Running head: CRITICAL REVIEW OF DIGITAL GAME-BASED LEARNING
Critical Review: Digital game-based learning: Impact of instructions and feedback on
motivation and learning effectiveness
Jennifer Chang Wathall Student ID 663027
Central Michigan University
Instructor: Dr. Michael Dennis Deschryver
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Problem (about 1 page)
1. Identify the clarity with which this article states a specific problem to be explored.
The problem stated appears to lack some clarity and consistency. Erhel and Jamet
(2013) described the problem to be explored was to investigate under what conditions
digital game-based learning (DGBL) is most effective by looking at the type of instructions,
learning or entertainment, given to learners and introducing feedback in a DGBL
environment. The authors assumed that DGBL is more effective than conventional
approaches or media for learning and motivation. In any learning environment, the value on
the type of instruction and quality of feedback can enhance learning and promote deep
learning. In other words, the positive impact of these conditions can be attributed to these
instructional strategies, rather than the DGBL tool itself. The authors concluded that DGBL
can promote motivation and learning in all situations if learners are given opportunities to
actively process the content. This would be true of any environment not just DGBL. What
are the authors trying to prove? Is it whether DGBL is effective for learning and motivation
as compared with conventional teaching approaches or whether using different types of
instruction and feedback promotes learning and motivation in DGBL? If it is the latter, then
many studies have already proven that type of instruction and quality feedback promotes
learning. It seems there are two separate problems. The goal of the researchers should have
been about using different types of instruction and providing quality feedback in DGBL
compared with conventional environments and whether the DGBL enhances learning or
results in deeper learning.
The article identified the issues with researching the benefits of DGBL compared
with conventional approaches in that there are too many uncontrollable variables, but I
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cannot agree that a value-added approach can prove the benefits of DGBL when
comparing with conventional media or teaching approaches. This will be addressed later in
2. Comment on the need for this study and its educational significance as it relates
to this problem.
Digital game-based learning (DGBL) has grown in popularity in recent years due to
the proliferation of children and adolescents spending more time playing video/online
games. With this gain in popularity, many researchers have investigated whether DGBL
truly impacts learning in a deep and meaningful fashion and, in turn, improves learning and
motivation. Most past research on DGBL was highly conflicting in terms if effectiveness on
learning and no clear conclusions can be made about whether DGBL has a positive effect on
learning and motivation. Most studies have concentrated on the effects of DGBL in learning
and motivation compared with conventional environments or conventional media; however,
this study takes a value-added approach by looking at the type of instructions and feedback
given in a DGBL environment and the impact of these on learning and motivation. In other
words, outcomes of learners will be compared when using different versions of the same
DGBL tool. This article discussed briefly the benefits of using DGBL and then continued to
conduct a study to investigate which the type of instructions given to learners and how
giving regular feedback can have more impact on learning and motivation. There is an
educational significance in terms of researching whether DGBL environments are beneficial
to learning, but I am not convinced that this study achieved this.
3. Comment on whether the problem is “researchable”? That is, can it be investigated
through the collection and analysis of data?
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If we are purely looking at collecting data by looking at two different types of
instructions- learning and entertainment- and providing regular feedback in DGBL, then the
problem is researchable. To begin the experiments with an even playing field, a pretest was
given to eliminate any participants who had any prior medical knowledge. The next stage of
the data collection involved a survey after the DGBL to assess their motivation. The last
survey was completing a questionnaire which included paraphrasing type and inference type
Theoretical Perspective and Literature Review (about 3 pages)
4. Critique the author’s conceptual framework.
The authors’ conceptual framework is well-researched and supports the benefits of
DGBL from an entertainment perspective in terms of motivation and engagement. Several
studies have also supported the positive relationship of intrinsic motivation and learning
scores in DGBL; however, studies to prove the benefits of DGBL compared with
conventional approaches and other media have been inconclusive and even highly
I completely agree with the authors’ explanations of surface learning and deep
learning by Kester, Kirchner, and Corbalan (2007) and confirmed by Sweller (1999). Deep
“the critical analysis of new ideas, linking them to already known concepts and
principles, and leads to understanding and long-term
retention of concepts so that they can be used for problem solving in unfamiliar
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One of the goals for DGBL should be to encourage deep learning, but I think the question
should be “Does DGBL enhance deep learning compared with conventional teaching
environments?” and not about whether type of instructions and feedback result in deeper
learning. The authors claimed that deep learning does occur in DGBL when learning
instructions are given and also when entertainment instructions are given alongside
feedback, but has learning been enhanced by the use of DGBL? The authors also discussed
the difference between an incidental and intentional learning environment and the benefits
of an intentional learning environment for eliciting deep learning. I do think the inherent
nature of DGBL provides an intentional learning environment for learners which may elicit
deeper cognitive processing; however, this is not what the authors focus on. Instead the
focus for this study is about the type of instructions given by the teacher, specifically in
DGBL to elicit deep learning. If the DGBL environment is well-designed and provides
intentional learning opportunities with clear learning instructions, then surely additional
instructions are redundant. Many examples exist in mathematics learning which utilize
DGBL platforms. Mathletics and Manga High are both DGBL environments which provide
learners with an intentional learning environment that is well designed and presents
purposeful instructions. The specific DGBL used in this study provided another limitation
which will be discussed later in this paper.
