The EU-funded iTalk2Learn project has shown that game-like exploratory learning environments (such as this project’s FractionsLab) can be especially effective in enabling students to construct for themselves personal understandings of mathematical concepts. However, two other key findings have emerged from this and previous research.
First, learning in game-like exploratory environments only really happens when the students receive targeted and individualised formative feedback. Pure discovery learning in exploratory environments, such as in many immersive games designed to support learning, rarely promotes robust learning. However, guided discovery learning, in which students are given informative hints to help scaffold their progress and are encouraged to vocalise their thinking and to reflect on their strategies, enables students to discover and create new personal knowledge by reorganizing previously held ideas to accommodate newly encountered ideas. It is guidance, reflection and self-explanation that enables students to abstract information, construct new schemata, and develop conceptual knowledge.
Second, constructivist experiences in game-like exploratory learning environments, while valuable for effective learning, are in themselves insufficient. For knowledge to be robust, it requires a combination of three types: conceptual, procedural and factual. And while immersive game-like exploratory environments, such as FractionsLab, are particularly well-suited for the discovery of a domain’s underlying concepts, they are less effective for developing procedural or factual knowledge. In other words, to enable the automatization of both procedural and factual knowledge, students also need structured opportunities for extensive practice of problem-solving procedures and the recall of facts.
Dr Wayne Holmes and Dr Manolis Mavrikis