Game-Based Interactive Life Science for Students With Learning Disabilities
Purpose: Recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports indicate that high percentages of students — especially English Language Learners, those with reading deficiencies, and those with learning disabilities — struggle to make adequate progress toward science standards. This problem is particularly manifested in middle school students where these reports indicate that there is a decline in student achievement on science outcomes. Researchers hypothesize that difficulty comprehending complex expository texts prevents some students from grasping key foundational principles or breaking down common misconceptions. The purpose of this project is to create a suite of high-impact life science games to facilitate deeper conceptual understandings of the science inquiry process among middle school students and, especially among struggling learners.
Project Activities: Universal design principles will be employed to guide the project. The team will develop prototypes and build a web interface to house data tracking student progress. Evaluations and iterative refinements will be conducted as needed at major production milestones. To assess the feasibility, usability and promise of the games to improve learning after development is complete, researchers will use a mixed-method design to test students in ten treatment (game) and control (no game) classrooms. Observations of studentsí game-play and semi-structured interviews with students and teachers will also be utilized. Key outcomes include ease of use, engagement, and scores on chapter tests.
Products: The final product will include six life science computer games on topics including cells, heredity, evolution, bacteria, plants, and the human body. The games will supplement PCI Educationís standards-based middle school life science print curriculum. Each game will correspond with one textbook chapter. Students will access the games through a secure password-protected Internet connection. The games will provide tutorials and scaffolding where necessary to support student learning.