Using Students’ Naïve Theories to Design Games for Middle-Grades Science

April 1, 2011


This paper reports on one phase of a long-term research and development project that is creating video game modules for middle-school science classrooms. The games are intended to help teachers address common scientific misconceptions by providing students with opportunities to interact with visualizations of otherwise abstract or inaccessible concepts or phenomena that are the source of those misconceptions. The visualizations serve as metaphors for natural phenomena, and linking activities help teachers build connections between the visualizations and the targeted concepts. Findings presented here are derived from formative research conducted to inform the development of a game and associated classroom materials that address genetics and heredity. The paper discusses how teachers in our sample typically teach this material in seventh grade, student expressions of common misconceptions about genetics and heredity, and how an initial design for the game responds to and addresses those misconceptions. Students' misconceptions were associated with the concepts of randomness of inheritance, gene expression, and natural selection.