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Learning chemistry with the game “Legends of Alkhimia”: Pedagogical and epistemic bases of design-for-learning and the challenges of boundary crossing
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Paper presented at the International Science Education Conference, Singapore, 24-26 November 2009
Typical textbooks in Chemistry present the field as a fait accompli represented by a body of "proven" facts. In the teaching and learning of Chemistry, students have little, if any, agency to engage in scientific inquiry and to construct their personal understanding of the field. An emphasis on pre-determined "knowledge" and the execution of laboratory experiments designed mainly to confirm pre-determined "findings" can lead students to a grave misunderstanding of the nature of science.
In this paper, we report on ongoing work to design a learning environment for learning chemistry that addresses the concerns raised above. Pitched at the lower secondary school level, our game-based learning innovation, using the multiplayer game "Legends of Alkhimia", is directed at helping students learn to imbibe the values and dispositions of professional chemists and also to think like them. Drawing on Bourdieu‘s construct of habitus, we seek to foster students‘ capacity for practical reason as they 'become themselves' via engagement in the scientific practice of doing chemistry, rather than just learning about it. We explain how our design for learning seeks to develop epistemic reflexivity and the identity of students in relation to professional chemists, as part of an ongoing trajectory of becoming. Learning innovations invariably introduce perturbations to existing schooling practices. In bringing our learning innovation into the social milieu of the classroom, we have experienced notable challenges related to boundary crossing. In the paper, we share these challenges so that teachers and school administrators can be better prepared for the changes in mindset, values, and beliefs that enacting pedagogical innovations such as game-based learning demand.
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