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Declarative Knowledge And Learning Game Design

Declarative knowledge, also known as verbal knowledge or factual knowledge, is any piece of information that can only be learned through memorization. It is an association between two or more items that are linked through memorization. The fact that ADDIE represents the words Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation is declarative knowledge. Facts, jargon, terminology, and acronyms are some of the most common factual knowledge found in organizations. Every field and discipline is filled with declarative knowledge that must be known in many cases even to just understand a conversation between two people practicing in a certain area such as engineering. It is no accident that most instructional lessons begin with vocabulary, so everyone knows the basics before proceeding.

Most organizations have numerous acronyms and jargon so declarative knowledge is key, especially for new employees, new product introductions and new markets. Facts, jargon, and acronyms are important knowledge that must be learned to be successful in any career and within any organization or within any academic discipline. Creating games to help learners acquire this knowledge provides a strong foundation for future learning.

Several types of learning game design can be used to teach or reinforce facts. First it is important to understand some of the methods of teaching facts to understand the appropriate game techniques.

4 Methods Of Teaching Facts

1. Elaboration.

This is the process of linking the new information with prior relevant or even irrelevant information, showing the learner the context of the new fact and its relationship to a known knowledge structure. For example, one technique some people use to remember a grocery list is to mentally place the items to be purchased around a familiar room in their house and then they “walk” around the room remembering the items to purchase. (A rather involved elaboration technique, but elaboration none-the-less.)

2. Organizing.

Placing the facts into logical groupings. This can be tables, diagrams, lists, models, and even mnemonics which are acronyms where the first letter of the word represents a term or step in a process. ADDIE is a mnemonic. The term “Chunking” is often used to convey the idea organizing.

3. Association.

Linking a word to an image or linking a term to its definition. At the image level, show a picture of a defective part and provide the name of the type of defect underneath the part. On the text level, match the word with its definition.

4. Repetition.

Repeating content over and over again is actually a good method to memorize a fact. It is how most people remember their phone number of home address.

5 Game Techniques Related To Facts

Translating the above techniques into game mechanics can be beneficial from a motivational perspective and from an instructional strategy perspective for helping learners master the facts. Following are some game techniques related to facts.

1. Stories.

Researchers have found that the human brain has a natural affinity for narrative construction. People tend to remember facts more accurately if they encounter them in a story rather than in a list, studies find; and they rate legal arguments as more convincing when built into narrative tales rather than on legal precedent. This picks up on the elaboration technique embedding facts into a known context of the learner and is a key element in games. The story element of a game can help to encode the content more richly in the learner’s brain and help them with recall of the facts when needed. So a game that has a story helps lead to learning. In fact, when you listen to a story, your brain “rehearses” the elements of the story.

2. Sorting.

These are games where a learner needs to place content into the right slot or location. At the factual level, the learner doesn’t need to be able to understand the different categories or sorting requirements; they just need to identify what goes where. In fact, these kinds of games are good for having multiple levels, once the learner sorts correctly at the factual level, the next step is to have them sort by conceptual relationships instead of identification (moving up the knowledge hierarchy).

3. Matching.

These games require the learner to link an image or idea to another image or idea. Any game that requires matching fits into this category. These types of games can also be used to teach concepts using the same leveling up approach as described above.

As an example, young adults who are learning to drive often do not appropriately identify road hazards and therefore don’t exercise the right amount of caution. To help overcome that obstacle, a game was created to teach them to identify various road signs and obstacles. In this game, the learners are asked to match the appropriate items with a work zone. The learner identifies the right items and drags the items onto the work zone allowing them to link the visual of the item with the idea of a work zone.

4. Replayability.

When dealing with teaching facts, it’s a good idea to make the game replayable so that the player repeats it again and again. This doesn’t meant the content needs to be exactly the same but having similar content presented over and over again helps with memorization. While almost any game can be played again, the trick with declarative knowledge games is to keep the content fresh but still related to the knowledge that needs to be memorized. When considering the creation of games to teach facts, consider how you can get the learners to play it again and again.

5. Trivia.

Trivia is nothing but facts and declarative knowledge. Trivia games provide repetition, association and organizing, trivia games work very well for basic knowledge. A well-known example of a trivia game is Jeopardy or even Trivial Pursuit.

One example is using a trivia game to reinforce product knowledge among salespeople. A trivia game was developed to help salespeople to memorize the features of new product so they could intelligently discuss them with customers. The game was played on a daily basis and each morning the salesperson would receive an email with a link to the game. The game presented them with five questions that they answered. The questions were all related to the product they would be launching in a few weeks. The goal was to take advantage of distributed practice, as discussed in chapter, and provide repetition for the learners. The questions were drawn from a pool of questions so the likelihood of an exact repeat of a question was small but it could occur.

The scores were tailed each week on leader board that could also be viewed from the email. At the end of a five week period, the salespeople with the highest scores received a prize.

Conclusion

As you can see, teaching basic knowledge with the need for reviewing content over and over and creating associations can be taught effectively if the serious learning game is appropriately designed.

To learn more see The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education or the Lynda.com course The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.

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