Uncovering gender differences between players and nonplayers in using an educational game to learn programming concepts

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Journal article

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The International Journal of Learning

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Common Ground Publishing


Educational Game, Gaming Strategies, Gender Differences, Student Teachers, Players, Nonplayers


The first aim of this study was to explore gender differences in student teachers’ use of an educational game to learn programming concepts. Students’ game performance was recorded using software. There were 26 students in the class but only 16 (“players”) finished at least one stage of the game. By examining the videos, it was found that male players obtained higher scores as they made fewer attempts, took fewer steps, and used less gaming time than female players. The second aim of the study was to explore factors affecting players and nonplayers. Their academic performance was measured and their perceptions of learning and gaming backgrounds were collected via a questionnaire. Multiple data collection methods have been used to provide a full exploration of the research objectives. Male players not only obtained higher scores in the computer games, but also gave the highest overall ratings to all the questionnaire items. When compared with players, nonplayers gave lower ratings to almost all the items in the questionnaire. The findings suggest that the main reason for nonplayers not using the computer game to learn was that they did not like learning about programming scripts and they did not enjoy active learning, rather than because they lacked gaming experience or did not enjoy using computer games in learning. The academic performance of players was higher than nonplayers but female players obtained better academic results than male players even though the latter scored higher in the educational game. Although the findings do not suggest that there is a direct relationship between gaming and academic performances, male nonplayers had the poorest academic performance of all the groups. This exploratory study suggests educators may need to rethink how to use computer games to enhance learning programming concepts.

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Copyright © 2012 Common Ground Publishing. Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

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Recommended Citation

Ng, E. M. W. (2012). Uncovering gender differences between players and nonplayers in using an educational game to learn programming concepts. The International Journal of Learning, 18(7), 237-254.