1.2 The 36 Learning Principles

Return to: Brooke Chandler Mini-Course

Move on to 1.3 Game Design Principles within Curriculum

Video Games.jpg

The 36 Learning Principle




James Paul Gee created 36 Learning Principles as the foundation of game-based learning. In this round, you will analyze the accuracy of Gee's principles.

Required Points: 3

Optional Points: 2


There are many games students love to play, and in his book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy James Paul Gee reviews 36 learning principles found in games. Gee argues that good games captivate gamers’ attention and teach them how to play in an efficient way. In addition, he suggests the positive aspects of games in learning environments can empower students by engaging them as agents and making them feel like what they do matters.

To promote deep learning, Gee proposes that games should incorporate problem-based learning approaches emphasizing customization as an integral practice. To customize education means to consider there is not just one way to solve a problem. Accordingly, in school, learners should have the freedom to choose strategies they think will work in a particular situation. Customization also respects that students bring different skills and learning styles to each situation, as Howard Gardner proposes in his studies of multiple intelligence. Thus, students should be seen as agents who control their learning environment and learn by having both their bodies and minds fully engaged in the learning process.

The second principle of video games Gee proposes is that games require students to not only acquire information but also learn how to use the information to solve a problem. Moreover, Gee argues students value and most efficiently learn information they use to solve a problem (on demand). Connecting meaning and learning how to apply knowledge in different situations can promote deep understanding and learning that endures. Associating meaning with actions, for instance, or information to specific practices, typically leads to deep understanding.

Third, games can make students feel challenged because they need to exert a great deal of effort to solve problems. Following that principle, challenging problems (not impossible ones!) help students become involved in generating strategies to accomplish the tasks. We also learn from games that accomplishing challenging tasks involves repeated practice. Notably, new tasks need to follow to help students generate different strategies to solve different kinds of problems.

In order for problem-solving approaches to be as successful as those in a gaming environment, Gee says, they should be sequenced from easier and less complex to harder and more complex. For example, instead of introducing students to an incredibly complex situation all at once, consider how to sequence parts of the problem in a leveled fashion, slowly adding elements to raise the complexity of the task.


The best way to learn about the principles is to read the principles. Read through Gee's 36 Learning Principles then go to the top of the lesson and click on the discussion tab. Write a short paragraph discussing 3 principles you found interesting- What are the principles in your own words? What do you want to know more about? How do the principles correlate to what you've learned prior? If you are in a current classroom, how does this relate to classroom structure?

Commenting on the reading will award you +3 points. You will receive an additional +1 optional point if you respond to someone else's thoughts. So you can earn up to +4 points.

James Paul Gee's 36 Learning Principles

Tom and Jerry.png

Optional +1 point! Play through the following game below. Afterward, connect the game to your chosen principles in the required discussion post.

Tom and Jerry in Rig a Bridge is a thought-provoking game that helps students consider and apply key principles of physics, including balance, reaction, traction, and sustainability, among others. Jerry, the mouse, is starving, but Tom, the cat, is anxiously waiting for him in the kitchen. Players need to build bridges using materials like matchsticks, rubber bands, and paper clips to help Jerry reach the cheese without being caught by Tom.

Tom and Jerry in Rig a Bridge


James Paul Gee created 36 Learning Principles as the foundation of game-based learning. In this round, you will analyze the accuracy of Gee's principles.

Required Points: 3

Optional Points: 2

Those who complete Level 1.2 with a total of 3 to 5 points may move on to Level 1.3 Game Design Principles within Curriculum.