning activities using tablets in classrooms. International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 10(1/2), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJTEL.2018.10008583
Webb, A. W., Bunch, J. C., & Wallace, M. F. (2015). Agriscience teachers’ implementation of digital game-based learning in an introductory animal science course. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 24(6), 888–897.
Wilson, C., Reichsman, F., Mutch-Jones, K., Gardner, A., Marchi, L., Kowalski, S., Lord, T., & Dorsey, C. (2018). Teacher implementation and the impact of game-based science curriculum materials. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 27(4), 285–305.
The authors extend their deepest appreciation to the dedicated science teachers who were willing to implement new technology, extend their instructional practice by teaching with digital games, and opened their classrooms to our research team. Their efforts and insights enable us to share our findings with the field. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1503311. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Conflict of interest
The authors of this study affirm that there is no conflict of interest related to funding sources (the National Science Foundation), personal financial holdings, affiliations, or relationships. No royalties or other types of payments are associated with the work of the project or the digital game, which are the focus of the submitted manuscript.
All aspects of the research and consent forms for participants have been reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board at Concord Consortium (FWA00013622); they provide oversight for the research and for all authors on this article. TERC’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) has conducted a secondary review of the research protocols and supporting documents for its researchers, in accordance with the TERC Federal-Wide Assurance (FWA00010418). All project staff, regardless of role, have received training in research ethics and the treatment of human subjects.
Consent to participate
The teachers in the study, and featured in the article, were provided with a detailed informed consent letter, which they signed before participating. School administrators approved teacher participation as well as all facets of data collection.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Mutch-Jones, K., Boulden, D.C., Gasca, S. et al. Co-teaching with an immersive digital game: supporting teacher-game instructional partnerships. Education Tech Research Dev 69, 1453–1475 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-021-10000-z