The STEAM-Active (Project Number: 2021-1-ES01-KA220-HED-000032107) project is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.

Increasing Female Middle School Student Interest in STEM: Requirements for Game-Based Learning Applications

Partners' Institution
DHBW – Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University
Year of publication
Educational stage
Secondary Level
Journal name
International Journal of Engineering Education
Thematic Area
STEAM intervention (teaching strategies, evaluation...), Gender Inequality
Subject of the document is developing computational literacy by learning Python programming utilizing a Game developed by the authors (Game-based learning / GBL).

Requirements have been developed to design games with the goal increasing female interest in STEM In order to serve as guidelines for game designers and educators. requirements were developed in six areas:
• Inclusive Protagonist
It was important to design a game with relatable female characters who are not hypersexualized, who display independence, and who avoid stereotypical gender roles.
• Mechanics of Gameplay
Content should be presented in an authentic manner, and transferrable to the real world. Game controls should be straightforward and not interfere with learning.
• Social Aspects
Socializing, building relationships within games, and teamwork are motivating. Social interaction in gaming can serve as form of communication. In a Survey, competition was reported as appealing by a higher percentage of the female participants compared to the males playing video games.
• Fun
The game should not be seen as work.
Entertainment leading to more time spent playing the game, increases the potential for concept retention.
• Uncertainty
A game needs to be difficult but not overwhelming.
The challenge needs to be sufficient to provide an uncertain outcome, but not make the player doubt that they can accomplish the goal.
• Narrative
Game flow plays a key role in enjoyment as an optimal form of challenge. The narrative is a story of connected events that can encourage repeated play. Cycles of expertise facilitate user competency over time.

Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
Requirements were developed and implemented through literature review, student surveys, discussions with STEM outreach organizations, and consultations with game design experts. Discussions with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) provided feedback on what motivates young females to study into STEM and what barriers or behaviors to avoid.

An exploratory evaluation was conducted to determine the effectiveness of the game regarding the intended goals. In this evaluation results of surveys before and after playing the game have been investigated in particular regarding differences in feedback between female and male participants. The requirements as mentioned in the summary have been identified as promising to raise motivation and learning progress in particular for female students (compared to males).

The requirements identified in this document for games could potentially be applied likewise as criteria to other methodologies for promoting equality in the STEAM field.
Point of Strength
Please indicate the strengths of the publication
Tangible requirements for learning games are discussed. However as the as the authors themselves write while the requirements show promise in a first evaluation, further work is necessary to provide a clearer understanding.
game-based learning; STEM; programming; computational literacy; middle school education
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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