5. How effectively does the author tie the study to relevant theory and prior research?
Are all cited references relevant to the problem under investigation?
The authors began by citing references and research about:
• the popularity of DGBL and the need to conduct more research about the effects of
DGBL on learning and motivation (Graesser, Chipman, Leeming & Biedenbach,
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2009). This research is relevant to the problem under investigation as video and
online gaming gains popularity.
• the features of a DGBL (Mayer & Johnson, 2010 and Prenksy, 2001). This research
about the main features of DGBL is relevant, so there is a common understanding.
• the benefits of DGBL in terms of motivation from an entertainment perspective and
include goal orientation (mastery versus performance), intrinsic/ extrinsic
motivation, interest and self-efficacy. This research is relevant to the problem
presented as the impact on DGBL and motivation is one of the aims.
• benefits of DGBL compared with conventional teaching and using conventional
media. Generally, the studies cited are inconclusive and highly contradictory in
regards to whether DGBL has a positive effect on learning and motivation. This is
where the mismatch lies in this study. The study is trying to prove the effectiveness
of DGBL by using a value-added approach without looking at a baseline for learning
and motivation without DGBL.
• the importance of different types of instructions and feedback to allow for cognitive
processing in an educational setting in general. The research here is relevant to the
problem under investigation and provides a justification to why the researchers
chose to look at types of instruction and feedback. The authors have applied this
research previously based in conventional environments to DGBL environment.
6. Does the literature review conclude with a brief summary of the literature and its
implications for the problem investigated?
There is a brief summary of the literature, and a justification is provided by the
authors in terms of why they chose the value-added approach. The authors explain many
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studies have compared DGBL with conventional media and are inconclusive when it
comes to motivation and learning so suggest looking at one variable initially; type of
instruction to investigate the effectiveness on motivation and learning in DGBL. The study
conducted a second experiment to look at the effects of each type of instruction with
7. Evaluate the clarity and appropriateness of the research questions or hypotheses.
The purpose of the first experiment was to investigate the hypothesis that learning
instruction would impact learners by encouraging them to pursue mastery goals while
entertainment instruction would encourage performance goals. Mastery goals are when a
learner is motivated to develop or master new skills or knowledge while performance goals
are when learners are motivated by one’s ability to succeed. Since the first experiment failed
to reveal any relationship between the type of instruction and either mastery or performance
goals, the authors embarked on a second experiment. The second experiment looked at the
effects of adding feedback in the form of a knowledge of correct response (KCR) and
hypothesized that KCR feedback would reduce redundant, low level thinking, resulting in
learning to be more relevant with both learning and entertainment instruction. The aim
stated is as follows: “to demonstrate that the presence of KCR feedback in the quizzes of a
digital learning game can modify learning strategies induced by the instructions” (p163).
The two hypotheses based on the two experiments were rather unclearly stated in the
body of the paper making them difficult to identify. The appropriateness of these hypotheses
is also to be questioned. How can looking at the types of instruction and giving feedback in
a DGBL prove that DGBL is more effective for learning and motivation compared with
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Research Design and Analysis (about 3 pages)
8. Critique the appropriateness and adequacy of the study’s design in relation to the
research questions or hypotheses.
For the two experiments the authors’ chose to use five experimental phases. Phase
one consisted of a pretest on prior knowledge of the DBGL topic: age associated diseases.
Participants that scored above three out of six were removed from the next stages of the
experiment. Here I question the small number of questions given in the pretest and whether
there was an opportunity for participants to guess questions. In addition, since the questions
were not related to the DGBL topic, how did the authors know that participants did not have
any prior or personal experience with aging associated diseases. To overcome this limitation
a questionnaire about the participant’s medical history and experience could have been
Phase two consisted of participants following a DGBL simulation on four age
associated diseases: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, myocardial infarction and stroke. Again, I
reiterate how did the authors know that participants did not have any personal experience or
prior knowledge of any of these four diseases.
