Ensuring the quality of pedagogy through games in dental technology at a selected University of Technology.
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The need for alternative teaching practices in the face of poor retention and student throughput rates has changed the context of higher education in South Africa. This study interrogates one alternative teaching practice: the use of a board game and a multimedia game. Arguments for the potential benefits of games in higher education have generated a growing body of literature, but the general focus of these studies has been empirical with little theorisation about the associated pedagogy. Using a mixed methods sequential explanatory research design, this thesis aimed to determine the quality of pedagogy through games in providing epistemological access to the subjects Tooth Morphology and Oral Anatomy in a Dental Technology Diploma at a selected University of Technology. The thesis also developed a framework for the design of games to enable quality teaching and learning of vocational subjects. Preliminary and pilot studies were conducted. The preliminary study was conducted over a five-year period from 2003 to 2006. The total sample size for the Tooth Morphology board game was n=128 and for Oral Anatomy multimedia game was n=30. Academic experts validated the study by reviewing the contents of the game. The findings suggested that games assisted students to actively learn. The pilot study was conducted in 2007 and 2008. The total sample size for the Tooth Morphology board game was n=62 and for the Oral Anatomy multimedia game was n=22. Dental technology experts validated the contents of the game. Cronbach’s alpha index was used to assess the reliability of the study and was α=0.45 and α=0.757 for the Tooth Morphology board game and the Oral Anatomy multimedia game, respectively. The low alpha score obtained for the Tooth Morphology board game prompted improvements to be made to the survey for the main study. The main study was conducted in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The total population size for the Tooth Morphology board game was n=83 and for the Oral Anatomy multimedia game was n=82. Surveys and pre- and post-tests were analysed using descriptive statistics, t-tests, factor analysis and cross tabulations. Content validity ensured that the survey focused on concepts and constructs that emerged from the review of literature on games. Cronbach’s alpha index was used to assess the reliability of the surveys and was α=0.794 and α=0.868 for the Tooth Morphology board game and Oral Anatomy multimedia game, respectively. Qualitative analyses entailed focus groups with students who used the games. The data generated was analysed using the conceptual frameworks of Bernstein’s knowledge codes and Maton’s Legitimation Code Theory of Specialisation. Trustworthiness of the data was achieved using methodological triangulation, data triangulation and peer debriefing. Quantitative results revealed that an integrated game design with an appropriate mix of instructional content and applicable game features and mechanisms facilitates the provision of epistemological access to Tooth Morphology and Oral Anatomy. By placing a sociological lens on knowledge in the games, a major finding in the qualitative analyses was that epistemological access using games provided access to particular knowledge-knower structures of the target subjects or disciplines. An LCT (Specialisation) analysis revealed that the games in this study represented a knowledge code as specialist knowledge and skills were valued over the possession of personal attributes and dispositions. This knowledge code was in turn aligned to the knowledge code of the target programme. In synthesising the results there were three recurring issues that emerged from the data as being key, namely: (1) access to knowledge; (2) instructional design of the games; and (3) technical design of the games. The thesis concluded by proposing the KITE framework, a guideline for lecturers to consider when designing games for higher education.