Games-Based Learning as an Interdisciplinary Approach to Literacy across Curriculum for Excellence

  • Hugh O'Donnell University of Edinburgh


Literacy remains an area of concern in early secondary education in Scotland (ages 12-14), with recent research suggesting a continued decline in attainment levels. As literacy underpins learning, interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to teaching literacy are now being emphasized through the new Curriculum for Excellence that aims to address this issue. It is not clear, however, what types of learning activity are most appropriate for implementing this new, more cooperative approach. One candidate is the use of educational games and reflective writing. So, to what extent do learners demonstrate transferable literacy skills through engaging with educational games? This paper evaluates the effectiveness of the multi-user simulation game, Mars Colony Challenger (MCC), which portrays a scientifically accurate Mars colonisation mission in a way that aims to facilitate both scientific and literary development. A class of secondary school pupils (n=28) used the game within the context of a science class on ‘The Three States of Matter’. They then produced written narratives that captured the experiential learning undertaken. Comparing these narratives with the remaining pupils in the cohort, who had not used MCC in their science class, revealed a statistically significant difference in literacy ability. Further qualitative analysis of the narratives themselves highlighted a high level of engagement and inspiration evoked through the experience. Consequently, these results highlight the efficacy of MCC as a means of literacy development, and they suggest a means to elicit greater frequency of opportunity for pupil engagement with, and subsequent assessment of, literacy competencies.

Author Biography

Hugh O'Donnell, University of Edinburgh

Secondary English Teacher.

Masters in Digital Education (Edinburgh University, 2014)


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December 9, 2015