Epistemic learning: game programming learned from the lens of professionals

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Matwyczuk, Roman
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This study sought to determine the practicality and effectiveness of an alternate instructional approach referred to as epistemic learning – a low structured, high functioning environment where students learn the principles of practice (i.e., the epistemic frame) of a profession through role-play. This research on epistemic learning is integral in assisting educators to enhance learning and accomplish instructional goals in computer science by having students acquire the epistemic frame of a computer game programmer. Currently, literature on epistemic learning is sparse due to its nascent nature. An action research design with mixed-methods analysis was utilized to assess students’ responsiveness to epistemic learning through an examination of their personal epistemological growth, epistemic frame construction, and programming skill set development. Personal epistemological growth was assessed through a self-reporting epistemic beliefs survey that established students’ attitudes about knowledge and learning. Epistemic frame construction was established using epistemic network analysis in determining the specific epistemic frame characteristics students had acquired. Teacher observations and students’ reflections provided insight regarding programming skill development. Findings revealed the following: 1) each student’s personal epistemology was positively influenced through epistemic learning; 2) most students successfully acquired the complete epistemic frame of a game programmer; and 3) students’ computer programming skills were enhanced through epistemic learning. Although a statistically significant correlational relationship was not established, the results had practical importance as they indicated that students were prepared to participate and succeed in an environment that emulates professional practices. Future research should include longitudinal studies that implement epistemic learning.
epistemic learning, epistemic frame, computer science, game-based learning