Scholarly Critique 4: Gaming and Cognitive Style

In the research article “Students’ Reactions to Different Levels of Game Scenarios: A Cognitive Style Approach”, the authors focus on the impact of video game-based learning on students with differing cognitive styles. Using Pask’s schema of holist “whole to part” and serialist “part to whole” cognitive styles (Pask & Scott, 1972), their research process involved observing students of each cognitive style with a game featuring different presentation modalities (text, text with graphic, and context) and testing their ability to process the information (Zhi-Hong, Chen, & Chih-Hao, 2017, p.69). To conduct this experiment, the researchers designed an English vocabulary-focused game consisting of one text level, one text and graphic level, and one context level. Participants in the study, 96 second-year students from the University of Taiwan, were classified as holist or serialist and divided into three groups. Each group was assigned one particular level and, upon completion, all participants were given a post-test to measure progress. The results reveal that students from all groups and cognitive styles displayed improved learning performance, but that holists saw greater improvement in the “context” based level (Zhi-Hong et al., 2017, p.76). Based on these results, it is concluded that video games have strong potential as learning tools and further research into cognitive styles is necessary for the development of game-based learning.

My reasons for selecting this journal article stem from my interest in the effective application of game-based learning and the mythologized topic of learning styles. The concept of game-based learning and the educational properties of video gameplay are growing in popularity as effective means of facilitating high quality education. Despite the divided scientific opinions on video gaming (Koenig, 2014), some studies reveal numerous cognitive benefits that come from playing video games (Bavelier et al., 2012). In this study, the authors refer to their learning environment as “scenario-based learning” and identify “engaging, meaningful, and transfer learning” as the positive aspects of this type of learning (Zhi-Hong et al., 2017, p.69). I have always been curious about how to ensure an effective game-based learning experience for as many students as possible.

Furthermore, I first encountered the concept of “cognitive styles” in reading about the nonexistent nature of learning styles. More specifically, I am referring to the widespread acceptance of “learning styles” as a concept as well as the assertion that educators should categorize students based on their “style” and teach them accordingly (Newton, 2017, p.444). I frequently encountered this concept as a K-12 student and was urged to identify my own style. Unfortunately, this myth led to missed opportunities and a failure to maximize my learning potential. Although learning styles don’t exist, the concept of cognitive styles rings true in that it acknowledges differences in how learners absorb material. The results of this experiment reveal that differing formats elicit different responses from participants.

The contents of this study raise important questions about game-based learning. First and foremost, this article inspires many questions about cognitive styles such as what framework should be used, what types of cognitive styles exist, and how can we account for each unique style. In addition, how can we design effective learning experiences for all types of participants? This article provides an excellent start on how to improve learning.


Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., Pouget, A., & Schrater, P. (2012). Brain plasticity through the life span: Learning to learn and action video games. Annual Review of Neuroscience35, 391. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-060909–152832

Koenig, R. (2014, December 17). Do ‘brain training’ games work? It depends on which scientists you ask. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Newton, P. M., & Miah, M. (2017). Evidence-Based Higher Education – Is the Learning Styles “Myth” Important? Frontiers in Psychology8, 444.

Pask, G., & Scott, B. C. E. (1972). Learning strategies and individual competence. International Journal of Man-Machine Studies4(3), 217-253.

Zhi-Hong Chen1, z., Chen, S. s., & Chih-Hao Chien3, b. (2017). Students’ reactions to different levels of game scenarios: A cognitive style approach. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society20(4), 69-77. Retrieved from

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