Research Snapshot

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Scalable Game Design Research Snapshot


Scalable Game Design (SGD) project at the University of Colorado at Boulder is in its 7th year conducting validated research funded by National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (iTEST) program, Computer Education for the 21st Century (CE21) program, and Google for Education's Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) and RISE programs.


The MISSION of SGD project is to reinvent computer science and STEM education in public schools by:

  • creating and testing a computer science curriculum that impacts student’s motivation, performance, ownership, and engagement:
      • in all students including girls and under-represented populations
      • in a variety of locations including technical hub schools to remote rural schools and in the United States and beyond
      • taught by teachers trained in the curriculum by face to face, online, or blended (combining face to face and online) professional development
  • determining how instructional approaches influence:
      • student dispositions toward technology and computing education, including the likeliness to continue in computer science education
      • learning outcomes such as use of computational thinking patterns in different learning contexts


Who is Participating in Scalable Game Design Project?

The 2014 participation in research data collection:

  • 60 schools and organizations
      • vast majority are public schools using the curriculum in classrooms
      • a few private schools
      • a few community based enrichment programs (e.g. after-school programs)
      • majority middle schools (ages 11 – 14), with an increasing number of high schools and elementary schools utilizing the curriculum
  • 71 classroom teachers
      • more than 158 teachers were exposed to Scalable Game Design, including research participants, events, conferences, outreach, camps, and workshops
  • 3,596 students participated in research
      • 40% girls (average participation for girls in K-12 computer science courses is <10%)
      • 52% non-white of which >20% Hispanic
      • 5,678 students: estimated total number of students who participated, including research participants and those who did not submit data, but does not include the thousands who tried our Hour of Code online activity


Cumulative participation between January 2012 and November 2014:

  • >200 teachers
  • >8,000 students
      • 41% girls (average participation for girls in K-12 computer science courses is <10%)
      • 52% non-white of which 23% Hispanic, 15% Multi-ethnic, 7% African American, 4% Asian Pacific Islander, 3% Native American Indian
  • 86% middle school (grades 6 - 8), 10.2% high school, 0.4% 5th grade, 3.4% other
  • 20 states
      • California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wyoming
  • 6 countries
      • Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Slovakia, Switzerland, Thailand
  • data does not include the >200,000 students who participated in our Hour of Code online activity in 2013 and 2014


Cumulative participation between 2009 and 2014 (estimated based on historical information):

  • >300 teachers
  • >18,000 students
      • data does not include the >200,000 students who participated in our Hour of Code online activity in 2013 and 2014
      • data does not include students who participated in SGD in a class but not completed the research process. Conservative estimate of all who were exposed to SGD is likely >40,000 students


Student Participation Beyond Research Implementation:

It is important to note that exposure to this project is not limited to those schools, teachers, and students that have submitted research data to-date. Collecting research parental consent forms are challenging, with return rates ranging from 10% to 90% of a class. All students participate in Scalable Game Design activities regardless of research consent, but data is used only for those with consent. Often teachers run out of time to administer the post-survey, which also decreases student research participation numbers even though they took part in all the curricular project activities.

Some of the instructors and organizations participate in SGD activities but not collecting data. Typically they have purchased software and use it but no longer collect data. Another sub-group introduces students to the project as a pilot, but collect data in future semesters. Others taught game design in their classrooms in exchange for student feedback instead of research data.