You are here:

Games and Motivation to Learn Science: Personal Identity, Applicability, Relevance and Meaningfulness

, Michigan State University, United States

Journal of Interactive Learning Research Volume 19, Number 4, ISSN 1093-023X Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC


Game-based learning and designing has become a hot topic in educational technology. It is believed that video gaming is one way to get students engaged in learning complex and ill-structured material, holistic learning, and preparing learners for 21st century jobs. However, beyond engagement, games may also be used for learning and developing personal interest in science by utilizing the affordances for personal identity, applicability beyond the school setting and for a personal agenda, and relevance and meaningfulness of scientific practices and ideas. This article, based on the synthesis of information from the games, science education, and motivational research literatures present a focused view on how games for learning (serious games) can be designed and used for learning and developing an interest in science. The article also points in the direction of much needed research to assess the claims about games for learning.


Foster, A. (2008). Games and Motivation to Learn Science: Personal Identity, Applicability, Relevance and Meaningfulness. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 19(4), 597-614. Waynesville, NC: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved March 19, 2019 from .


View References & Citations Map


  1. Aikenhead, G. S. (2006). Science education for everyday life: Evidence-based practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
  2. Anderson, C. W. (2002). Learning to teach science for understanding: Intern year version. Unpublished manuscript, Michigan State University, East Lansing.
  3. Ardac, D., & Akaygun, S. (2004). Effectiveness of multimedia-based instruction that emphasizes molecular representations on students understanding of chemical change. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(4), 317-337.
  4. Asgari, M. (2005). A three-factor model of motivation and game design. Paper presented at the 2005 International DiGRA Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
  5. Asgari, M., & Kaufman, D. (2005, June). Relationships among computer games, fantasy, and learning. Paper presented at the 2005 International DiGRA Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
  6. Barab, S. A., Hay, K. E., Barnett, M., & Squire, K. (2001). Constructing virtual worlds: Tracing the historical development of learner practices. Cognition and Instruction, 19(1), 47-94. Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4, 1-44.
  7. Brophy, J. E. (2004). Motivating students to learn (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Bruce, B. C., & Levin, J. A. (1997). Educational technology: Media for inquiry, communication, construction, and expression. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 17(1), 79-102. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program description, and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-315.
  8. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1997). Looking at technology in context: A framework for understanding technology and education research. In D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 807-840). New York: Simon and Schuster Macmillan.
  9. Cordova, D. I., & Lepper, M. R. (1996). Intrinsic motivation and the process of learning: Beneficial effects of contextualization, personalization and choice. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88(4), 715-730.
  10. De Jong, T., & Van Joolingen, W. R. (1998). Scientific discovery learning with computer simulations of conceptual domains. Review of Educational Research, 68, 179-202.
  11. DiSessa, A. (1982). Unlearning Aristotelian physics: A study of knowledge-based learning. Cognitive Science, 5, 37-75.
  12. Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Mortimer, E., & Scott, P. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Educational Researcher, 23(7), 5-12.
  13. Dunlap, J. C., & Grabinger, R. S. (1996). Rich environment for active learning in the higher education classroom. In B. G. Wilson (Ed.), Constructivist learning environments: Case studies in instructional design. Englewoods Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications. Federation of American Scientists. (2006). Summit of educational games: Harnessing the power of video games for learning. Washington, DC: Author.
  14. Galarneau, L. (2005, June). Authentic learning experiences through play: Games, simulations and the construction of knowledge. Paper presented at the 2005 International DiGRA Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
  15. Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
  16. Gee, J. P. (2005). Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines. E-Learning, 2(1), 5-16. Gentile, D. A., & Walsh, D. A. (2002). A normative study of family media habits. Applied Developmental Psychology, 23, 157-178.
  17. Gredler, M. (1996). Educational games and simulations: A technology in search of a research paradigm. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. 521-539): New York: MacMilan.
  18. Greeno, J. G., Collins, A. M., & Resnick, L. B. (1996). Cognition and learning. In D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology. New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.
  19. Honebein, P. C. (1996). Seven goals for the design of constructivist learning environments. In B. G. Wilson (Ed.), Constructivist learning environments: Case studies in instructional design (pp. 11-24). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
  20. Huppert, J., Lomask, S. M., & Lazarowitz, R. (2002). Computer simulations in the high school: Students cognitive stages, science process skills and academic achievement in microbiology. International Journal of Science Education, 24(8), 803-821.
  21. Ijsselsteijn, W. (2003). Presence in the past: What can we learn from media history? In G. Riva, F. Davide, & W. A. Ijsselsteijn (Eds.), Being there: Concepts, effects and measurement of user presence in synthetic environments. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Ios Press.
