Potential benefits of a Puzzle Video Game - Cognitive Enrichment Programme for the development of critical thinking among first year BEd students
The central purpose of this doctoral thesis has been to deepen understanding of the development of critical thinking by using Portal, a puzzle video game. The study involved embedded mixed method research that employed quantitative experimental research and qualitative, multiple case study research as strategies of inquiry, to investigate the potential benefits of a 13-week Puzzle Video Game-Cognitive Enrichment Programme (PVG-CEP) for the development of critical thinking among a group of first-year BEd students at a university in South Africa. In the context of the study, critical thinking is conceptualised as the integrated development, and application of critical thinking skills (making inferences, recognising assumptions, making deductions, doing interpretations, evaluating arguments), critical thinking dispositions (systematic working ways, accuracy, persistence), and standards for reasoning (logic, clarity, relevancy). The research involved students who were conveniently and purposively sampled, and randomly assigned to an experimental (N = 4) and control (N = 4) group. Only the experimental group took part in the intervention. Quantitative test data were collected by administering the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (W-GCTA) prior to, and after the PVG-CEP intervention that involved the application of Portal, a puzzle video game, to assess the development of the participants’ critical thinking. In addition, qualitative descriptive data were collected by conducting observations that were accompanied by anecdotal records and video recordings, and guided by a four-point descriptive scale, during the implementation of the PVG-CEP intervention, to establish growth in relation to the critical thinking skills, dispositions and standards for reasoning. After the intervention, semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with the participants of the experimental group to explore their experiences with the Portal puzzle video game. None of the participants excelled in the application of critical thinking skills during the pre-test and the post-test, and differential growth in relation to the development of the critical thinking skills was noted among the participants after completing the intervention: Based on the post-test results, participants 1, 2, and 4 demonstrated growth for making inferences, only participant 4 achieved growth for making deductions and doing interpretations, and only participant 2 showcased growth for recognising assumptions. Participant 3 demonstrated no growth for any of the critical thinking skills on which the research focused, and the skill to evaluate arguments did not display any growth among any of the particiants. Overall, particpants 1 and 3 seemingly entered the intervention programme at practicing levels of thinking, and remained at practicing levels of thinking at the conclusion of the intervention. Participants 2 and 4 appeared to be at beginning level of thinking, and achieved growth to practicing level during the post-test. Even though the observations did not frequently support the post-test results, the researcher argues that the intervention possibly contributed to the slight improvement that was noted for some of the critical thinking skills. The skills still appear to be fragile, and require more practice to enable the participants to progress towards becoming advanced and master thinkers. The intervention appeared to have been more beneficial for the growth noted in relation to the dispositions and standards for reasoning on which the study focused. All the participants, except participant 2, managed to achieve growth for all the dispositions and standards for reasoning on which the research focused. Challenges related to the difficulty of the game, and lack of time were mentioned in relation to the intervention. Although the participants experienced fun and enjoyment during the game play, and noted that the PVG-CEP holds benefits in relation to growth in cognitive and emotional abilities, the findings of the study do not conclusively confirm that the intervention contributed to the growth observed for some of the critical thinking skills, dispositions, and standards for reasoning. The participants in the control group who did not take part in the intervention, also demonstrated some growth in relation to the critical thinking skills on which the research focused, which could probably be linked to the influence of normal academic teaching. The study is concluded with guidelines to guide and enhance the future implementation of puzzle video games for developing critical thinking.
- Education