Addressing genetics misconceptions with an educational game.
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This dissertation describes the design, development and formative evaluation of an educational adventure game entitled Food for Thought to address student misconceptions in genetics within the context of a development research paradigm, and reflects on the lessons learnt during the process. The current investigation was a response to an assessment of learning misconceptions in genetics. Several factors were identified as contributing to these problems with a focus on the abstract nature of the subject and the decontextualised manner in which students encounter these concepts. The tenacity of the problem suggested the need for of a novel intervention. A constructivist concept of learning emphasises active learners internally constructing their own meaning in rich complex environments. While not a theory of teaching, it offers a number of principles to guide the design of learning environments. Elements from computer based adventure games embody aspects of these principles and offer possibilities of developing a tool to address student misconceptions. Here, learners may explore biological concepts as they engage in contextual problems embedded in the narrative structure of a detailed and immersive virtual world. The implementation of the design was guided by a number of conceptual models, namely the Game Object Model (GOM) and Game Achievement Model (GAM) which clarify the relationship between pedagogical principles and game design elements. The identification of specific learning misconceptions provided the basis for developing a set of learning objectives for the game which were used as a foundation for the design of the environment, which was then created using a combination of commercial and proprietary 3D graphic and image editing software. Both the GAM and GOM are effective tools for categorizing a variety of different components in a very complex development. A formative evaluation of the game was undertaken probing both expert and user (student) responses through post-gameplay questionnaires and interviews. The game was favourably received, with feedback and suggestions on improvements. Most notable was the need for greater guidance in the game environment. In addition Activity theory was employed as framework of analysis. Activity systems for both players and the designer were developed and contradictions within and between them analysed. These were used to modify the original designer activity system and in so doing refine the practice of game design in the context of the development research paradigm.