  22. International Society for Technology in Education. (2000). National educational technology
  23. Jenkins, H., & Squire, K. (2005). Theory theories. Computer Games Magazine.
  24. Keller, J. M. (1983). Motivation design of instruction. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional design theories and models: An overview of their current status. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Lee, O., & Luykx, A. (2006). Science education and student diversity: Synthesis and research agenda. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  25. Linn, M. C. (1998). The impact of technology on science instruction: Historical trends and current opportunities. In B. J. Fraser & K. G. Tobin (Eds.), International handbook of science education (pp. 265-2994). Great Britain: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  26. Losier, G. F., & Koestner, R. (1999). Intrinsic versus identified regulation in distinct political campaigns: The consequences of following politics for pleasure versus personal meaningfulness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 287-298.
  27. Malone, T. W. (1981). Toward a theory of intrinsically motivating instruction. Cognitive Science, 5(4), 333-369.
  28. Malone, T. W., & Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In R. E. Snow & M. J. Farr (Eds.), Apptitude, learning and instruction: Cognitive and affective processed analysis. (Vol. 3). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  29. Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41(9), 954-969. Marshall, H. (1994). Children's understanding of academic tasks: Work, play, or learning. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 9, 35-46. Mitchell, M. (1993). Situational
  30. Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2000). Engaging students in active learning: The case for personalized multimedia messages. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(4), 724-733. National
  31. Institute on the Media and the Family. (2002, November 6). Media use. Retrieved October 21, 2005, from
  32. Papert, S. (1997). The connected family: Bridging the digital generation gap. Marietta, GA: Longstreet Press.
  33. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital game-based learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  34. Resnick, L. B. (1987). The 1987 presidential address: Learning in school and out. Educational Researcher, 16(9), 13-20, 54.
  35. Resnick, M. (1994). Turtles, termites, and traffic jams: Exploration in massively parallel worlds. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Media Press.
  36. Rowell, P. M. (2002). Peer interactions in shared technological activity: A study of participation. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 12, 1-22.
  37. Scardamalia, M. (2000). Can schools enter a knowledge society? In M. Selinger & J. Wynn (Eds.), Educational technology and the impact on teaching and learning (pp. 6-10). Abingdon, UK: RM. Schraw, G., Flowerday, T., & Lehman, S. (2001). Increasing situational interest in the classroom. Educational Psychology Review, 13(3), 211-224.
  38. Shaffer, D. W. (2006). How computer games help children learn. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. Smith, C. L., Wiser, M., Anderson, C. W., & Krajcik, J., & Coppola, B. (in press). Implications of research on children’s learning for standards and assessment: A proposed learning progression for matter and the atomic molecular theory. Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Perspectives.
  39. Spiro, R. J., Feltovich, P. J., Jacobson, M. J., & Coulson, R. L. (1992). Hypertext: Random access instruction for advanced knowledge acquisition in ill-structured domains. In T. M. Duffy & D. H. Jonassen (Eds.), Constructivism and the technology of instruction (1st ed., pp. 232). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  40. Squire, K. (2003). Video games in education. International Journal of Intelligent Simulations and Gaming, 2(1).
  41. Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the internet. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  42. Turkle, S. (1997). Seeing through computers. The American Prospect, 8(31).
  43. Turner, J., Cox, K. E., DiCinto, M., Meyer, D. K., Logan, C., & Thomas, C. T. (1998). Creating contexts for involvement in mathematics. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(4), 730-745. Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, W., & Deci, E. L. (2006). Intrinsic versus extrinsic goal contents in self-determination theory: Another look at the quality of academic motivation. Educational Psychologist, 41(1), 19-31.
  44. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  45. Warren, B., Ballenger, C., Ogonowski, M., Roseberry, A. S., & Hudicort-Barnes, J. (2001). Rethinking diversity in learning science: The logic of everyday sense-making. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(5), 529-552.
  46. White, B., & Frederiksen, J. R. (2000). Metacognitive facilitation: An approach to making scientific inquiry accessible to all. In J. Minstrell & E. V. Zee (Eds.), Inquiring into inquiry learning and teaching. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science. Wigfield, A., Eccles, J. S., Schiefele, U., Roeser, R., & Davis-Kean, P. (2006). Development of achievement motivation. In W. Damon & N. Eisenberg (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Social, emotional, and personality development (Vol. 3, 6th ed.; 933-1002). New York: John Wiley.
  47. Williams, D. C. (2004). Trouble in river city: The social life of video games. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
  48. Williams, D. C. (2005). Bridging the methodological divide in game research. Simulation & Gaming, 36(4), 447-463.
  49. Williamson, K. M., Land, L., Butler, B., & Ndahi, H. B. (2004). A structured framework for using games to teach mathematics and science in K-12 classrooms. The Technology Teacher, 64(3), 15-18.
  50. Windschitl, M. (2000). Supporting the development of science inquiry skills with special classes of software. Educational Technology and Research Development, 48(2), 81-95.

