David Williamson Shaffer on Epistemic Frames for Epistemic Games

Epistemic Frames for Epistemic Games. (Via David Williamson Shaffer.) I’m back at the outlining tonight, and I’ve started in on David Shaffer’s work on epistemic games. This article covers the basics of the concept and includes discussion of two case studies. I’ve pulled out a few general quotes I might be able to put to use. As before, these quotes are categorized based on the section of my own paper they might appear in. They appear with minimal annotation, and they appear sans any formating – I’ve dragged and dropped from my outliner. I hope you might find them interesting, too, and there are a few more to come tonight.

Motivation and Engagement

– [ ] “students had an intense and intensive experience playing the
role of graphic designers in this computer-based game, and that
they (not surprisingly) developed some understanding of
mathematics and design in the process” (Shaffer, in press, p. 3)


– [ ] “students developed useful real-world skills and understandings
in computer-supported role-playing games” (Shaffer, in press, p.
– [ ] Transfer: “games such as Escher’s World can accomplish, in a very
general but very important sense, the elusive educational goal of
producing worthwhile effects that transfer from one context to
another (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000) – in Natalie’s case,
from a summer role-playing game using mathematics and digital art
to performance in school more generally.” (Shaffer, in press, p.
– [ ] “knowing that and knowing how -…declaritive and procedural
knowledge – are incomplete without the capactiy of ‘knowing with’
which [Broudy, (1977)] describes as providing ‘a context within
which a particular situation is perceived, interpreted, and
judged.’ (p. 12)” (Shaffer, in press, p. 10)
– [ ] the ability of students to incorporate epistemic frames into
their identities (or portfolio
of potential identities) suggests a mechanism through which
sufficiently rich experiences in technology-supported simulations
of real-world practices (such as the games described above) may
help students deal more effectively with situations in the
real-world and in school subjects beyond the scope of the
interactive environment itself.” (Shaffer, in press, p. 19)

Inquiry Driven

– [ ] “Crowley and Jacobs (2002, p. 333) define an island of expertise
as ‘‘any topic in which children happen to become interested and
in which they develop relatively deep and rich knowledge.’’
(Shaffer, in press, p. 5)
– [ ] “Islands of expertise, they argue, develop as the culmination of
a long series
of collaborative interactions that are opportunistic and
relatively unremarkable when viewed individually, but which
collectively create a powerful linkage between understanding and
interest.” (Shaffer, in press, p. 6)
– [ ] epistemic frames “have a basis in content knowledge, interest,
identiy, and associated practices” (Shaffer, in press, p. 10)

Socially Negotiated

– [ ] Shaffer is interested in communities of practice, or groups “of
individuals who share a repretoire of knowledge about and ways of
addressing similar (often shared) problems and purposes”
(Shaffer, in press, p. 10)
– [ ] “epistemic games… games that are based on the epistemic frames
of socially valued practices (Shaffer, in press-a). Because they
develop epistemic frames of important communities of practice,
such games have the potential to help students develop ways of
thinking that persist beyond the game environment, and, as
happened in Escher thought and action more broadly. Epistemic
games based on the ways in which professionals acquire their
epistemic frames may thus provide an alternative model for
organizing our educational system. Epistemic games make it
possible for students to learn through participation in authentic
recreations of valued work in the world, and thus give educators
an opportunity to move beyond disciplines derived from medieval
scholarship constituted within schools developed in the
industrial revolution – a new model of learning for a new mode of
learning through immersive game technologies.” (Shaffer, in
press, p. 19)

21st Century Skills

– [ ] “participation in a graphic design role-playing game helped
Natalie develop key elements of the epistemic frame of a graphic
designer in looking at works of art, and participation in a
negotiation game helped students in The Pandora Project develop
key elements of the epistemic frame of mediation and dispute
resolution” (Shaffer, in press, p. 18)


Shaffer, D. W. (in press). Epistemic frames for epistemic games. Computers and Education.