This mixed-methods study examined student engagement and the development of twenty-first-century learning skills of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking for Grade 3 students who used immersive game-based learning activities using Breakout EDU strategies compared to students who used traditional small-group methods. BOEDU is an escape room for the classroom. There were 76 Grade 3 students in the study. There were 40 students in the immersive game-based learning group and 36 students in the tradition small-group learning group. The overall quantitative results showed no significant results for engagement or the development of twenty-first-century learning skills of students who participated using BOEDU strategies versus students who did not participate in BOEDU strategies. However, the subgroup of non-ELL students showed significant results for behavioural engagement and overall disaffection. In addition, the overall qualitative results showed teamwork, challenge and fun as the most frequent themes of motivational engagement triggers. The students who participated in the focus group interviews, both the engaged students and the disaffection students, stated they enjoyed this method of learning and wanted to do it more often.
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.
Al-Azawi, R., Al-Faliti, F., & Al-Blush, M. (2016). Educational gamification vs. game based learning: Comparative study. International Journal of Innovation, Management and Technology, 7(4), 132–136. https://doi.org/10.18178/ijimt.2016.7.4.659.
Alsawaier, R. S. (2018). The effect of gamification on motivation and engagement. The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, 35(1), 56–79. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJILT-02-2017-0009.
Appleton, J. J., Christenson, S. L., & Furlong, M. J. (2008). Student engagement with school: Critical conceptual and methodological issues of the construct. Psychology in the Schools, 45(5), 369–386.
Axelson, R. D., & Flick, A. (2011). Defining student engagement. Change, 43(1), 38–43.
Boyaci, S., & Atalay, N. (2016). A scale development for 21st century skills of primary school students: A validity and reliability study. International Journal of Instruction, 9(1), 133–148.
Carver-Thomas, D., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Teacher turnover: Why it matters and what we can do about it. Palo Alto: Learning Policy Institute Retrieved from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/teacher-turnover-report.
Cetin-Dindar, A. (2016). Student motivation in constructivists learning environment. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 12(2), 233–247.
Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2010). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. [kindle edition]. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Perennial.
Deci, E., Vallerand, R. J., Pelletier, L. G., & Ryan, R. M. (1991). Motivation and education: The self-determination perspective. Educational Psychologist, 26(3&4), 325–346.
Dichev, C., Dicheva, D., Angelova, G., & Agre, G. (2014). From gamification to gameful design and gameful experience in learning. Cybernetics and Information Technologies, 14(4), 80–100.
Dicheva, D., & Dichev, C. (2015, October). Gamification in education: Where are we in 2015? In E-learn: World conference on E-learning in corporate, government, healthcare, and higher education (pp. 1445–1454). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).
Dykstra Steinbrenner, J. R., & Watson, L. R. (2015). Student engagement in the classroom: The impact of classroom, teacher, and student factors. Journal of Autism Development Disorder, 45, 2392–2410. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-015-2406-9.
EdLeader21. (2017). 4Cs Rubric Implementation. Retrieved from http://www.edleader21 .com/index.php?pg=29.
Filsecker, M., & Hickey, D. T. (2014). A multilevel analysis of the effects of external rewards on elementary students’ motivation, engagement, and learning in an educational game. Computers & Education, 75, 136–148.
Filsecker, M., & Kerrs, M. (2014). Engagement as a volitional construct: A framework for evidence-based research on educational games. Simulation & Gaming, 45(4–5), 450–470. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046878114553569.
Finn, J. D., & Zimmer, K. S. (2012). Student engagement: What is it? Why does it matter? In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 97–131). New York: Springer.
Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74, 59–109.
Fredricks, J. A., Filsecker, M., & Lawson, M. A. (2016). Student engagement, context, and adjustment: Addressing definitional, measurement, and methodological issues. Learning and Instruction, 43, 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2016.02.002.
