Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Learning and Instruction


Learning & Instruction EdD

First Advisor

Robert Burns

Second Advisor

Mathew Mitchell

Third Advisor

Walter Gmelch


Vocabulary knowledge is considered fundamental to learning. However, students typically find learning scientific vocabulary quite difficult, and that is especially true for biology vocabulary. Games are well established as effective tools for vocabulary instruction. Multimedia instruction is likewise recognized as aiding vocabulary learning. To date, however, there seems have been little examination of the use of multimedia games in biology vocabulary instruction. This study, therefore, compared the effectiveness of digital multimedia games and traditional instruction in teaching biology vocabulary.

A two-group, quasi-experimental study was carried out over the course of 61 days. Participants were a convenience sample of 10 high school biology classes (N = 276). Fixed-effects multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) was used for three dependent variables: 1) scores on tests of biology vocabulary; 2) scores on tests of biology concepts; and 3) vocabulary feedback and Reduced Instructional Materials Motivation Survey (RIMMS) scores.

The multimedia group put more work into the vocabulary practice at Time 1 (27 days) and Time 2 (59 days) than did the traditional-instruction group, to a degree that was statistically significant. In addition, at Time 2 the multimedia group indicated a greater feeling that the practice was helping them learn the vocabulary, once again to a degree that was statistically significant. RIMMS data collected after the end of instruction also showed that the multimedia instruction group scored higher on measures of learner satisfaction than the traditional instruction control group, to a statistically significant degree.

Contrary to what previous research would predict, there was no statistically significant difference in vocabulary learning between groups using multimedia games and those using traditional instruction. In keeping with previous research, use of multimedia games for instruction led to higher learner motivation, expressed as a greater level of satisfaction with the instructional materials and a greater willingness to spend more time on task when compared to learners receiving traditional instruction. Thus one implication of this study is that the use multimedia games for biology vocabulary instruction has the potential to increase learner satisfaction and motivation.