Developmental Differences in Children’s Problem-Solving Approaches During Educational Digital Game Play

Harneet Kaur Sahni, Fordham University


This study investigated fourth-seventh graders’ approaches to learning a digital game designed to teach the basics of coding. This goal was chosen as STEM games are increasingly incorporated in school settings. However, little is known about how students approach their learning of educational games, particularly among students in mid- to late elementary school age. As part of this investigation, students were asked to adopt different goals for their learning while playing: a metacognitive goal whereby they were to think about what they learned while playing, an affective goal whereby they were to think about how they felt while playing, or no goal (Blumberg, 2000). All participants were instructed to think-aloud for 10 consecutive minutes as they played and to then recount what they learned and remembered about their game play. These comments were then coded for their reference to types of comments that included reference to their cognitive processes, the game, affect, goals, and background knowledge. Findings showed that older participants made more references to cognitive comments than their younger counterparts during game play and debriefing. Developmental differences were not found for cognitive comments by condition during game play, however, participants in the metacognitive condition made greater references to cognitive comments during debriefing than other conditions. As expected, developmental differences were found as sixth and seventh graders significantly outperformed fourth and fifth graders. Surprisingly, participants in the control condition performed significantly better than participants in other conditions. Collectively, these findings elucidate how middle childhood age and early adolescents may approach their game-based learning. Greater examination of these approaches is warranted to best capitalize on students’ inclinations for learning digital games introduced into the classroom.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Sahni, Harneet Kaur, "Developmental Differences in Children’s Problem-Solving Approaches During Educational Digital Game Play" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29996962.