Gallup. (2014). State of America’s schools: The path to winning again in education. [Survey Report]. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/services/178769/state-america-schools-report.aspx
Gallup. (2017). 2016 Gallup student poll: A snapshot of results and findings. [Survey Report]. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/reports/210995/gallup-student-poll-snapshot-report-2016.aspx?g
Garneli, V., Giannakos, M., & Chorianopoulos, K. (2017). Serious games as a malleable learning medium: The effects of narrative, gameplay, and making on students’ performance and attitudes. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48(3), 842–859. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12455.
Gee, J. P. (2007). Good video games + good learning. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Georgia Department of Education. (2017). Georgia student health survey: State-wide elementary schools 2016–2017 [report]. Retrieved from http://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Curriculum-and-Instruction/GSHS-II/GSHS%20State%20Reports/2017/State%20Report%202017%20-%20Elementary%20Schools.pdf
Greenstein, L. (2012). Assessing 21st-century skills: A guide to evaluating mastery and authentic learning. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.
Hense, J., & Mandl, H. (2014). Learning in or with games? In digital systems for open access to formal and informal learning (pp. 181–193). Springer, Cham.
Hirn, R. G., Hollo, A., & Scott, T. M. (2018). Exploring instructional differences and school performance in high poverty elementary schools. Preventing School Failure, 62(1), 37–48.
Islas Sedona, C., Leendertz, V., Vinni, M., Sutinen, E., & Ellis, S. (2013). Hypercontextualized learning games: Fantasy, motivation, and engagement in reality. Simulation & Gaming, 44(6), 821–845. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046878113514807.
Jensen, E. (2013). How poverty affects classroom engagement. Educational Leadership, 70(8), 24–30.
Johnson, D., Klarkowski, M., Vella, K., Phillips, C., McEwan, M., & Watling, C. (2018). Greater rewards in video games lead to more presence, enjoyment and effort. Computers in Human Behavior, 87, 66–74.
Kapp, K. M. (2012). Games, gamification, and the quest for learner engagement. T&D Retrieved from http://www.td.org/Publications/Magazines/TD/TD-Archive/2012/06/Games-gamification-and-the-Quest-for-Learner-Engagement.
Ke, G., Xie, K., & Xie, Y. (2016). Game-based learning engagement: A theory- and data-driven exploration. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(6), 1183–1201. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12314.
Kivunja, C. (2015a). Exploring the pedagogical meaning and implication of the 4Cs “super skills” for the 21st century through Bruner’s 5E lenses of knowledge construction to improve pedagogies of the new learning paradigm. Creative Education, 6, 224–239. https://doi.org/10.4236/ce.2015.62021.
Kivunja, C. (2015b). Using De Bono’s six thinking hats model to teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for success in the 21st-century economy. Creative Education, 6, 380–391. https://doi.org/10.4236/ce.2015.63037.
Kotkas, T., Holbrook, J., & Rannikmae, M. (2017). A theory-based instrument to evaluate motivational triggers perceived by students in STEM career-related scenarios. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 16(6), 836–854.
Lehr, C. A., Sinclair, M. F., & Christenson, S. L. (2004). Addressing student engagement and truancy prevention during the elementary school years: A replication study of the check and connect model. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 9(3), 279–301.
Luo, W., Hughes, J. N., Liew, J., & Kwok, O. (2009). Classifying academically at-risk first graders into engagement types: Association with long-term achievement trajectories. The Elementary School Journal, 109(4), 380–405. https://doi.org/10.1086/593939.
Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Murphy, K. (2016). Student engagement and academic stress (Doctoral dissertation). Nova Southeastern University, Davie.
National Education Association. (2011). Preparing 21st century students for a global society: An educator’s guide to the “four Cs.” Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/A-Guide-to-Four-Cs.pdf
Noss, R. (2012, September). 21st-century learning for 21st-century skills: What does it mean, and how do we do it? In European conference on technology enhanced learning (pp. 3–5). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.
