Doctoral Dissertation – shipped!

I am so happy to report that I have submitted my doctoral dissertation, back in December.

Here’s the abstract.

This research aims to improve the practice of designing educational video games (“learning games”). This thesis aims to both validate and extend Shelton’s theory of activity-goal alignment, which focuses on the relationship between a player’s activity and the designer’s intended learning goal in any learning game. The thesis develops and evaluates two novel tools. First, an autoethnographic account of a recent learning game project confirms Shelton’s prior findings that activity-goal alignment theory meets an important need in learning game design practice and that Shelton’s theory might be made more accessible to practising designers. The AGA Scoring Tool is developed, and both it and Shelton’s theory are evaluated through analytic discussions of designs of several existing learning games: activity-goal alignment theory is found useful, and scoring activity-goal alignment is argued to be clearer than Shelton’s narrative-based approach. Secondly, this thesis argues that there is need for improved tools for assessment of learning games. A critical review of existing assessment tools yields a list of criteria for any learning game assessment tool.  A basis for a new learning game assessment tool is developed from three theories: Higher Order Learning theory, Gee’s principles of Deep Learning, and Shelton’s activity-goal alignment. These three theories are argued to comprise an important, prevailing position within the learning game design literature. A new tool, the AGA-Based Assessment Tool, is proposed and exercised in critical discussions of several learning games. Important gaps between learning game design practice and theory are revealed using the tool.  The thesis concludes that scoring activity-goal alignment is useful to the learning game designer because it makes an important theoretical position from the learning game design literature clear and simpler to apply in practice.

So good to have this sent!  It’s being examined now, and I’ve been trying not to think about it for that last seven months.  I’ve already had one paper adapted from the autoethnographic chapter, accepted at the Games for Health Europe conference #GFHEU in October, so that’s a good feeling!