What Don’t We Know About Simulations and Games?

Despite the growing interest in games and simulations for educational purposes, many questions and research areas still need to be answered.
One area of uncertainty is how to design games and simulations that effectively promote the transfer of learning. Transfer of learning is crucial in education, impacting performance in different contexts. It ranges from near to far transfer, with the latter often needs to be achieved. Two mechanisms, reflexive and mindful transfer, drive this process. Education can be designed to enhance both types for improved learning outcomes (Perkins, 1992).

Well-designed games and simulations can promote the transfer of learning. However, the conditions and mechanism under which this occurs need to be better understood (Lieberman et al., 2014).

Another uncertainty area is effectively assessing learning outcomes in games and simulations. Traditional assessment methods, such as multiple-choice tests or written assignments, may not be appropriate for assessing the complex knowledge and skills developed through games and simulations. Alternative assessment methods, such as performance or portfolio-based assessments, may be more appropriate. However, their validity and reliability in games and simulations are not well established.

There is also a need to understand better how games and simulations can promote social and emotional learning. Games and simulations have the potential to provide learners with opportunities to practice and develop social and emotional skills, such as communication, collaboration, and empathy(Lieberman et al., 2014). However, the most effective ways to design games and simulations for these purposes still need to be determined.

Additionally, it is crucial to consider the ethical and social implications of using games in education. For instance, concerns exist that games and simulations might reinforce stereotypes or biases and may not be accessible to all learners. Evaluating the potential influence of games and simulations on learners' attitudes and behaviors is crucial, as is ensuring they encourage positive values and perspectives.

While games and simulations hold great promise as educational tools, we still need to learn more about their effectiveness, design, and impact on learners. Addressing these uncertainties will require further research and collaboration among educators, instructional designers, and researchers.


Lieberman, D. A., Biely, E., Thai, C. L., & Peinado, S. (2014). Transfer of learning from video game play to the classroom. Learning by playing: Video gaming in education, 189-203.

Perkins, D. N., & Salomon, G. (1992). Transfer of learning. International encyclopedia of education, 2, 6452-6457.

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