Developing Students' Deep Understanding of Electromagnetism through Game Play

Project title:
Developing students' process learning skills and deep understanding of electromagnetism through the medium of a 3D simulation game
Project ID: R8022
Funding: $92,121

Overview of the project (streaming movie):

The use of “serious games” to increase student engagement and improve learning outcomes is a relatively new phenomenon. Notwithstanding, there is widespread interest, in Singapore as well as internationally, in better understanding how the use of immersive 3D games can be successfully assimilated into classroom learning to good effect.

This research project arises from a proposal by Raffles Institution to introduce a 3D game as a medium of learning for a Sec. 3 Advanced Module on electromagnetism to be offered in 2007. In addition to mastery of conceptual understanding, the teachers are particularly interested in helping students to develop process skills that revolve around developing (i) curiosity and empathy, (ii) self directedness, (iii) higher-order thinking and problem solving, and (iv) teaming and interpersonal skills.

In view of the above, we have proposed the design and development of a multiplayer game (that also incorporates a single player mode for exploratory learning) that will allow students to develop the desired learning traits in a challenging way by getting students to work in teams toward eventual competitive game play. Pedagogically, apart from the orientation toward collaborative learning, competitive learning, and the development of process skills, the research effort builds upon and further investigates diSessa’s (2000) argument that deep intuitive understanding of a phenomenon is a required precursor to students’ development of more formalized scientific knowledge. The physics domain of electromagnetism is particularly difficult for students to gain intuitive understanding about because of its inherent abstractness. It is therefore a strong candidate for investigating how a 3D game can enhance, engage, and improve student learning.

Research project goals:
  1. To investigate the use of a 3D game on electromagnetism on student learning processes and outcomes by means of intervention research.
  2. To study teacher practices with respect to the use of gaming for learning.
  3. To enhance teacher capacity with respect to the design and use of games for student learning.
  4. To implement the game necessary for the research.
  5. To study the contextual factors that aid/hinder the success of the research intervention.

Research questions:

  1. How do students develop intuitive and conceptual understanding of physics phenomena via the medium of a 3D game?
  2. How can learning with games be designed so as to enhance the development of students’ process and higher-order thinking and problem solving skills?
  3. How can/should games be designed so that they help students to develop intuitive understanding as a foundation for building conceptual knowledge? (Cf. Gee, 2005b)
  4. What is the role of teachers in facilitating learning by game play and how do we support the development of such capacity?
  5. What are the contextual factors that aid or impede the success of classroom-based learning with games?


Zuiker, S. J., Anderson, K. A., Lee, J. L. H., & Chee, Y. S. (2008). Designing for the epistemological entailments of physics through game-centered dialogical activity cycles. In Kirschner, P. A., van Merrinboer, J., & de Jong, T. (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences 2008 (pp. 516–523). Utrecht: University of Utrecht. [pdf]

Lee, J. L. H. & Chee, Y. S. (2009). Generative conversations in game-based learning. In C. O'Malley, D. Suthers, P. Reimann, & A. Dimitracopoulou (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (pp. 419–428). Atlanta, GA: International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Chee, Y. S. & Lee, J. L. H. (2009). Game-based learning as a vehicle for developing science inquiry skills using the Centauri 7 learning program. In Kong, S.C., Ogata, H., Arnseth, H.C., Chan, C.K.K., Hirashima, T., Klett, F., Lee, J.H.M., Liu, C.C., Looi, C.K., Milrad, M., Mitrovic, A., Nakabayashi, K., Wong, S.L., Yang, S.J.H. (eds.), Proceedings of the 17th  International Conference on Computers in Education (pp. 659–666). Hong Kong, November 2009. [pdf]

Chee, Y. S., Tan, E. M., & Lee, L. H. J. (2010). Learning with computer games: Beyond mastering subject content. In Chai, C. S. & Wang, Q. (Eds.), ICT for self-directed and collaborative learning (pp. 366–382). Singapore: Prentice-Hall. [pdf]


[back to Research page]