Phase three consisted of participants completing a quiz about the four diseases with
phase four asking participants to fill in questionnaires about motivation in terms of mastery
and performance goals and intrinsic motivation items. The final phase consisted of a
questionnaire solely based on their knowledge and included two different types of questions:
paraphrase type questions measuring memorization and inference type questions which
involve more intellectual engagement and comprehension.
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I am surprised that there was no control group to compare the results of groups that
received no instruction or feedback. Including a control group would have allowed the
authors to rule out other variables that may have influenced the experiment.
At the end of this article authors state one of the objectives for this study was to
answer the question “Is deep learning compatible with serious games?” (p. 165). In my
opinion, this objective/ research question was not clearly stated from the outset. One of the
hypothesis presented is “the learning instruction would result in significantly higher scores
on the different learning assessments, especially on inference-type questions assessing the
quality of deep learning” and the design of the experiment did set it to prove or disprove
9. Critique the adequacy of the study’s sampling methods (e.g., choice of participants)
and their implications for generalizability.
For experiment one the authors’ chose 46 participants (24 women, 22 men) aged 18-
26 years who were all university undergraduates. Choosing an age group from 18-26 years
presents limitations with the use of DGBL. This sample represents an older generation that
may not have had a lot of exposure to DGBL so experience and comfort levels with using a
DGBL may vary and bias the results. This group was then split into the learning (9 men, 15
women) and entertainment groups (9 men, 15 women). In terms of statistical analysis each
group is too small in terms of a sample. Most recommendations for data collection are to
have at least 30 data points and I would have recommended at least 30 for each group.
From the pretest results, more participants were excluded further reducing the sample size.
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In the second experiment, a new group of participants were recruited and
consisted of 16 men and 28 women totaling 44. This represents a slight gender imbalance
which could further skew results. Men may have more tendencies to be more competitive
compared with women and this may be highlighted more in DGBL. Perhaps gender
difference may also reveal a difference in preference for either mastery or performance
goals in terms of motivation. From the pretest four participants were excluded and if all of
these were men then the imbalance between genders would have been even more
pronounced, skewing results further. In terms of generalizability of this study I would
question the external validity of this study’s sampling methods. Due to the gender
imbalances, the small sample sizes and the restricted age group the experiment would not be
generalizable across the general population.
10. Critique the adequacy of the study’s procedures and materials (e.g., interventions,
interview protocols, data collection procedures).
The authors collected data based on a pretest and a quiz about the topic of the
DGBL: the four age associated diseases after DGBL. From the pretest participants who
scored higher then 50% were eliminated from the experiment. The pretest did not involve
any questions about the topic of the DGBL so it is difficult to ascertain whether the
participants who were not eliminated had any prior knowledge or personal experience of the
DGBL topic namely four aged associated disease.
Data was also collected through questionnaires about motivation using performance
and mastery questions and three intrinsic motivation items. The last stage of the data
collection process was to ask participants to answer two types questions based on the DGBL
topic. The two types of questions were paraphrasing questions and inference type questions
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that required more comprehension. It is important to distinguish between the two types of
questions given to participants to attempt to collect data about memory recall or whether the
conditions such as type of instruction and feedback in an DGBL environment led to deep
11. Critique the appropriateness and quality (e.g., reliability, validity) of the measures
Reliability of the measures used refers to the consistency of the measurements and if
the experiment was to be repeated whether the experiment would yield the same results.
There are some reliability issues in both experiments in terms of the small number of
participants in each type of instruction group and the gender imbalance. This sampling
problem can cause a random error in the measurements and data collected and if this
experiment were to be repeated could yield completely different results. The most common
measure of reliability is using the reliability coefficient and this study did not include this
calculation to check for reliability. Typical methods in social research include: test-retest,
alternative forms, split halves, inter-rater reliability and internal consistency. The only
internal consistency that could be observed was that the procedures were the same for both
experiment one and two. There is no mention in the study of measuring the internal
consistency using Cronbach’s alpha coefficient. The most important method to increase an
experiment’s reliability is to increase the length of measures, in this case the survey
questions. In the pretest, there were only six questions given and in the questionnaire asking
paraphrasing and inference type questions there were only eight questions in total.
Validity is concerned with how well does a test measure what the researchers have
set out to measure and can relate to the credibility of qualitative research. There are four
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types of validity and they are: statistical conclusion validity, internal validity, construct
validity and external validity. This study is lacking construct validity which refers to how
well an idea had been transformed or translated into a “functioning and operating reality”
(Drost, 2011). The authors attempt to prove the benefits of DGBL in learning and
motivation based on looking at types of instruction and giving feedback in DGBL. Proving
deep learning is present by using different instructions or feedback in a DGBL does not
prove that the DGBL itself was the cause of the deep learning. Any learning environment
will promote deep learning with different types of instructions and providing quality
feedback. This study is also lacking external validity in that the conclusions cannot be
generalized to the general population, settings or at a different time. As mentioned before,
the sampling methods used in this study have to be called into question in terms of the
C. Interpretation and Implications of Results (about 3 pages)
13. Critique the author’s discussion of the methodological and/or conceptual
limitations of the results.
