Educational gaming in the health sciences: systematic review


H. Skirton: e-mail:


Title. Educational gaming in the health sciences: systematic review.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a review to investigate the use of games to support classroom learning in the health sciences.

Background.  One aim of education in the health sciences is to enable learners to develop professional competence. Students have a range of learning styles and innovative teaching strategies assist in creating a dynamic learning environment. New attitudes towards experiential learning methods have contributed to the expansion of gaming as a strategy.

Data sources.  A search for studies published between January 1980 and June 2008 was undertaken, using appropriate search terms. The databases searched were: British Education Index, British Nursing Index, The Cochrane Library, CINAHLPlus, Medline, PubMed, ERIC, PsychInfo and Australian Education Index.

Methods.  All publications and theses identified through the search were assessed for relevance. Sixteen papers reporting empirical studies or reviews that involved comparison of gaming with didactic methods were included.

Results.  The limited research available indicates that, while both traditional didactic methods and gaming have been successful in increasing student knowledge, neither method is clearly more helpful to students. The use of games generally enhances student enjoyment and may improve long-term retention of information.

Conclusion.  While the use of games can be viewed as a viable teaching strategy, care should be exercised in the use of specific games that have not been assessed objectively. Further research on the use of gaming is needed to enable educators to gaming techniques appropriately for the benefit of students and, ultimately, patients.