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Posted on August 31st, 2012, by

For the research, I have chosen the doctoral dissertation by Paul K. Toprac “The effects of a problem-based learning digital game on continuing motivation”. This dissertation is devoted to researching continuing motivation to learn science for sixth graders, using mixed-methods, design-based approach. The scope of the study is digital games environment and its influence on motivation of students to learn academic subjects after instruction has ended. The study considers motivation factors and recommendations concerning increasing motivation and developing learning environments for middle school. The focus of the dissertation is on how a problem-based learning digital game may be able to promote continuing motivation to learn science. There are three aspects to the research: digital games, problem-based learning, and continuing motivation to learn science.

2. Was the dissertation non-experimental or experimental? Explain.

Experimental quantitative research differs from non-experimental one because it usually takes place in real-time conditions and studies existing relationships between examined variables, while non-experimental research takes place in laboratory conditions and studies mostly the probabilities and predicted dependencies. The chosen dissertation is an experimental design-based research, it can be credited as experimental since it was conducted real-time and working quantitative and qualitative outcomes were obtained.

3. Identify when the study took place.

The research, data collection and analysis took place in 2006.

4. What impact does this have on the credibility and/or usability of results?

Since 2006, computer games have progressed in terms of graphics, visualization and technology, but there have been no ground-breaking ideas concerning the essence and plot of these games; therefore, the results of the research are quite credible and may be applied without reconsideration.

5. Briefly describe the sample. Did the researcher provide a strong rationale for using the particular sample and the particular sample size?

The study took place in 3 classrooms in a suburban public middle school in central Texas. There are a total of approximately 1000 students at the middle school with the sixth grade constituting approximately 33% of the student body (Toprac, 2006). The ethnic makeup of the school is: 69% White, 22% Asian/Pacific Islander, 6% Hispanic, and 3% African American. The school is, overall, almost evenly split between females and males. Each class has the average of 28 students. All in all, 66 students took part in the study, representing almost 20% of the whole sixth grade. The researcher explains the choice of the school by pure convenience.

6. Did the researcher use other research to support the use of the particular sample (e.g., cite sources to support the composition and demographics)?

There was no additional research to justify sample choice and its size in the dissertation.

7. Describe the generalizability or strength of the results. Are the results such that they can be generalized to the larger and like population or is generalizability confined to the sample studied? This will be dependent on the composition and demographics of the sample.

The strength of the results is conditioned by the choice of research design: the triangulation mixed methods design includes quantitative and qualitative datasets with equal weight, priority, and consideration. The resulting triangulated results show convergence, inconsistency, or be complementary; the quantitative results provide the opportunity for generalizability, while the qualitative result provide a better understanding of the context and meaning (Toprac, 2006). However, generalizations should be done taking into account the small sample size of this, which may impact the validity of the findings.

8. Describe the data collection procedures used in the study. What instruments were used to gather data? Describe how the instruments allowed or did not allow the researcher to gather data that will help address the research questions/hypotheses. In other words, what evidence exists that indicates the instrument is accurate, valid, and reliable?

Both quantitative and qualitative methodologies were used to gather data in order to address the research questions. Most of the data was obtained through self-reports and interviews; quantitative data were gathered using a modified motivation questionnaire; also, in order to measure the students’ knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts in the chosen game (Video Rescue), a shortened version of the standard Science Knowledge Test was administered pre- and post-test. The Dimensions of Continuing Motivation Survey was used to estimate students’ perceived ability and subjective task value. In addition to the interviews conducted using the Continuing Motivation Interview Guide, semi-structured interviews were conducted in the classroom in the playing process.

Such triangular approach allows the researcher to gather proper data and conclude analysis complying with the objectives of the research. Got motivation studies, such approach has proved to be the most efficient instrument.

9. Are the data collection procedures in alignment with the research questions, problem statement, and purpose statement? Explain.

The research focuses on three areas: digital games, problem-based learning, and continuing motivation to learn science. The design-based research using combined qualitative and quantitative methods allows conducting both in-depth analysis of the field and researching the causal relations between the variables quantitatively.

10. Describe the data analysis procedures used in the study. What methods were used to analyze the data collected? Describe how the instruments used to analyze data (e.g., matrixes, coding) allowed or did not allow the researcher to analyze the data to address the research questions/hypotheses. In other words, what evidence exists that indicates the data analysis instrument(s) is(are) accurate, valid, and reliable?

11. Describe the scope of the study. Describe the variables that were included in the study.

Research questions of the dissertation are the following (Toprac, 2006):
”’ Can playing a problem-based learning game in science, Alien Rescue III, promote continuing motivation to learn science? Does continuing motivation to learn science change over time after completion of instruction?
”’ Is continuing motivation subject, domain, or task specific?
”’ What are the psychological dimensions of continuing motivation? Is there a relationship between the knowledge gained during instruction and continuing motivation?
”’ Does continuing motivation to learn in future classroom instruction differ from continuing motivation to learn outside of the classroom?

The main variables analyzed in the research are continuing motivation, factors affecting motivation, conditions and features of continuing motivation.

12. Describe the extent to which these variables were included in the study.

Continuing motivations and related factors were studied both qualitatively and quantitatively in the dissertation; the author provided in-depth analysis for major aspects of the problem.

13. Describe the elements that were variables from the study.

Specific elements which were variables in the study are factors influencing intrinsically motivating sources of Alien Rescue II, namely: challenge, curiosity, control, fantasy, cooperation, competition, recognition.

14. Describe the rationale for inclusion/exclusion of the variables within the study.

The choice of variables was determined by research questions of the dissertation; the rationale for inclusion elements of variables in the study is the qualitative part of the research which allowed defining which elements were interconnected with motivation changes.

15. Provide a summary of the usefulness and/or application of this study in your own literature review.

There have been numerous studies concerning motivation improvement, especially in middle school, and many studies concerning enhancing learning with the help of video games, simulation games etc., for example, (de Jong & Joolingen, 1998) et al. Some of these studies contain qualitative research concerning general factors which increase motivation for students while gaming (Habgood & Ainsworth & Benford, 2005), (Shaffer & Squire & Halverson & Gee, 2005); other studies, both quantitative and qualitative, focus on motivating students to learn particular subjects and generating approaches to enhance motivation within a particular area (Van Eck, 2006).

The considered research combines qualitative and quantitative methods in order to define, which factors increase not only motivation for learning, but contribute to students’ learning after finishing school. In my opinion, such formulation of the question is quite more useful that just increasing motivation to learn a particular subject. However, the small sample size of the dissertation does not lead to significant generalizations, which reduces the implications of the study.

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