Supporting social skills development through a targeted intervention using cooperative videogames in a Special Development School
AuthorHarrison, Matthew John
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2019 Matthew John Harrison
Students with autism and Down syndrome can experience a range of social-emotional challenges manifesting from differences in social understanding and norms. While there are existing social skills interventions, until now the use of videogames and gamer culture as tools for facilitating the development of these skills has been largely unexplored. In spite of a wealth of research investigating principles of cooperative game design, there is limited reported research that specifically focuses on digital games-based learning for students with social emotional challenges. The research reported here sought to address this gap in the literature. A design research methodology was used to develop a new social skills intervention that built upon the interest of participants in videogames. Working with the teaching staff and five students at a Special Development School, ten iterative versions of an intervention were planned, implemented and evaluated. Data generated during the implementation of each version were inductively analysed, to investigate the relationships between the social skills performance in the physical and virtual environments, interactions with the teaching staff, and the role of game design in creating the conditions for player interaction. The analysis of this data informed modifications to the social skills being prioritised by this intervention, as well as the methods of instruction used to teach these skills and increase their frequency of performance. Findings from this study offer insights to both educators and videogame designers. The data led to the identification and refinement of 18 teaching strategies for optimising the acquisition and performance of social skills during cooperative gameplay. Strategies were identified for encouraging participation in group play, supporting students to consider perspectives of others on fairness, and for assisting students in recognising when to give instructions and share information. In addition to the teaching strategies, 39 game design recommendations for creating the ideal conditions for game-based collaboration were developed. The recommendations relate to leveraging player identity within the team to increase collaboration, specific rules of play that increase interactions between players, the characteristics of level design conducive to social skills performance, and games features that enable all players to be included. These teaching strategies and game design principles provide new understandings of how cooperative multiplayer games can serve as tools for social skills interventions, and how the systems of intervention can be optimised to take advantage of the affordances offered by these tools.
Keywordsautism; intervention; social skills; video games; videogames; digital-games based learning; video observation; design research
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