Lit Review

Game-Based Learning In An Inquiry Framework

gbl im kindergarten
“gbl im kindergarten” by elisabeth, 24.04.2009 – Projekt “Digital Game Based Learning” is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

For my literature review, I have been struggling to find a focus within the overarching topic of inquiry learning.  One area of inquiry learning I keep coming back to is game-based learning (GBL) or simulation-based learning (SBL).  These two areas of inquiry learning form the basis of my reflection this week.
If the goal of inquiry learning is to foster student discovery, then gaming provides unlimited opportunities for learners to make discoveries and experiment.  Mark Hawkes, BC Ministry of Education, has been super helpful with providing contacts and information supporting the use of GBL and SBL in classrooms.  According to the 2011 Horizon Report:

Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games. Those at the first end of the spectrum are easy to integrate into the curriculum, and have long been an option in many schools; but the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration and engage students deeply in the process of learning. Once educational gaming providers can match the volume and quality of their consumer-driven counterparts, games will garner more attention.

–NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition

Video’s supporting the use of GBL/SBL in schools:

Katie Salen on Learning with Games by Edutopia


Jane McGonigal Speaks On The Skills Students Are Learning From Games by Knowledge Works

A Case for GBL and SBL Use In Classrooms:

  1. Whenever I get together with other educators at workshops and professional development opportunities, I constantly hear the rhetoric that students don’t take risks and are afraid to fail.  I think games and simulations create safe environments for students to take risks, fail, and learn from their experiences in ways that do not exist in many classrooms.
  2. GBL and SBL allow users to experience essential 21st century skills and social practices such as collaboration, problem-solving, team-building, and different ways of being and doing.
  3. Good game designers scaffold and differentiate their tasks and objectives well, and this mirrors the techniques many educators are trying to replicate in the classroom.


As I continue to develop my understanding of GBL/SBL please feel free to share your experiences on the topic.


Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., & Haywood, K. (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Media (Vol. 2010, p. 36). doi:10.1002/chem.201001078


Inquiry lit Review Reflection

My literature review on the theme of inquiry learning is developing slowly at best!  Inquiry learning is such a wide topic that I feel an impending need to narrow the focus.  I have considered looking at inquiry learning through the lens of game-based and simulation-based learning, but my experience is this area is limited.  I could narrow the focus of inquiry learning to the area of elementary school education, but that feels a little bit like a ‘cop out’.


In spite of the general frustration surround my literature review, I have made some progress with respect to content of my research.  Through the research I’ve read so far I feel it necessary to include information on the following:


  • Define inquiry learning and include a quick review of the different types
  • Include a section in my literature review on why inquiry learning is sound pedagogy practice for elementary school educators, and discuss the reasons for change
  • The link between inquiry learning and self-regulation skills


Spirals of Inquiry by Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser it has helped me frame some of my thinking about inquiry learning lately.  Halbert and Kaser are co-leaders of Networks of Inquiry and Innovation and the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network.  They are also co-directors of the Centre for Innovative Educational Leadership at Vancouver Island University where they teach graduate programs in educational leadership.


According to Halbert and Kaser, the need for inquiry-learning in school is born from a disturbing trend of student disengagement from the current education system in British Columbia.  They claim that the current model of education is viewed in one of three ways:

  1. Educators and government need to focus on the quality of teaching and learning by narrowing down specific learning targets, making sure everyone understands the goal and is prepared to be in it for the long haul.
  2. Today’s digital learners need to be educated in a system that is radically different from the current model, and a major overhaul is required.
  3. The system is fine the way it is but is severely underfunded – money will fix the problem.


Spirals of Inquiry attempts to honour all three views in an appeasing manner.

Although I am only halfway through the book, I have appreciated their connection between indigenous culture and inquiry learning – something I would not have considered an obvious link before reading their work.  I have attempted to visualize the lens through which Halbert and Kaser view inquiry learning in the diagram below:


Spirals Of Inquiry (1)

Adapted from the book, Spirals of Inquiry by Halbert and Kaser in association with BCPVPA


The Journey: Narrowing Down A Lit Review Topic

The journey of narrowing down a topic for my lit reviews has not been easy.  Fraught with indecision and a stubbornness to find the perfect topic, the delays have been frustrating.  One on one chats with my professor forced me into thinking carefully about what I was looking for in a lit review and subsequent project, and here are some of my musings.

