Theme and Rubric

Games-Based Learning (GBL) is maturing rapidly, and there is an increased demand for evidence-based pedagogies.1 & 2 Those involved in the scholarship of teaching and learning will have a greater impact if their efforts are aligned with national agendas. To provide guidance in these matters, this year’s CUNY Games Festival introduces a theme. The theme serves to orient newcomers to accepted practices in the field and align research with established theories of learning. Our theme is accompanied by a rubric for proposal submissions. While the theme is designed to inspire innovation, the rubric is designed to assure that submissions are sufficiently rigorous. Newcomers to the field should not be intimidated by these standards. Rather, use them to advise your proposal submission and future work.

Conference Theme

The conference theme is composed of two broad goals:

  • To invent, explore, and learn to effectively use GBL to address society’s educational goals.
  • To advance understanding of how people learn and how to better foster learning in the context of the new kinds of learning experiences that GBL makes possible.

To meet these goals, proposals should aspire to address the following three areas:

  • Innovation: In what way did you invent a new type of GBL or improving existing GBL? What new applications of GBL were developed to foster and assess learning? In what new ways was GBL integrated with other teaching methods to foster and assess learning?
  • Advancing understanding of how people learn in GBL learning environments: How does your work enhance understanding of how people learn in GBL environments that offer new opportunities for learning? How does your work lead to a better understanding of how to foster and assess learning in GBL environments?
  • Promoting broad use and transferability of GBL: How does your work inform the design and use of GBL across disciplines, populations, and learning environments?

Project Classifications

GBL projects may be in different stages of development. Proposals may address any combination of the following categories:

  • Foundational Research – to advance the frontiers of education and learning; develop and refine theory and methodology; and provide fundamental knowledge about teaching and/or learning.
  • Early-Stage or Exploratory Research – to investigate approaches to education problems to establish the basis for design and development of new interventions or strategies, and/or to provide evidence for whether an established intervention or strategy is ready to be tested in an efficacy study.
  • Design and Development Research – to develop new or improved interventions or strategies to achieve well-specified learning goals or objectives, including making refinements on the basis of small-scale testing.
  • Efficacy Research – to determine whether an intervention or strategy can improve outcomes under what are sometimes called “ideal” conditions.
  • Effectiveness Research – to estimate the impacts of an intervention or strategy when implemented under conditions of routine practice.
  • Scale-up Research – to estimate the impacts of an intervention or strategy under conditions of routine practice and across a broad spectrum of populations and settings.


An acceptable proposal submission:

  • Poses significant questions that can be investigated empirically;
  • Links empirical research to relevant theory;
  • Uses research designs and methods that permit direct investigation of the question;
  • Is guided by a coherent and explicit chain of reasoning;
  • Has the potential for replication and generalization; and
  • Attends to contextual factors.

Additional aspirational criteria:

  • All GBL projects should be of the highest quality and have the potential to advance, if not transform, the frontiers of knowledge.
  • GBL projects, in the aggregate, should contribute more broadly to achieving societal goals.
  • Meaningful assessment and evaluation of GBL projects should be based on appropriate metrics.


1. The Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, Common Guidelines for Educational Research and Development, Washington D.C., 2013. This report is available on the Department’s Web site at

2. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, Ed Tech Developer’s Guide, Washington, D.C., 2015. This report is available on the Department’s Web site at

A Conference on Game-based Learning in Higher Education