Module code: PSY3119

Module Overview

Please note: This module is part of the Cognitive Psychology stream of Level 6 optional modules and may not be running every year. In some years an alternative optional module within the Cognitive Psychology stream may be offered instead.

A variety of experimental results and theoretical ideas suggest that game-based, self-directed, and experiential learning can be effective tools for psychological research and teaching. In some circumstances self-directed learning can be more effective than guided learning. Gamified learning shows promise as a means to make complex concepts intuitive. Finally, physically experienced tasks—such as balancing a balance beam, which can correspond exactly to calculating a mathematical expectation—offer promise to make complex concepts meaningful. The precise circumstances under which, and the reasons for which, these methodologies are effective, are not yet clear. However, there are a rich set of literatures on which theory and future work in this area can be based. In this module, students will be introduced to both theoretical and practical aspects of the use of games and related methods in psychology.

Module provider


Module Leader

NELSON Jonathan (Psychology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 128

Seminar Hours: 20

Practical/Performance Hours: 2

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

BSc Psychology Levels 4 and 5 (or equivalent), or permission of module convenor. This module has a capped number and may not be available to ERASMUS and other international exchange students. Please check with the departmental exchange coordinator.

Module content

Indicative content includes:

• Theoretical overview: gamified learning, self-directed learning, description-versus-experience gap, use of games in education and research. What are the theoretical undercurrents and key practical issues in using games (and self-directed or experience-based learning) in psychology?
• Overview of games and experiential learning tasks. Many games and game-like tasks are being, or could be used, in psychology, such as 20 question games, Battleship-type tasks, mastermind-type tasks, explore/exploit tasks, and physical analogues of calculating expectations. The ideas and specific tasks introduced in this session will be available for students to take and build on in their coursework.
• Bayes’s theorem, probabilistic reasoning, description versus experience, information formats, and the balance beam metaphor for understanding expectation and the expected value of information.
• Children and adults as intuitive scientists: Use of games in research on human belief updating and human information gathering: 20 questions, Entropy Mastermind, Spatially Correlated Bandits.
• Formal framework for individually optimized adaptive game design: Optimal Experimental Design principles, Hierarchical Adaptive Design Optimization (HADO), artificial intelligence-based tutoring systems, and computer tutoring systems.
• Emotion and the use of games in education, gender differences in STEM, theoretical and practical considerations.
• Do skills acquired during (video or other) games transfer to other domains or to life? (e.g., sensorimotor abilities).
• Games and neurodevelopmental disorders. Are games helpful tools for teaching and learning in neurodevelopmentally disordered populations?
• Reward, addiction, and games. What can make it desirable to play games? Why do they become addictive? Can games be designed in ways to facilitate desired learning outcomes, without concomitant addictive effects?
• The gaming industry. How does the gaming industry work? What insights from industry are relevant to psychological research in gaming and vice versa?

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Group presentation 20
Coursework Individual written summary (1 page, to accompany presentation) 10
Coursework Research proposal (6 pages) 70

Alternative Assessment

Presentation may be completed individually and/or presented virtually if needed. Students who take temporary suspension partway through this module may not be able to complete the remaining classes for this module on their return if it is not running in the following academic year. Such students will have the choice to take a replacement module, or, if they have already completed an assessment for the original module, to attend classes from a new optional module within the same stream (area of psychology) and complete an alternative assessment based on this content that meets the learning outcomes of the original module. The specific alternative assessment will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to think creatively, integratively, to read literature with purpose and with a specific goal; and to work together on a project for group presentation.

The summative assessment consists of:

Presentation (30%) - students will work in small groups to develop and present a gamified or experience-based tool for teaching or research in psychology targeted at a broad audience. Each student will submit an individual written summary to complement the presentation (group assignment is 20% of module mark; individual written summary is 10% of module mark).

Research proposal (70%) - students will write an individual theoretically grounded and methodologically sound research proposal that proposes a plan of research and/or experiments to addresses an issue in gamified or experiential learning, for an academic audience.

The presentation assignment will be targeted at a broad audience, whereas the written assignment will be targeted at an academic audience, thus developing skills in appropriately customizing one’s message.

Formative assessment; Feedback

We will offer formative feedback on the game task idea. A course session (with additional time scheduled as necessary) will be devoted to presentations. The module convenor will provide additional, individualized feedback, as appropriate.

Module aims

  • To give students both theoretical and practical foundations for critically thinking about, and practically developing work, using games and experience-based methodologies in psychological research and education.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Discuss and critically evaluate key theory and research findings relating to use of games and experience-based learning in psychology CK
002 Creatively develop game-based tools for psychological or educational purposes CKPT
003 Present ideas relating to use of games, research and experience-based learning in psychology using oral and written means CKPT
004 Work as part of a team to research gaming methods for educational purposes CKPT
005 Discuss theoretical, practical and ethical considerations in designing games for educational purposes CKP

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Foster active student engagement with the ideas, independent reading, and most importantly, creative thinking and idea development, in areas of gamified and experiential learning and psychology research, broadly conceived.

The learning and teaching methods include:

22 contact hours and 128 hours of independent study (reading, developing a project and presentation and written report).

The contact hours will be comprised of 11 two-hour sessions. Most sessions will include approximately one hour of lecture, together with one hour of group activities and class discussion.

To encourage student engagement with the assigned (core and supplemental) readings, students will be assigned to briefly present articles at the beginning of most lecture sessions.

On the week of the oral presentations additional time will be scheduled to ensure that each group of students can present.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PSY3119

Other information


Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Psychology BSc (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2019/0 academic year.