Research Matters

Research Matters

Evidence Games

For science students at Argentine Middle School in Kansas City, Kan., computer games are a new way to learn how to judge scientific claims.

Episode #77

2 minutes (2.7 MB) | Download mp3


A new computer game teaches middle schoolers how to weigh scientific claims. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

For many middle-schoolers, computer games might be the ultimate homework-avoidance pastime. But for science students at Argentine Middle School in Kansas City, Kan., computer games are a new way to learn how to judge scientific evidence. Janis Bulgren is the lead researcher for a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to the KU Center for Research on Learning.

Evidence Games

Bulgren: Scientific argumentation is a way to help students look at a claim. In today's world, so many people make categorical statements saying, 'You should believe this,' and stop there. Argumentation is a way to help students look at the different parts of a claim, to ask what evidence is presented with the claim. They also learn about different types of evidence. Is it data? Is it fact? Is it opinion?

The objective is to prepare students to engage in scientific argumentation - and to better grasp advanced concepts in science, technology, engineering and math. Co-investigator Marilyn Ault.

Ault: Scientific argumentation is very difficult to teach. We had a middle school teacher who said, 'If I could just teach these kids the difference between opinion and fact, then I'd be happy.' So it's something teachers work at, but it's a very difficult reasoning process to teach. Our suggestion was that a game would engage the kids more in the content and help them to understand the different components and apply them.

Eventually, Ault says the students will be able to enter their own scientific claims and back them up with arguments in the game, using a collaborative environment comparable to Facebook.

Ault: We are providing an online game that's collaborative and competitive so that kids can work with their classmates; work with other kids, to compete for points, to compete for high points, to compete for leadership of their group. So we're using all the components that make games attractive.

For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch

Tell Me More

The Evidence Game

Thanks to a three-year, $1.95 million grant from the National Science Foundation, a team of researchers and developers from the University of Kansas will design and evaluate a computer-based game intended to engage middle school students, and their teachers, in scientific argumentation.

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