Interest in the use of digital games in education has been increasing over the past few decades. Advocates argue that digital games are powerful learning tools with the potential to support increased motivational, cognitive, behavioural, affective, physiological and social outcomes. However, empirical evidence for their effectiveness is mixed. Research has focused primarily on measuring the effect of games on learning in researcher-controlled experiments, whilst relatively less attention has been paid to the role of teachers. The thesis addresses the research gap by investigating how teachers in Swedish compulsory and upper secondary schools use digital games on their own initiative and how they develop their competencies. It also considers the challenges they face.

Data from in-depth qualitative interviews and a mixed method survey are used to investigate the research questions. Both the data collection and analysis have been informed by activity theory. This is also used to problematise the adaptation of digital games as teaching and learning tools. In addition, the analysis explores teachers´ self-reported activities in relation to their disposition towards digital games.

The findings show that a diversity of digital games and gamification tools have found a foothold in Swedish classrooms. The participating teachers are interested in introducing and further developing digital game-based approaches, though there are limitations in their use of gaming resources and the extent to which they can leverage these to achieve educational outcomes. The research identifies and discusses four general categories of teachers: non-game users, sceptics, curious adopters and advanced adopters. Results indicate that the more positive disposition of game-using teachers tends to be related to a higher level of pedagogical integration, a greater variety of game use, and a wider range of educational outcomes, as well as an interest in professional development. Digital game-based learning is often understood as the use of gamification tools in the form of quizzes, whereas complex games and longer gameplay are less typical. Whilst most teachers agree on the motivational benefits of digital games, not as many perceive them as effective in teaching new knowledge and cognitive skills. The introduction of digital games is hampered by the lack of access to relevant and good-quality products, financial resources, preparation time and adequate technology, as well as contextualised and flexible forms of professional development. These challenges hint at deeper issues with preexisting education structures. Future research should have a twofold focus: the development of adequate game resources that can support collaborative forms of learning and higher-level skills, and flexible and contextualised competence-development solutions for teachers which are relevant to their needs.

The thesis contributes to the current literature by mapping the landscape of digital game-based learning in Swedish compulsory and upper secondary schools. It provides a nuanced understanding of the perspectives of teachers on digital game use and the opportunities and challenges presented by digital game-based learning.

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