Possible Worlds


Young people often bring naïve theories about scientific phenomena to their science learning. Research suggests that they develop these theories because the accurate versions of these concepts are difficult to resolve with their common experience of the physical world.

EDC’s Possible Worlds games respond to that challenge by focusing game play on interactions with analogies for these phenomena. This five-year, federally funded research and development project examined whether digital games, used as part of a classroom intervention, could help middle grade science students resolve their misconceptions about four hard-to-visualize topics—photosynthesis, heredity, electricity, and heat transfer—and presented new models for understanding these scientific processes.

The games and accompanying classroom activities that resulted from the project are designed to supplement, not replace, teachers’ normal coverage of each topic, with the goal of improving the effectiveness of the overall instructional process.

Key Activities

In this project, EDC researchers, instructional designers, and content specialists carried out the following activities:

  • Developed, refined, and tested a specific approach to using digital games to support teaching and learning in middle grade science classrooms
  • Designed four digital games to engage students
  • Developed classroom materials that reinforced core science concepts
  • Provided teachers with support materials to help them build explicit and accurate bridges between game play and learning goals
  • Conducted formative research on the games and curriculum materials in schools in and around the New York metropolitan area
  • Designed and conducted a rigorous, randomized controlled experiment using one game-based unit


  • During the testing and implementation of the Possible Worlds materials, dozens of teachers and hundreds of students participated in the development of innovative games and teaching practices.
  • The games, classroom activities, and results of the research are available free of charge on the Possible Worlds website, which was rated as one of the top 20 educational resources for science teaching by Common Sense Graphite.

Learn More

Possible Worlds: A National Research and Development Center on Instructional Technology
Wendy Martin
U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences