could play in assessing learning, and the pathways by which they could be used on a large scale. Following the workshop, the committee will meet to discuss the existing evidence, drawing on the presentations and materials shared at the workshop, and come to consensus about priorities for a future research agenda. It will write a report that summarizes the workshop and provides the committee’s conclusions and recommendations about a future research agenda in this area.
The workshop agenda will address the three critical topics highlighted above and provide the basis for the development of a research agenda. The workshop will feature invited presentations and discussions of available research evidence and discuss possible research pathways for obtaining answers to three core questions:
What is the connection between learning theory and computer gaming and simulations?
What role could computer gaming and simulations play in the assessment of student learning?
What are the pathways by which computer gaming and simulation could materialize at sufficient scale to fully evaluate their learning and assessment potential?
Although research on how simulations and games support science learning has not kept pace with the rapid development of these new learning technologies, the evidence was sufficient to reach the conclusions summarized here.
Simulations and games are both based on computer models and allow user interactions, but each has unique features. Simulations are dynamic computer models that allow users to explore the implications of manipulating or modifying parameters within them. Games are often played in informal contexts for fun, incorporate explicit goals and rules, and provide feedback on the player’s progress. In a game, the player’s actions affect the state of play.
The committee views simulations and games as worthy of future investment and investigation as a means to improve science learning. Simulations and games have potential to advance multiple science learning goals, including motivation to learn science, conceptual understanding, science process skills, understanding of the nature of science, scientific discourse and argumentation, and identification with science and science learning.
Most studies of simulations have focused on conceptual understanding, providing promising evidence that simulations can advance this science learning goal. There is moderate evidence that simulations motivate students’ interest in science and science learning, and less evidence about whether they support other science learning goals.
Evidence for the effectiveness of games for supporting science learning is emerging but is currently inconclusive. To date, the research base is very limited.