Science teachers’ experiences of inquiry-based learning through a serious game: a phenomenographic perspective

Petros Lameras*, Sylvester Arnab, Sara de Freitas, Panagiotis Petridis, Ian Dunwell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study employed a phenomenographic approach to investigate science teachers’ conceptions of inquiry-based learning through a serious game. Simaula is a prototype game designed and used as a virtual practicum for eliciting understandings on how in-game inquiry was appeared to, or experienced by, the participating teachers. Group interviews with 20 secondary education science teachers revealed four qualitatively different ways of experiencing inquiry-based learning through Simaula: (a) as uncovering insights about student’s learning needs, interests and emotions; (b) as generating ideas and concepts for meaningful inquiry; (c) as a set of operations for designing and carrying out scientific research; and (d) as authentic inquiry for enabling knowledge building processes. Seven dimensions of variation have been identified viewed as contextual influences on conceptions of in-game inquiry constituting discernment of: epistemic inquiry-based learning modes; role of teacher; role of student; game-play focus; core mechanics focus; feedback and progress mechanics and game uncertainty. The results illuminated a partial in-game inquiry approach with distinct epistemic modes from developing empathy and meaning making to knowledge construction and knowledge building. The findings also indicated that game design elements played central role in shaping conceptions of in-game inquiry from focusing on rules and logic as means to completing the game’s level to understanding the complexity of core mechanics for developing and transferring in-game inquiry to the real classroom. This insinuates that distinct game design properties may be considered in terms of extending intrinsic in-game inquiry experiences to actual in-class inquiry practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalSmart Learning Environments
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s). Open Access: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Funding: The design and development of Simaula was fulfilled as part of the Inspiring Science Education (ISE) project funded by the European Commission (CIP-ICT-PSP-2012-325123) and the research has been funded by Coventry University, School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics.


  • Inquiry-based learning
  • phenomenography
  • science teachers
  • serious games


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