Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Science Education 99:4 (2015), pp. 696–720.

doi: 10.1002/sce.21171


Copyright © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Used by permission.


This study explored student learning in the context of innovative biotechnology curricula and the effects of gaming as a central element of the learning experience. The quasi-experimentally designed study compared learning outcomes between two curricular approaches: one built around a computer-based game and the other built around a narrative case. The research questions addressed student learning of basic biological principles, development of interest in learning science, and how a game-based approach compared to a nongame-based approach in terms of supporting learning. The study employed a pre-post design with 1,888 high school students nested within the classes of 36 biology teachers. Results indicated that students participating in both approaches demonstrated statistically and practically significant gains on both proximal and distal assessments of biological content knowledge. Neither group demonstrated gains in science interest. The curriculum by time interaction was not statistically different, indicating that students in both groups showed similar results. Implications for game-based science learning and future research include building better awareness of technological and professional development challenges associated with implementing educational games, the need for new strategies for understanding the impacts of games for learning, and the need for cost-benefit analyses in the planning of game-based educational approaches.