An evaluation of the introduction of games-based construction learning in upper primary education using a developed game codification scheme for scratch

Thomas Hainey*, Gavin Baxter, Amanda Ford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Rudimentary programming is an essential, transferrable, problem solving skill in many higher education (HE) programmes in academic institutions including Software Engineering, Business Information Technology, Computer Games Development, Design and Technology. The purpose of this paper is to address some of the problematic issues associated with teaching programming by the utilisation of a new novel teaching approach called games-based construction learning (GBCL) to attempt to increase motivation, engagement and learning effectiveness. An international and national trend is to introduce coding at earlier education levels resulting in upper primary education (PE) being the focus of this paper to ascertain if GBCL using Scratch to teach programming concepts is more effective at different levels of upper PE.

A large-scale empirical study introducing GBCL to teach programming concepts into 16 classes between levels 4 and 7 in PE utilising 384 children. A detailed implementation framework for GBCL using Scratch in PE was utilised to address all incorporation issues and the games constructed by the children scored utilising a game codification scheme specifically designed to address programming and design as a quantification rubric. The experiment utilised eight 1- h lessons on GBCL using Scratch.

The resulted in 178 games of varying levels of complexity developed. The results indicated that GBCL was an effective mechanism to teach programming concepts using Scratch at all levels of upper PE. Primary seven students scored higher in relation to the design metric of the quantification codification rubric.

Research limitations/implications
Under the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in Scotland non-traditional teaching approaches are encouraged and development of digital literacy skill is highly advocated. This has resulted in a new approach, novel approach called GBCL where children create their own games utilising an engine such as Scratch is gaining significant attention in terms of being a novel approach. Despite a plethora of similar studies associated with GBCL, it is still not as developed as games-based learning and requires further empirical studies to support the validity of the approach and resolve identified issues.

Practical implications
Computer programming itself can lead to a highly rewarding career in a number of sectors from games development to banking, such as cybersecurity and systems development. In the last decade, in particular due to the ubiquitous nature of technology there is an increasing international and national trend associated with teaching rudimentary programming concepts at a far younger age including secondary education and the upper PE level. Introducing programming at an earlier level is now being considered essential as the path to transfer from novice to expert programmer level in time is considered nearly a decade approximately. The introduction of GBCL interventions may yield positive results in a supplementary learning capacity in accordance with the CfE and increase the educational effectiveness of programming education in later levels of education.

This study presents a large-scale empirical evaluation of GBCL in upper PE utilising a compiled implementation framework for incorporation and a detailed game codification scheme to quantify the games produced highlighting coding constructs and design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-402
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Higher Education
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jun 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jun 2019


  • Systematic literature review
  • Games-based learning
  • Games-based construction learning


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