The Benefits of Game-Based Learning

Non-Linear Instruction in STEM Education

Game-based learning is gaining traction in PreK-12 classrooms everywhere, and becoming even more impactful with the introduction and expansion of education technology. Game-based learning isn’t simply a strategy for making learning fun (although, it is pretty exciting!) — when designed with purpose, game-based learning can support crucial instructional goals, especially in STEM education.

In the white paper below, Leveraging Game-Based Learning for STEM Education: The Benefits of Non-Linear Instruction, three game-based learning experts review the major benefits of using the approach in STEM, specifically as it functions as a form of non-linear instruction. We encourage you to check out the full white paper, because it packs so much valuable information into a digestible read. But if you’re pressed for time or just looking for a quick overview, we’ve highlighted the four key benefits of game-based learning here:

#1: Encouraging Scientific Thinking

This piece is all about problem solving, decision making, and understanding causation. Unlike linear instruction, game-based learning allows for hands-on, interactive learning, which is perfect for STEM. Game-based learning fosters scientific thinking by placing students in a situation where they must form, test, and revise strategies — specifically, the strategies they develop to learn and master the rules of the game.

#2: Providing Interactive Models

In this section of the white paper, you’ll learn about interactivity, fidelity, and metaphoric gaming models. We won’t get into too much detail here. But essentially, the idea is that game-based learning provides students with an opportunity to engage in both hands-on and abstract learning experiences at once, where many instructional methods require educators to choose between one or the other.

#3: Taking a Non-Authoritative Approach

STEM is generally taught quantitatively, and, in many cases, instruction in STEM doesn’t offer many opportunities for students to share opinions or interpretations. The authors of the white paper offer a compelling explanation on how game-based learning can solve this problem: games require the input of the player, so students are effectively the “co-authors of the experience.” That changed interaction enables students to engage in more personal conversations about the content than traditional instruction.

#4: Introducing New Topics

Game-based learning can also function as an excellent way to introduce new content, or serve as the beginning of a new unit. Games allow educators to meet students where they are, and engage them in the new content. In the white paper, you’ll find a documented example of an educator who used game-based learning as an introduction to new content, and an overview of his and his students’ experience.

You can explore non-linear instruction and game-based learning in depth in this white paper:

For more STEM research, visit our PreK-12 Research Portal: