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Games for Learning

Project Leader(s): 
Project contact person(s): 

This project investigates the actual and potential role of games to support ‘transformative learning opportunities’ for diverse learners in New Zealand schools.

The project foregrounds the experiences of New Zealand teachers and learners as game players, game selectors, or game makers. It aims to understand:

  • how users and players think about games in relation to learning
  • what personal and pedagogical choices they make when games are used in learning environments
  • what happens in the learning environment when games are part of the picture.

This data will be woven together with theory from the growing international literature on games for learning to provide a critical perspective on possible directions for games to support New Zealand learners to develop their potential.

Research question

To what extent can games and gaming enable learners to develop their potential as expressed in the vision and intentions of  The New Zealand Curriculum?

Research sub-questions

  • What does the New Zealand and international literature suggest about the potential for games to support meaningful and transformative learning for diverse students?
  • How are New Zealand learners and teachers using games for learning?
  • To what extent do NZ teachers' and learners' experiences with games in New Zealand align with international theory and trends?
  • To what extent do current and emerging practices with games for learning in NZ realise the educational potential claimed by "games and learning" theorists?

The project looks at digital and non-digital games 

The project's initial focus was digital games, including simulations, and game-building platforms and environments. We’ve also looked at how non-digital games are used, adapted, or created by learners and teachers.

What do we mean by "transformative learning opportunities"?

We use the term ‘transformative’ to encompass dimensions of learning that are evident in The NZ Curriculum. We’re interested in how games can deepen and enrich students’ engagement with learning in and across the various learning areas of the curriculum.  

A related interest is whether and how games might transform students' opportunities to learn in schools. What changes might evolve in classroom curriculum and pedagogy as teachers think about, and experiment with, the use of games for learning?

The project runs from July 2015 to December 2017

Over the lifespan of the project, we will:

  • draw together existing New Zealand and international literature on games for learning
  • establish research relationships with New Zealand learners and teachers who are using, playing, or building games as part of their learning
  • connect with other New Zealand and international researchers in the education and game development fields
  • convene a conference to bring together international expertise and local innovators in game-based learning
  • publish working papers on our findings.

Check our Games For Learning Blog for regular updates!

Emerging findings will also be shared at New Zealand educational conferences and through social media.

Are you interested in contributing to or hearing more about this project?

If you are interested in staying connected with this project, please follow our blog or contact Rachel Bolstad.

You are invited to submit a paper for a special 'playing, gaming, and learning' edition of set Research Information for Teachers.

You can also join our Google+ community "Games and the future of education (NZCER)".

Head to our Games for Learning website for updates and resources following the NZCER Games for Learning conference 2017.

Project team

Rachel Bolstad, Sue McDowall, Elliot Lawes

Games for Learning project publications:

Year published Title Publication type
2017 Critical literacy and games in New Zealand classrooms Working paper
2017 Playing for Peace: Complex role-play gaming in high school history Research report