There are three main limitations discussed in this study: issues arising from the
choice of the specific DGBL, data collected from the quizzes on the DGBL and the
methodology that was employed. The choice of the DGBL (ASTRA) proposed limitations
as it was not a well-designed, interactive DGBL example. This is a valid limitation. Many
mathematical DGBL examples are highly interactive, provide quality feedback during
DGBL and have specific learning intentions. ASTRA on the other hand encouraged very
little interaction and appeared to be more of a video presentation rather than providing
authentic DGBL. ASTRA could be seen as a flipped classroom tool providing direct
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instruction rather than a competitive, interactive DGBL where learners respond
dynamically by being given challenges at different levels.
The second limitation was that generally participants scored highly on the quizzes so
there were very few opportunities to receive feedback. This means that feedback alone
cannot be attributed to deep learning as participants received very little feedback overall.
The third limitation outlined the issue with the methodology in terms of using offline
data to measure the effects of learning or entertainment instruction. This limitation is less
clearly stated and perhaps implies that real time collection of data may be more useful in
order to investigate whether the time taken for deep processing when feedback is provided is
14. How consistent and comprehensive are the author’s conclusions with the reported
The authors conclusions are inconsistent in terms of the reported results. The results
from experiment one conclude that learning instruction as opposed to entertainment
instruction in a DGBL environment resulted in higher comprehension scores but had no
effect on motivation. The second experiment concluded from the results that the
entertainment instruction group performed better on the comprehension questions once
feedback was provided. The final conclusion was that entertainment instruction should not
be used in DGBL and is not effective for learning. However, in the second experiment
entertainment instruction with feedback was found to have an effect on inference type
questions and comprehension. These are two conflicting conclusions, however to give credit
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where it is due, the authors do recognize the fact they cannot explain why the
entertainment instruction was better than the learning instruction in experiment two.
15. How well did the author relate the results to the study’s theoretical base?
The first experiment failed to find any effects of DGBL and motivation however
results were significantly higher in the inference type questions quiz compared with the
paraphrasing type questions for the learning instruction group suggesting that learning
instruction may impact comprehension and deep learning in a DGBL. I pose the question
“How can learners not be able to recall memorized facts but still comprehended and answer
higher order questions?” Without some factual base learners would surely struggle to
comprehend and answer higher level questions, in my opinion.
16. In your view, what is the significance of the study, and what are its primary
implications for theory, future research, and practice?
The conclusions drawn are inconsistent with the reported results. The main
conclusions drawn are that learning instruction in DGBL elicited deeper learning compared
with entertainment instruction however when feedback was introduced entertainment
instruction resulted in deeper learning. Based on this no conclusion about the type of
instructions and the effect in motivation and learning can be made for DGBL. The two
variables: type of instruction and feedback in DGBL, could be used in a conventional
teaching environment and be just as effective or better to promote deep learning. How do we
attribute deeper learning to the DGBL environment compared with conventional
environments or other media? The SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification,
Redefinition by Puendetura, 2007) model for technology integration suggests that digital
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tools should be used to encourage higher order cognitive processing. The goal of this
model is to use technology to promote higher levels of achievement. In this particular
study, the DGBL tool ASTRA appeared to be using technology as a substitution/
augmentation level and as a result, the deep learning that occurred in terms of the inference
type of questions cannot be attributed to DGBL.
Future research should look at the design of DGBL and how this fits in with the
SAMR model as illustrated in figure 1. A well designed DGBL tool should be aiming
towards the redefinition level by creating an opportunity for learners to experience deeper
learning that was previously inconceivable with conventional approaches. The goal of
modification and redefinition is to enhance learning and promote deeper cognitive
processing and any digital tool needs to address this in the design stage. So far, the research
is inconclusive and fails to find a positive link between DGBL and learning and motivation
compared with conventional environments of media.
Figure 1 SAMR Model
Puentedura, R. (2013) SAMR Model. Retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/
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Drost, Ellen. (2011). Validity and Reliability in Social Science Research. Education Research and
Perspectives. 38. 105-124.
Erhel, S. & Jamet, É. (2013). Digital game-based learning: Impact of instructions and feedback on
motivation and learning effectiveness. Computers & Education. 67. 156-167.
Puentedura, R. (2013). SAMR: A Contextualised Introduction. Retrieved from