Research Roundup: K-12 Game-based Learning

BY Brandon Pittser
As 2016 winds down and publishers in the K-12 space consider budget allocations for the coming year, game-based learning is emerging as an increasingly popular way to enhance an existing portfolio. Game-based learning investments were up 20% in 2016 and the market continues to move in a positive direction. While this is generally great news for Filament Games and other developers in the space, not all of these investments are built to last. Investment in great learning games requires an understanding of the research behind the pedagogy and the best ways to make it fit in the classroom. To help you make informed investments, here are a few resources that will help you round out your understanding of game-based learning:

Models for Teaching with Games
Make no mistake, the most important person in any K-12 game-based learning environment is the teacher. Even though we spend a lot of time at Filament thinking about learning games and their classroom applications, there’s no replacement for the ground-level, full-time understanding of the classroom teacher. Because this perspective is so valuable, we recently asked eight educators to share their stories and document their models for teaching with games. Their stories and strategies are compiled in our How to Teach with Games eBook - if you’re looking to understand how teachers use games, start here.

Research Supporting Game-based Learning
There’s a ton of evidence that games are effective, beneficial teaching tools for both young learners and adults. Below is a selection of game-based learning research and implementation studies, demonstrating a broad variety of game-based learning models and their outcomes:

Level Up Learning Survey
This survey was conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and contains helpful statistics and insights about educators’ game-based learning strategies and preferences.

Study Suggests Games are Good for Children’s Brains
This study was conducted by Paul Howard-Jones, professor of neuroscience and education at the University of Bristol, and focused on the qualitative impact of games on learning and cognition.

Backyard Engineers Classroom Study
Conducted in Spring Valley Middle School in Wisconsin, this Backyard Engineers classroom study shows how learning games can augment student learning when used with other classroom activities.

Planet Mechanic Classroom Study
This study was conducted in the Sun Prairie Area School District and demonstrated that the educator is the most vital and impactful aspect of game-based learning.

The JASON Project
The JASON Project is used by a community of more than 3,000,000 teachers and students worldwide, and provides a model for delivering engaging STEM content with game-based learning.

McGraw-Hill Inspire Science
The game-based learning offerings in Inspire Science round out an innovative fully-digital core curriculum that’s on track to reach millions of students across the country. Check out this project to see how a titan of the K-12 publishing world is approaching game-based learning. is one of the most successful game-based learning platforms in schools today, with a wide library of engaging civics games, more than 7 million student users, and more than 43 million lifetime plays. is living proof that game-based learning can both scale and maintain a truly massive impact.

Finally, check out the Filament Games portfolio for examples of games that serve specific populations like young learners and adolescents, and cover forward-facing topic areas like 21st century skills.

Game-based Learning Strategies for Publishers
Now that you’ve bookmarked a bunch of these resources for later, help your colleagues and peers get to know game-based learning with this helpful infographic. Designed to introduce publishers to the most common models for developing game-based learning products, this will give you the material you need to get a conversation started around teaching with games.

If you’re still looking to learn more about a possible game-based learning project for your organization, head over to our portfolio to see more examples and drop us a line!