CEHD News Community Engaged Research

CEHD News Community Engaged Research

Varma receives grant-in-aid to study use of games in middle school STEM education

Keisha Varma

Keisha Varma, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s psychological foundations of education program, has been awarded a Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship from the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research for her study, “The SciGames Project – Using Games to Support Science and Engineering Practices.”

Varma’s three-step project will investigate how board games can support middle school students’ STEM learning and problem solving behaviors by:

  1. Designing and implementing a professional development program to help teachers in a local district effectively incorporate games into their curriculum.
  2. Involving parents in the process by making them aware that the games they play at home can help their kids develop science and engineering thinking skills.
  3. Working with experts in computer and cognitive sciences specify and gather behavioral data from students’ game play for use in future studies.

The goal of the study is to gain a better understanding of how games support learning in formal and informal learning environments by answering specific research questions.

  1. Do students show improved understanding of science and engineering practices after playing various board games?
  2. Do students show improved understanding of science and engineering practices after playing high vs. low strategy games?
  3. How do teachers incorporate games into their science classroom practices?
  4. How do families view games as supports for science learning and family activities in general?

Varma plans build on this initial research with iterative studies leading to the design of digital games to support teachers in their science instruction.