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A study into the characteristics of game-based learning software that appeal to 11-14 year old girls

A study into the characteristics of game-based learning software that appeal to 11-14 year old girls

Osunde, Osemwegie Joseph (2017) A study into the characteristics of game-based learning software that appeal to 11-14 year old girls. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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The motivation for this study is the under-representation of females in computer science education and careers, which can be seen as both a waste of talent and the loss of educational and career opportunities for girls and women. This problem, commonly referred to as the “shrinking pipeline”, acknowledges the progressive reduction in the number of females in computer science education and careers over a period of years. Strategies and initiatives implemented over the years to solve this problem include attempts to dispel computing career myths, promote the use of mentors and provide accurate information about computing to key influencers of girls. Technological initiatives have also explored the use of digital educational games to engage more girls with computer science.

The limitation with these technological initiatives lie in their inability to engage as the many girls as boys, which is reflective of the situation that we see with digital entertainment games. Educational software designed for students and children has been described as exemplifying the same problems as experienced with games designed for boys, because the characteristics often promote negative gender stereotypic constructs about computer science. Considering the ubiquity of digital games, their impact is far reaching across all age groups, but it is particularly important for 11-14 year olds, as this is the age group where a gender divide over computer science appears in schools. To resolve this problem, gender neutral and gendered games were designed to make digital educational games more appealing to girls. The outcomes from these design techniques have resulted in suggestions to including game characteristics that appeal to girls in digital educational game design solutions. Consequently, the research questions addressed by this study are:

- (1) “Can we understand what makes some digital entertainment games appealing to 11-14 year old girls?”
- (2) “Can we use this knowledge to create computer science learning games that appeal to this audience?”

The approach of the research was to conduct an exploratory study of digital entertainment games with a view to identifying the significant game characteristics that make them motivationally appealing to the 11-14 year old girls.

The findings of the exploratory study were used to create two digital experimental educational games, one designed around the characteristics with the most positive appeal, and the other designed around the antithetical values of those game characteristics.

The experimental games were designed using an adaptation of the Aleven et al. (2010) framework and based on the Google Blockly maze game which facilitated the combination of the learning objectives, game mechanics, dynamics & aesthetics (MDA) and instructional principles. The main study which followed thereafter involved 304 participants (girls=152 and boys=152), from five different locations in southeast England. The participants engaged with both games and online questionnaires were used to collect their views and opinion of the games. The boys of a similar age group were included in the study to provide comparative data for the study.

The evidence from the main study identified the significant game characteristics which can make digital educational games appealing to the target group, namely 11-14 year old girls. The evidence indicated that the significant game characteristics are a key criterion in making the experimental games appealing to girls. This knowledge can be used to inform the design of gender-specific digital educational games and gender inclusive games. This can be achieved through the application of design frameworks, and the customisation of the significant game characteristics that appeal to this target group.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Computer science education; game-based learning; women; careers; digital educational games; gender;
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science > School of Computing & Mathematical Sciences (CMS)
Faculty of Engineering & Science
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2022 13:07

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