Research About Games in the Classroom - Digital Promise

Research About Games in the Classroom

January 10, 2016 | By

Much like books, apps, movies and music, games have proven to be valuable tools for teachers, and it turns out, many teachers are using them. According to a survey conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, 78 percent of surveyed teachers use games in the classroom. If you ask teachers what they like about games, many cite their ability to excite students who are more challenging to engage in class. And, there is evidence that engagement improves when students use different kinds of games, including digital games, board games and role-playing games. Games can tap into what Jane McGonigal describes as one’s fiero — the thrill of and desire for mastery.

On a practical level, digital games can be powerful assessment tools because teachers can easily monitor what a student is doing. While there is little research on game-based assessments, recent advancements in education technology have opened up opportunities to learn more about the efficacy of games as a learning tool. In the MindShift Guide to Digital Games and Learning, Jordan Shapiro covered some of the key research on games and learning. Here are some findings from a review of the emerging research in this field:

  • Students who received instruction with digital games had higher rates of success in broad cognitive competencies, especially improved knowledge of concepts, than students who did not use games for learning.
  • Compared to a control group, students who use computer-based simulations — which allow for manipulation or observation of the process or object being studied — had improved learning outcomes.

Shapiro is mindful to note that what makes a learning game successful is not just the act of using a game, but what happens when games are played. Educators who can make games relevant to what students are learning can truly help them succeed.


To access more research on learning, visit Digital Promise’s interactive Research Map, which connects you with research from thousands of journal articles in education and the learning sciences.

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