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IES Contract

Title: SciSkillQuest: A Standards-Based Game to Develop Students' Scientific Skills, Academic Mindsets, and Learning Strategies in Science
Center: NCER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: Sorich Blackwell, Lisa Awardee: Mindset Works, LLC
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2.5 years Award Amount: $1,050,000
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: EDIES13C0028

Phase I Amount: $150,000
Phase I Period: 6 months
Phase II Amount: $900,000
Phase II Period: 2 years

Purpose: The United States (U.S.) has traditionally produced the world’s top research scientists and engineers, leading to breakthrough advances in science and technology. Despite the importance of STEM careers, many U.S. students are not graduating with strong STEM knowledge, skills or interests, and the percentage of students prepared for or pursuing STEM degrees or careers is declining. Research shows that the decreased interest in STEM typically begins in the middle school years, pose significant academic and social challenges for students. This project will develop a web-based game teach 6th to 8th students key scientific inquiry skills, along with the academic mindsets and learning strategies to facilitate engagement and effective science learning.

Project Activities: The researchers will create a prototype by mapping key Next Generation Science Standards and learning goals with concepts and content, and producing a game design document. Following completion of the prototype, the researchers will finalize the server architecture, create the core code systems, concept art, and develop a prototype in order to simulate the final user experience.  Iterative refinements will be conducted as needed at major production milestones until the game is fully functional.  Once development is complete, the research team will assess the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the game to improve outcomes in a pilot study.  In this study, 200 students in 10 classes will participate, with 5 of the classrooms randomly assigned to use the game and 5 who will proceed as normal. All students will complete pre- and post- program surveys assessing their academic mindsets, learning strategies, and science skills.  

Product: This project will develop SciSkillQuest, a web-based multiplayer game intended to teach middle school students scientific inquiry skills and to foster academic growth mindsets in science. Students will pursue quests, employing inquiry skills to navigate and succeed in the game, including Questioning, Modeling, Investigating, Analyzing, Computing, Explaining, Arguing, and Informing.  The game will include different paths to a solution, role playing elements, immersive narratives, challenge-based progressions, and peer collaboration to engage players. The growth mindset message — that ability and skill are developed through effort and learning — will be introduced and reinforced through feedback by embedded in-game characters. The games will be supplemental to the curriculum but will also be designed to be integrated within instructional practice.  The game will be available for mobile devices as well as web browsers.