Learning Electron Transport Chain Process in Photosynthesis Using Video and Serious Game

Cecilia Espinoza Morales, Purdue University


This research investigates students' learning about the electron transport chain (ETC) process in photosynthesis by watching a video followed by playing a serious board game-Electron Chute- that models the ETC process. To accomplish this goal, several learning outcomes regarding the misconceptions students' hold about photosynthesis and the ETC process in photosynthesis were defined. Middle school students need opportunities to develop cohesive models that explain the mechanistic processes of biological systems to support their learning. A six-week curriculum on photosynthesis included a one day learning activity using an ETC video and the Electron Chute game to model the ETC process. The ETC model explained how sunlight energy was converted to chemical energy (ATP) at the molecular level involving a flow of electrons. The learning outcomes and the experiences were developed based on the Indiana Academic Standards for biology and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for the life sciences. Participants were 120 eighth grade science students from an urban public school. The participants were organized into six classes based on their level of academic readiness, regular and challenge, by the school corporation. Four classes were identified as regular classes and two of them as challenge classes. Students in challenge classes had the opportunity to be challenged with more difficult content knowledge and required higher level thinking skills. The regular classes were the mainstream at school. A quasi-experimental design known as non-equivalent group design (NEGD) was used in this study. This experimental design consisted of a pretest-posttest experiment in two similar groups to begin with-the video only and video+game treatments. Intact classes were distributed into the treatments. The video only watched the ETC video and the video+game treatment watched the ETC video and played the Electron Chute game. The instrument (knowledge test) consisted of a multiple-choice section addressing general knowledge of photosynthesis and specific knowledge about ETC, and an essay section where students were asked to interpret each part of a diagram about the ETC process. Considering only the effect of treatments on score gain, regular and challenge groups reached higher scores in the posttest in comparison to the pretest after playing Electron Chute in both section of the test. However, the effect of treatments between the classes for each treatment was inconclusive. In the essay, the score gain was higher in the challenge than the regular class, but there was not a significant difference between both classes in the multiple-choice section. In regard to the learning outcomes, the initial model provided by the ETC video was mostly effective on addressing the misconception related to the oxygen production, which derives from the photolysis -or splitting-of the water molecules. Playing Electron Chute was effective on addressing most of the misconceptions targeted in the instruction design used for study. Most of these misconceptions were related to ATP and NADPH production and the cell structures where the ETC process takes place. At the end of the video+game learning treatment, a survey was used to collect data about students' experiences while playing the game. The majority of students agreed that playing the game increased their ability to explain how plants use light energy, but only about a third of them felt they could explain how ETC worked. Enjoyment and need for more explanations were different between students who attended the regular and challenge classes. The majority of the students who attended a regular class indicated they liked the ETC video and playing Electron Chute, percentage of agreement that was significantly higher than students who attended the challenge class. As a result, more students in the regular class indicated an interest in learning other science concepts like ETC. Students who attended the regular class reported that clear rules about how to play the game were helpful for learning. Further, the challenge group indicated the video and the Electron Chute game could include more explanations. These results suggest the video and game learning experience has the potential for engaging students’ interest in science when they participated in a regular class. This study also demonstrates a principled approach for designing a video and game to illustrate important methods for creating content knowledge that supports students’ ability to make sense of how complex systems work. Through more refinements of the game, the learning experiences could be a viable learning experience that accommodates the needs of a diverse population of students who might prefer different learning methods.




Brophy, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Instructional Design|Middle School education|Educational technology|Science education

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