These references have been extracted automatically and may have some errors. If you see a mistake in the references above, please contact

View References & Citations Map

Cited By

  1. Developing Science Identities through Games: An Analysis of Game Design Features that Support Identity Exploration

    Aroutis Foster, Amanda Barany, Mamta Shah, Tamara Galoyan, Healthy Moeung, Sally Im, DonEl Brown & Micah Watanabe, Drexel University School of Education, United States

    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2018 (Mar 26, 2018) pp. 416–425

  2. Examining Game Design Features for Identity Exploration and Change

    Aroutis Foster & Mamta Shah, Drexel University, United States

    Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching Vol. 35, No. 4 (October 2016) pp. 369–384

  3. Two Case Studies of the Impacts of STEM Career Simulations in Forensics and Clinical Trials Research

    Leslie Miller, RIce University, United States; Kristi Bowling, Rice University, United States

    Global Learn 2016 (Apr 28, 2016) pp. 246–251

  4. Affordances of Games for Identity Exploration: The case of Land Science

    Aroutis Foster & Mamta Shah, Drexel University, United States

    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2016 (Mar 21, 2016) pp. 2016–2023

  5. Mining Knowledge with Game Based Learning: Building Knowledge Through Connected Learning with the use of Minecraft in the Classroom

    Jami Roberts-Woychesin, Arts & Technology Institute, United States; Yulia Piller, Arts & Technology Institue, United States

    Global Learn 2015 (April 2015) pp. 418–425

  6. Role-Play Games as a Tool for STEM Career Inspiration and the Development of Scientific Possible Selves

    Leslie Miller, RIce University, United States

    Global Learn 2015 (April 2015) pp. 385–389

  7. The Effectiveness of Digital Game-Based Learning

    Xi Chen, Tianlan Wei, Tammy-Lynne Moore, Dmitry Panyukov & Feiya Xiao, Texas Tech University, United States

    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2014 (Mar 17, 2014) pp. 625–630

  8. Enhancing 5th Graders’ Science Content Knowledge and Self-Efficacy Through Game-Based Learning

    Angela Meluso, Meixun Zheng, Hiller Spires & James Lester, North Carolina State University, United States

    EdMedia + Innovate Learning 2011 (Jun 27, 2011) pp. 3799–3806

  9. Science and Technology Integration: Using Web Adventures to Teach Middle School Students about Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

    Yvonne Klisch, Leslie Miller & Amy Crook, Rice University, United States

    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2009 (Mar 02, 2009) pp. 3666–3673

These links are based on references which have been extracted automatically and may have some errors. If you see a mistake, please contact