O’Brien, H. L., & Toms, E. G. (2008). What is user engagement? A conceptual framework for defining user engagement with technology. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59(6), 938–955.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2017). Programme for International Student Assessment. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/pisa/
Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (2015). What we know about communication: Part of the 4Cs research series. http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/docs /Research/P21_4Cs_Research_Brief_Series_-_Communication.pdf.
Partnership for 21st Century Learning, & Pearson. (2017). Skills for today: What we know about teaching and assessing collaboration. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/Skills_For_Today_Series-Pearson/Collaboration_White_Paper_FINAL.pdf
Perkins, S. C., Finegood, E. D., & Swain, J. E. (2013). Poverty and language development: Roles of parenting and stress. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 10(4), 10–19.
Plass, J. L., Homer, B. D., & Kinzer, C. K. (2015). Foundations of game-based learning. Educational Psychologist, 50(4), 258–283. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2015.1122533.
Qian, M., & Clark, K. R. (2016). Game-based learning and 21st century skills: A review of recent research. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 50–58.
Reeve, J., Jang, H., Carrell, D., Jeon, S., & Barch, J. (2004). Enhancing students’ engagement by increasing teachers’ autonomy support. Motivation and Emotion, 28, 147–169.
Robb, K. A., Simon, A. E., & Wardle, J. (2009). Socioeconomic disparities in optimism and pessimism. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 16(4), 331–338. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-008-9018-0.
Rotgans, J. I., & Schmidt, H. G. (2011). Cognitive engagement in the problem-based learning classroom. Advances in Health Science Education, 16, 465–479. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10459-011-9272-9.
Roy, A. L., McCoy, D. C., & Raver, C. C. (2014). Instability versus quality: Residential mobility, neighborhood poverty, and children’s self-regulation. Developmental Psychology, 50(7), 1891–1896. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036984.
Saez-Lopez, J.-M., Miller, J., Vazquez-Cano, E., & Dominguez-Garrido, M.-C. (2015). Exploring application, attitudes, and integration of video games: Minecraft Edu in middle school. Educational Technology & Society, 18(3), 114–128.
Sailer, M., Ulrich Hense, J., Mayr, S., & Mandl, H. (2017). How gamification motivates: An experimental study of the effects of specific game design elements on psychological need satisfaction. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 371–380. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.12.033.
Saldana, J. (2015). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Samuelsen, K. M. (2012). Possible new directions in the measurement of student engagement. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 805–811). New York: Springer.
Schaaf, R. (2012). Does digital game-based learning improve student time-on-task behavior and engagement in comparison to alternative instructional strategies? The Canadian Journal of Action Research, 13(1), 50–64.
Skinner, E., Kindermann, T., & Furrer, C. (2009). A motivational perspective on engagement and disaffection: Conceptualization and assessment of children’s behavioral and emotional participation in academic activities in the classroom. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 69(3), 493–525.
Steinkuehler, C., & Duncan, S. (2008). Scientific habits of mind in virtual worlds. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 17(6), 530–543.
Stone, L. (2011). Outliers, cheese, and rhizomes: Variations on a theme of limitation. Educational Theory, 61(6), 647–658.
Sulea, C., van Beek, I., Sarbescu, P., Virga, D., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2015). Engagement, boredom, and burnout among students: Basic need satisfaction matters more than personality traits. Learning and Individual Differences, 42, 132–138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2015.08.018.
Vigdor, J. L., Lad, H. F., & Martinez, E. (2014). Scaling the digital divide: Home computer technology and student achievement. Economic Inquiry, 52(3), 1103–1119. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecin.12089.
Zarzycka-Piskorz, E. (2016). Kahoot it or not? Can games be motivating in learning grammar? Teaching English with Technology, 16(3), 17–36.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Gwinnett County Public Schools, Nova Southeastern University, Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative Program (CITI) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Conflict of Interest
The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Duncan, K.J. Examining the Effects of Immersive Game-Based Learning on Student Engagement and the Development of Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking. TechTrends 64, 514–524 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-020-00500-9
- Breakout EDU
- Critical thinking
- Game-based learning
- Immersive learning environments
- Student engagement