I started to think about what I was looking for in a project and came up with a short list:

  • It may sound simplistically obvious, but I want my lit review to be personally relevant.  I have to be jazzed about the idea.
  • I also need the topic to be meaningful to my practice.  I do not want to complete a lit review and project just for the sake of it.  The information I read and process in the lit review has to, somehow, enhance my practice and help me become a better educator.
  • Selfishly, it also has to be a topic that will help me create opportunities outside of the k-12 classroom.  I cannot see myself working solely as a classroom teacher for the next 20 years.

Next, I started to consider some of the issues I see in education and use this as a driving force to change.  Some of the challenges I see are as follows:

  • The model of school – The more time I spend in education, the more I get excited about the learning aspect of school and the more disheartened I get about the miscellaneous aspects of school.  I often feel that school gets in the way of learning.
  • Another issue, I see in schools, is the culture.  Rank and sort, grouping students by age, individual classrooms, grades, award systems, compartmentalized subjects, and inequity work against a model of learning and inquiry.
  • I believe more and more students are starting to question the personal relevance of their school experience.

When thinking of lit review topics and possible masters projects four themes have started to emerge:

  1. Multi-access Learning – Learning does not always occur between the bookends of a typical school day.  There is an opportunity to develop more freedom for students of all ages to access learning at a time that is personally convenient.  Flexible attendance may take the pressure of certain students and allow for more focused instructional time, and opportunities for asynchronous delivery may reduce anxiety for others. One major disadvantage of choosing multi-access learning as a topic is making it meaningful to my practice.  I don’t think this is a model for elementary school students that we see anytime soon.
  2. Game-based/Simulation-based Learning – According to NMC Horizon Report: 2011 K-12 Edition, “Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games.” (Johnson, Adams, & Haywood, 2011)  I am hesitant of choosing game-based learning as a lit review topic because of the stigma associated with the use of games in education.  Even though I see the value of game-based learning in education the term ‘edutainment’ comes to mind.  I can foresee some of the emails I might receive from parents condemning more of their children’s time allotted to gaming.  I am also slightly conflicted about the reward aspect of gaming.  As an educator, I am very conscious about the destructive nature of reward-based systems as a method of obtaining results.
  3. Open Education – Open education and open practices cover a broad range of subtopics.  The idea, that intellectual property can be shared for the benefit of everyone, is an exciting prospect.  I believe that education can and should be available to anyone at anytime, and there exists opportunities to reduce costs in education by using open educational resources.  One of the greatest challenges I see in pursuing Open Education masters project are the overly restrictive privacy laws in British Columbia.
  4. Inquiry/Personalized Learning – This is the topic I am most excited about right now.  Last year I introduced a block of time set aside each week called C.H.O.I.C.E.  Children Have Ownership In Choice Education (C.H.O.I.C.E) was modeled on #geniushour, Passion Time, and 20% time.  Essentially, it allows time in our weekly schedule for students to direct their own learning, explore areas of personal interest, develop a sense of inquiry, and have an outlet for their own brand of creativity.  It did not go so well when I introduced because I gave my learners too much freedom and did not adequately scaffold the inquiry process.  I believe I can learn from my mistakes and help others avoid some of the schoolboy errors I initially made when I introduced it.

I also need to consider an overarching learning theory to support my project.  Inquiry learning and the learning theory of Constructivism compliment each other.  “Constructivism states that learning is an active contextualize process of constructing knowledge rather than acquiring it.” (“Constructivism,” n.d.)


Constructivism. (n.d.). In Learning-Theories. Retrieved January 17, 2015, from

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Haywood, K. (2011). Horizon Report > 2011 K – 12 Edition. Methodology (p. 36). Retrieved from