Macquarie University
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Developing intercultural awareness and sensitivity through digital game play: three cases studies with the simulation RealLives 2010 in Australian, American, and Swiss middle schools

posted on 2022-03-28, 12:09 authored by Anika Struppert
This thesis investigates the potential of the digital simulation RealLives for the promotion of intercultural awareness and sensitivity in 12- to 13-year-old middle school students. It comprises three case studies conducted in International Baccalaureate Schools in Australia, Switzerland, and the USA, where teachers used RealLives with groups of seventh-grade students in different ways. Using an interpretivist approach, each case study consisted of observations, in-depth interviews with students and teachers, and questionnaire surveys to examine the use of RealLives by students and teachers in different school contexts and investigate the potential of the simulation for the development of intercultural awareness and sensitivity amongst young adolescents within classroom settings. As the findings of the three case studies show, RealLives was perceived largely positively by students and teachers in all three contexts. However, the teachers struggled to thoroughly integrate the simulation into their teaching, mainly due to limited time and resources, dense curricula, and technical difficulties. Although each teacher employed the medium in different ways, similar patterns and strategies of use and similar social dynamics emerged among students in all three case studies. Students used the simulation RealLives in potentially unique personally meaningful ways. Their use of and interaction with the simulation as well as its potential to promote intercultural awareness and sensitivity were determined by a range of intraindividual and interindividual factors, first and foremost by knowledge and experience, identity, and social learning. The findings provide evidence that using RealLives in school contexts can promote the development of intercultural awareness and sensitivity in a variety of ways. It can increase intercultural awareness in student players ? even in students who are already more interculturally competent or focus on game play rather than learning. Moreover, it can advance the development of intercultural sensitivity by creating/reinforcing curiosity in cultural issues, encouraging openness and flexibility through confrontation with new information and unfamiliar situations, and providing a wealth of opportunities for identification with characters and role playing, which can promote empathy and more ethnorelative worldviews. Overall, the study shows that using a digital game or simulation like RealLives can be a valuable educational strategy to promote intercultural awareness and sensitivity and one that adolescents would enjoy, particularly when it is thoroughly integrated into teaching, accompanied by complementary activities, such as discussions and debriefings, and guided by a knowledgeable teacher.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Theoretical foundations -- 3. Methodology and empirical research methods -- 4. Findings Case 1 - The Australian school -- 5. Findings Case 2 - The Swiss school -- 6. Findings Case 3 - The American school -- 7. Discussion -- 8. Conclusion.


Bibliography: p. 247-259 "April 2011".

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD) , Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Dept. of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Qin Guo

Additional Supervisor 1

Manjula Waniganayake


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Anika Struppert 2011




xiii, 260 p. ill. (some col.) +

Former Identifiers

mq:19896 1617287 | (AuCNLKIN)000049083148