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Title:The impacts of a science-based videogame intervention on interest in stem for adolescent learners
Author(s):Yi, Sherry
Director of Research:Lane, H. Chad
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Lane, H. Chad
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Cromley, Jennifer; Lindgren, Robb; Ainley, Mary
Department / Program:Educational Psychology
Discipline:Educational Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):interest development
sandbox games
videogame design
STEM learning
informal learning
Abstract:Interest development is a topic that has fascinated and puzzled educators since the 20th century. Despite decades of research and important advances in the field, questions remain about interest and its relationship to learning. In particular, given the pervasiveness of technology in our daily lives, it is essential to understand how interest develops within these technology-enhanced environments. In this dissertation, I investigate the extent to which a digital sandbox game that allows for autonomy and peer-to-peer interaction can trigger interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as explore how prior game mastery impacts these changes. The sandbox game, Minecraft, is used as a platform to test whether interest in STEM can be triggered within a digital learning environment for adolescent learners. This study seeks to contribute to our foundational understanding of how interest functions within a digital learning environment. From the educational psychology perspective, interest is both a psychological state and a motivational variable. Interest is fluid and dynamic; what triggers interest in one individual may not work for another. For the purposes of this dissertation, interest triggering is defined to occur when a learner shows a willingness to reengage with content, express positive effect, attach value to a subject, reflect about the learning content, or connect content based on prior knowledge or experience. Since 2016, our team has been developing a customized server in Minecraft that allows for participants to explore hypothetical scenarios of Earth (e.g., Earth on a tilted axis) supported by the National Science Foundation with the goal of designing an interest triggering experience for STEM topics. Participants in 2018 and 2020 were recruited at a local youth center in a Midwestern university town where we advertised our program as a five-day STEM-focused Minecraft summer camp. Selected case studies expressed the highest or lowest interest in STEM and Minecraft mastery in their respective groups on a 5-point Likert scale. Cases draw from a total of five sources: fieldnotes, STEM interest surveys, knowledge assessments, interviews, and self-reported levels of Minecraft mastery. Fieldnotes provide the contextual information necessary for understanding interest-triggering trends across the 2018 and 2020 camps. Surveys revealed the cases’ overall interest in STEM as well as specific subtopics (science and technology). Content introduced during short lessons throughout the camp experience were assessed by astronomy knowledge scores and habitability definitions, which indicated a change in knowledge. Lastly, interviews provided direct quotes for interest triggers that occurred. Instances of STEM-related interest triggering were first identified through the use of interviews and fieldnotes. Then, these episodes were quantified and categorized to unveil similarities and differences between each case, followed by specific examples of each type of interest triggering an episode. This research provides insights on how a sandbox videogame that enables freedom of choice and peer-to-peer interaction can act as a suitable context for triggering interest in STEM, even for those who expressed low interest in STEM prior to the intervention. Based on the four reviewed cases, a sandbox game that allows for peer-to-peer engagements and freedom of choice served as an effective context for triggering interest. Results showed an increase in interest for those with high Minecraft mastery prior to the intervention and mixed results for those with low Minecraft mastery. Outcomes from this study can be used to study interest triggering in other domains and out-of-school learning contexts and serve as a foundation for those examining interest development within digital learning environments. Results show positive effects of using a sandbox game to trigger interest in STEM for learners with varying degrees of incoming interest in STEM and Minecraft mastery. In three out of four cases, interest in technology improved regardless of changes in interest in STEM or level of Minecraft mastery. In cases of low Minecraft mastery, one-on-one technical support was needed to sustain engagement with content and STEM interest triggers seemed to rely on the unique preferences of learners. For those with high incoming interest in STEM, they exhibited majority explicit/prompted interest triggering episodes, whereas those with low incoming interest in STEM exhibited majority implicit/prompted interest triggering episodes. Future studies on interest triggering should continue to utilize a variety of measures to track changes in interest rather than rely on one type (e.g., using only surveys) and further explore how videogame technologies can be used to study interest development.
Issue Date:2021-04-23
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Sherry Yi
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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