The effect of a gaming simulation on situational understanding of mid-level army officers

Prevou, Michael I. Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2006


This research investigates the effectiveness of instructional interventions for situational understanding skills development with and without a supplemental gaming simulation. Data on samples was gathered over three Army courses and evaluated for the effects on the situational understanding of four leadership attributes. Sixty six participants were grouped into four groups during a Department of the Army school attended by mid- level Army officers preparing to command Army deployable units. The participants were randomly assigned by the school administrator into two control groups (C1 & C2) and two treatment groups (T1 & T2). Group T1 & T2 were administered the instruction with the gaming simulation modules included. Groups C1 & C2 were administered the instruction without gaming simulations. A Cognitive-based scoring rubric was used to identify trends and score participants effectiveness. Five separate ANOVA tests were used to analyze the data collected for the group differences. Additionally, a smaller sampling of the treatment groups was studied over the duration of the four treatment sessions to determine if and how much learning occurred and inform the study on the number of repetitions required to move a learner from novice to expert.

This study measures the ability of the students to improve situational understanding skills as defined by four or the eight Adaptive Thinking Themes used by Army leadership instructors’ and researchers for judging decision making skills within the military environment. The larger purpose of the research is to inform curriculum and instructional developers of the effectiveness of simulations to achieve learning objects and contribute to the question of the role of general and context-specific knowledge in thinking. Participants were asked to create a coherent understanding of the situation, and to use that understanding to mentally simulate possible changes in the situation, and to take appropriate actions to prevent and/or support future events in a new, but similar situation. The study validated the hypothesis that the students who receive the instruction supplemented with a gaming simulation experienced a greater level of situational understanding. This study did not attempt to determine whether the greater level of situational experience could be transferred to other domains or if it had a latency effect.