Qualitative Research Ideas for Educational Gaming


What will I research for my dissertation? Since there’s a lack of K-12 research on educational gaming, I want to address this important vehicle for instruction. Besides, gaming as an instructional strategy is a hot topic now.  I’ve blogged about the empirical evidence of how gaming improves vocabulary development. See Gaming as an Instructional Strategy for Language Learning.

Here’s a list and brief description of the five types of qualitative research with examples of possible gaming studies:

  1. Case Study- This looks at a particular situation known as a bounded system. For instance, a researcher could study a class or grade level’s use of a particular educational game.  Educational case studies serve as examples of a particular tool or strategy.
  2. Ethnography- This studies the culture and beliefs of a people. For example, a researcher could study the children’s games particular to the Choctaw Nation by focusing on the attitudes, material used, practices, and values associated with their game play. A best practice is to include someone from within the target population on your research team. Educational researchers engage in ethnography studies that relate to learning.
  3. Grounded Theory- This is an exploratory research study that inductively generates a theory based on data collection. One could collect data on teachers who use gaming with children for instructional purposes and postulate a theory on the type of teacher who is most likely to use gaming in the classroom. This is a type of action research that is ongoing. Each new study could develop into more ideas for inquiry based on the previous patterns observed.
  4. Historical- This is also called narrative research. It’s a chronological study of the accounts of a particular concept. For example, one could study the historical use of computer-based gaming for educational purposes in primary schools. Historical studies can begin where others have left off, or perhaps revisit past accounts for new revelations.
  5. Phenomenology- This is basically the study of a particular phenomenon. A researcher could capture teachers’ responses to well-designed educational games by having the teachers experience the game itself (not just read or hear about it). Then describe their experience through descriptive analysis.

Author: teacherrogers

Content developer, instructional designer, trainer, and researcher

2 thoughts on “Qualitative Research Ideas for Educational Gaming”

  1. What about research on educational gaming on mobile devices? When I was teaching English to middle school students overseas, it seemed like their smartphones were a natural extension of their physical body. They were pretty good about focusing on the lesson, but beyond the walls of the lesson it was basically gaming or texting time. I suspect this could be approached from multiple angles — teacher strategies in using mobile gaming, teacher attitudes in using mobile gaming, comparison of student attitudes between educational gaming on mobile devices and desktop computers, the relationship between language learner motivation and the use of mobile educational games, and so forth.

    What about interactive fiction? This could be a great option for language learners. There is still an active community writing and creating these games. They’ve provided some great tools, such as Adrift, for creating one’s own games. One could explore the benefits (or detriments) of IF in the context of Krashen’s input hypothesis. Or, it could be used to allow the students to create their own adventures as a means of assessment for language and/or “content” (e.g., literature, history, etc.).

    Those are a couple of thoughts anyway.


    1. Dale,
      Thanks for the great ideas. The topic of gaming on mobile devices would make for great qualitative research in phenomenology or a case study. The latter on interactive fiction as a game is new to me. I am a children’s story writer, so this is very interesting to me. I will check out Adrift. My current idea for my dissertation is to use gaming as a formative assessment. Your idea of “students to create their own adventures as a means of assessment for language” appeals to me. I’ve read about the vocabulary gains from gaming for language learners.


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