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The article by Ray and Coulter reports a qualitative study of pre-service teachers’ perception of the efficacy of assorted digital mini-games as promising educational tools. This paper reviews the study’s research process examines the ethical considerations relevant to the study and gives an overall critique of the article.
The Research Process
This section evaluates the six steps of the research process as used in Ray and Coulter’s study.
The Research Problem – The article’s title is a concise snapshot of the research problem. The first paragraph begins with a good ‘narrative hook’ that tells the reader the potential educational value of digital mini-games. It discusses the characteristics of digital mini-games that make them attractive learning tools. It asserts that there are deficiencies in research to support the use of games to promote the educational outcomes of middle school students. To determine whether digital games are effective learning tools, research is required to connect their effectiveness with academic outcomes. This research problem is not easily identifiable. It requires an exploration of the perceptions of teachers, who play a role in the integration of the technology into the classroom, to determine how the games support learning. The authors note that other researchers have associated digital games and simulations to student motivation and enriched learning experiences. The study’s target audience includes teachers and instructional leaders. The aspects of the research problem in this article are consistent with the qualitative research process.
Literature Review – A literature review is given in the first sections of the article. The authors use a theoretical framework to organize the literature around three thematic areas, namely, historical usage of technology, student motivation, and participation. The article reviews relevant studies to lay the ground for the current research. In this regard, the article’s literature review approach is consistent with the qualitative research process. The authors conclude the literature review by justifying the need for the current study to expand on the existing idea, namely, the use of digital games in learning leads to better academic outcomes.
The Research Purpose – The exploratory study aims to explore whether the use of digital mini-games in a middle school classroom promotes student learning. The purpose statement is not clearly stated. The research questions are open-ended and general, which is a hallmark of an exploratory study. The central question is descriptive; it seeks to explore whether educators believe that digital games enhance student learning in middle school. The sub-questions begin with the word ‘what’, which is a hallmark of a qualitative research question. Additionally, the questions include the central phenomenon, which entails the educators’ perceptions of the academic potential of digital mini-games in the classroom. The inclusion of the central phenomenon is another hallmark of a qualitative study.
Data Collection – The researchers collected data from a homogeneous sample of 18 participants who were pre-service teachers taking a ‘social studies method’ program. This small study sample was recruited from a single research site, namely, a research university located in the west of the US. Data collection involved a single method, namely, a pre-tested questionnaire instrument that assessed the participants’ perceptions before, during, and after a course involving digital games. It contained two parts: a structured pre-assessment based on an ordinal scale (ranks the value of the games) and a post-assessment (15-items) comprising of open-ended questions that allowed participants to expound on their answers. Data collection was done throughout the entire semester. The instructor, after the initial assessment, introduced a digital game during each topic to the participants who played it and gave their views. Post-assessment data were collected at the end of the semester. The study’s data collection procedures and instrumentation are characteristic of qualitative research.
Data Analysis and Interpretation – Data analysis involves a rank test to assess the perceptions of the respondents and descriptive statistics to organize the narrative data into themes. Based on the perspectives of the respondents, the authors identify three main themes, namely, teaching activities, motivation, and student learning. A narrative discussion of these themes is given, whereby the authors link the results to findings made in other studies. They involve statistical scores (mean) to compare the pre- and post-test perceptions of the participants regarding digital mini-games. The discussion also includes direct quotes to support the themes.
Findings and Evaluation – The authors evaluate the changes in the teachers’ perceptions of digital mini-games to come up with the findings. Based on these results, the study makes a finding that younger (pre-service) teachers readily adopt the mini-games in their instruction. The authors make conclusions based on the respondents’ comments, reflections, and evidence from comparable studies. Additionally, the authors outline the limitations that may have affected the validity of their results. The article also suggests directions for future research on the topic. Thus, the authors follow a qualitative research approach in presenting the findings.
One ethical consideration in the study regards the approval to access the participants and research site. The authors sought an instructor who served as a gatekeeper to collect data in a non-intrusive and respectful way. The instructor introduced digital games and did the pre- and post-assessment of the participants’ attitudes. Another ethical consideration relates to the anonymity of the participants and the research site. The names of the participants, instructor, and research site are kept anonymous to protect them.
Overall Article Critique
The research provides crucial insights into how digital games can promote instructive learning in middle school. Overall, the study follows the six steps of the research process. Most elements of the study are consistent with the qualitative research process. The research problem is identified based on deficiencies in the existing literature. The authors also give a justification for researching the problem and specify the study’s audience. The authors rely on experts to validate the questionnaire instrument to enhance the reliability of data. The article uses a theoretical framework to review the literature, which makes this section clear and easy to understand. It also enumerates the research questions that will guide the study. However, the study’s purpose is not clearly stated in the article. Additionally, the recommendations and future research directions are less conspicuous to the reader.
The article is structured clearly and logically. It uses simple and neutral language to explain the various concepts in a narrative form. Also, it adheres to the principles of ethical and scholarly writing. The authors present a coherent argument and support it with evidence from other studies. They draw their conclusions from the participants’ perceptions of the utility of the games in learning. The article also identifies the study’s limitations, including small sample size and skewed demographics, which may limit the ‘generalizability’ of its findings to other settings. Thus, a large heterogeneous sample can enhance the external validity of the results. Additionally, a ‘mixed-methods design’ can provide quantitative data to validate the participants’ perceptions (qualitative data).