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Explanation and Prediction Increasing Gains and Metacognition


The proposed EPIGAME project will integrate metacognitive research on prediction and explanation into the design of a physics-based digital game environment to scaffold students' understanding of formal physics concepts. The design of the EPIGAME environment will support pilot and future research on games for learning through (a)randomized assignment of players to multiple configurations of parameters within the game and (b) embedded computer-adaptive assessment and data log analysis functionality to support sophisticated analytics and data collection. We will identify the most effective combinations of prediction and explanation functionalities, along with other game features, to include in freely available release versions of the game. Our ultimate goal is for teachers to use EPIGAME software to scaffold middle school students (and potentially older students) in bridging intuitive understandings with explicit articulated core concepts of Newtonian mechanics.

The EPIGAME team combines researchers and professional game developers to ensure that the environment effectively integrates cutting-edge research with top-level game design and production values. The development and pilot work will be conducted in an urban Tennessee city with middle school students across multiple school contexts. Randomized controlled comparisons will investigate: (a) prediction approaches ranging from none (real-time navigation interfaces) to high-prediction navigation interfaces, (b) explanation approaches ranging from none (control) through variants of didactic explanation and self-explanation, (c) combinations of prediction functionality, didactic explanation functionality, and self-explanation functionality to explore interactions and synergies among them, and (d) game-based versions, non-game simulation variants, and non-computer-based traditional curricula to establish overall baselines of the potential of digital games for science learning.

Assessment will focus primarily on multiple-choice style physics assessments developed and validated in conjunction with physicists and assessment researchers. We will embed the computer-adaptive assessment format within the dialog of the game as conversation choices. Our assessment goals focus on (a) evaluating students' learning progress across
the game rather than simply pre-post, (b) minimizing student disengagement from the assessment process, and (c) increasing the quality of data collected. EPIGAME will also (a) develop analytic tools leveraging students' gameplay data logs and (b) conduct surveys, interviews, and think-aloud protocols to collect formative data to inform the development process and provide insights into the quantitative data analyses. The key learning outcomes focus on Newton's First and Second Laws and associated kinematics and representations central to national and state standards for middle school science. Ultimately, the goals of EPIGAME focus on developing and piloting a digital game environment and associated analytic tools that (a) support middle school students studying core Newtonian mechanics concepts, (b) facilitate randomized controlled investigation by our research group and other research groups into the design of games for learning, and (c) contribute tested design principles to scaffold learning and metacognition in digital games.