Gaps and weaknesses in the research on simulations and games make it difficult to build a coherent base of evidence that could demonstrate their effectiveness and inform improvements. The proposed research agenda takes a stronger, more systematic approach to research and development.

To strengthen the overall quality of the research:

  • Researchers and developers should clearly specify the desired learning outcomes of a simulation or game and describe in detail how it is expected to advance these outcomes. They should describe the design features that are hypothesized to activate learning, the intended use of these design features, and the underlying learning theory. This will allow research findings to accumulate, providing a base for improved designs and enhanced effectiveness for learning.

  • Researchers should initially develop methodologies for both design and evaluation that focus on continual improvement. The use of such methodologies will help to ensure that large studies are not outdated by the time they are published due to rapid changes in technology and advances in cognitive science.

The committee’s full research agenda (in Chapter 7) recommends targeted research to increase understanding of the following topics:

  • the role of simulations and games in learning,

  • using them in formal and informal contexts,

  • using them to assess and support individualized learning, and

  • scaling up simulations and games.

To facilitate ongoing improvement in simulations and games for science learning:

  • Academic researchers, developers and entrepreneurs from the gaming industry, and education practitioners and policy makers should form research and development partnerships to facilitate rich intellectual collaboration. These partnerships, which may be large or small, should coordinate and share information internally and with other partnerships.

  • Government agencies and foundations may consider the potential benefits of providing sustained support for such partnerships.

This research agenda is intended to provide guidance to active and prospective researchers, simulation and game developers, commercial publishers, and funders. In the future, the agenda will have to adapt and evolve along with the continued rapid evolution of educational simulations and games.

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