Part VIII | Affinity Spaces for Learning Research

Part VIII | Affinity Spaces for Learning Research

Part VIII of Dissertation Research Series

Research by Steinkuehler focuses on the development of literacy around using video games, including the use of forums and online spaces, and how their use can help boys become more involved in literacy practices (Steinkuehler & King, 2009). Steinkuehler and King (2009) developed an after school program for at-risk adolescent boys based on the popular video game World of Warcraft with the intent of examining how their interests in video games could strengthen their engagement and literacy. Initial results showed that they used literacy for problem solving, researched and created multi-modal game resources online, and synthesized information over multiple resources (Steinkuehler & King, 2009). Similarly, Thomas (2005) studied a group of children engaging in online role-playing and fan fiction activities around Tolkien’s Middle Earth and found that literate behavior was the most highly valued form of participation and ability in the community; students would spend hours improving their literacy in order to improve their abilities in the online space (Thomas, 2005).

In another study, Steinkuehler and Duncan (Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008) examined the use of informal science reasoning discussion forums in World of Warcraft, coding discussion posts based on a scientific literacy framework. They found that 86% of the posts were discussions engaged in “social knowledge construction” as players used systems based reasoning (in 58% of posts), built on others’ ideas (37% of posts), used counterarguments (37% of posts), used data and evidence (28% of posts), and even model-based reasoning (11% of posts) (Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008). Most posts (65%) also showed evidence of an evaluative epistemology, or treating knowledge as an open-ended process of evaluation and argument (Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008).

Steinkuehler et al. (2010) also examined the reading of texts around games in another study, finding that students often used informational texts around video game play, with an average reading level of 11.8, including 20% academic language. They also found that student reading performance was the same as with school-related texts when controlling for topic and difficulty, but that when struggling readers were able to choose the topic, they had a high accuracy with texts up to 7-8 grade levels higher than their current abilities (Steinkuehler et al., 2010). These findings support the promise of engagement around video games improving students’ scientific reasoning and literacy practices.



Steinkuehler, C., & Duncan, S. (2008). Scientific Habits of Mind in Virtual Worlds. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 17(6), 530–543. doi:10.1007/s10956-008-9120-8

Steinkuehler, C., & King, E. (2009). Digital literacies for the disengaged: creating after school contexts to support boys’ game-based literacy skills. On the Horizon, 17(1), 47–59. doi:10.1108/10748120910936144

Steinkuehler, C., Compton-Lilly, C., & King, E. (2010). Reading in the context of online games, 222–229.

Thomas, A. (2005). Children online: learning in a virtual community of practice. E-Learning and Digital Media, 2(1), 27–38.



Lindsey Tropf

Lindsey Tropf

Founder & CEO of @immersedgames // School psychology doctoral candidate interested in #edtech, game-based learning, and using data.

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