Assessing the impact of game based pedagogy on the development of communication skills for engineers

Katharine Mary Eichelman, Renee M. Clark, Cheryl A. Bodnar

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Communication is a vital component of education for any discipline, but it is essential to an engineering curriculum. Our study has investigated the impact that game-based learning, a form of active learning shown to increase a student's interest and motivation1, has on the development of oral and written communication skills within a sophomore level chemical engineering class. Game-based learning incorporates game design elements, such as instantaneous feedback, an immersive nature, and scaffolding techniques, into non-game contexts in order to push students to the edge of their capabilities2,3,4. In the spring semester of 2014, two sections of this chemical engineering course, entitled Introduction to Chemical Product Design, were taught. While both class sections used traditional lecturing and several active learning strategies, including think-pair share, group discussion, and case studies, only the experimental (game-based) class section utilized game-based pedagogy. However, the same communication curriculum, which included translating scientific information for public audiences and strategies for a good oral presentation, was delivered to both sections. Final written reports and video infomercials, produced as part of a semester long design project, were evaluated by two analysts. The results from each section were then compared to determine the impact of game-based learning on students' achievement in communication skills, both written and oral. The written report was evaluated using the Written Communication VALUE rubric, which was developed by faculty experts sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. This VALUE rubric evaluates a written report based upon five categories - context of and purpose for writing, content development, genre and disciplinary conventions, sources and evidence, and the control of syntax and mechanics5. The video infomercial was evaluated using the Elevator Pitch Evaluation Rubric, created by faculty at Rowan University for a sophomore-level design course. This rubric considers content, organization, style, delivery, and the overall presentation6. Both the written and oral assignments were double coded to ensure the quality of the assessment, and an interrater reliability measure was calculated for the two analysts. In the comparison of written reports from the games versus non-games sections of the course, the mean overall score was higher for the games-based teams (n=13) compared to the non-games-based teams (n=14), although not significantly. This was likely influenced by the small sample size. This trend also existed with the mean scores for each dimension of the rubric. The same was generally true for the oral (infomercial) results. The games-based teams scored higher than the non-games-based teams on four of the five rubric dimensions, although not significantly. The course instructors were also interviewed to determine their impressions of the differences between the students in the games vs. non-games sections, based upon classroom activities and homework submissions. Finally, this study also examined whether students' perceptions of their development of communication skills within the particular section of the course correlated with their performance on the oral and written assignments. To assess this, a selection of questions from the National Survey of Student Engagement pertaining to perceptions of communications skill development was compared to the scores achieved on the written and oral communication assignments7. Based on our small sample of data, we did not find a relationship between student perception and the team's performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Volume122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for Society
Issue number122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for...
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Seattle, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2015Jun 17 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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