Date of Completion


Embargo Period



game-based learning, games, goal achievement orientations, self-determination theory, causality orientations, classroom engagement, learner satisfaction, reward, academic achievement, cluster analysis

Major Advisor

Rory McGloin

Associate Advisor

John Christensen

Associate Advisor

Mark Hamilton

Field of Study

Communication Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Games and learning have many overlapping characteristics, which has led to the popular trend of using games as educational tools. However, game-based learning (GBL) has not been sufficiently evaluated through the lens of individual learner differences. The theoretical frameworks of goal achievement orientation and self-determination theory (SDT) were used in this study to examine the relationships between individual learner orientations and engagement in GBL. A pretest/posttest experimental design utilized two conditions of extrinsic reward (performance-based and participation-based) to explore how they interact with goal achievement and causality orientations. Exam performance and learner satisfaction were used as outcomes to assess the impact of GBL engagement. Unexpectedly, only the mastery-avoidance goal achievement orientation showed a difference in engagement between conditions, as these learners were significantly more engaged when provided points for performance. Engagement in GBL did not predict higher exam scores after controlling for covariates and orientations, but it did significantly predict greater learner satisfaction. These findings suggest that GBL may be a valuable educational tool for increasing learner satisfaction but should not be depended on for improving objective exam scores.