Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Michael M. Grant


The purpose of this action research was to describe the impact of digital game building on fourth grade gifted and talented (GT) students’ growth in problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, and science content knowledge. Traditionally, gifted education has focused on acceleration of content, disconnected enrichment activities, and thinking skills practiced in isolation of real-world problems. Increasingly, there is a call to involve students in real world experiences through projects that explore real issues using technology in ways that could transform the field. The ability to create rather than consume technology has gained attention linking creativity and collaboration to using coding languages.

Data collection included pre- and postsurvey on creativity and collaboration, pre- and posttest of science concepts, student design and reflection journals, video recordings, focus group interviews and students’ games. The participants came from two classes of GT students (n = 46). Quantitative data analysis showed significant growth from pre- to postsurvey for the Collaboration Survey. Students showed significant growth from pre- to posttest for the science content knowledge. The Creativity Survey showed no significant difference from pre- to postsurvey although it should be noted that student scores were high at the beginning of the study. Qualitative data analysis revealed five themes including overcoming challenges of group work, developing a culture of collaboration, creating narrative and connecting science, problem-solving is Scratch’s coding environment, and reflecting on learning.

The findings of this study indicate that involving gifted students in game design-based learning in science had a positive impact on student perceptions of their abilities in problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration. Given GT students’ reluctance to work in groups, the collaboration scores were particularly relevant. Students took a leading role in learning creating a classroom culture of collaboration. As students encountered coding issues, they sought their own solutions and shared knowledge. Emergence of student expertise led to an environment where students felt comfortable seeking knowledge from each other.

This research has implications for the exploration of ways to support gifted students in their growth in creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving within science. It is also important to note that all students need support in 21st century skills.


© 2020, Mary Kathleen O'Grady-Jones