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Turkey is the top refugee-hosting country in the world, with more than three million registered Syrian refugees. An international research team was the first to document the educational and mental health needs of Syrian refugee children, finding that an overwhelming majority are not enrolled in school in Turkey, partly as a result of language barriers, and that about half suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or depression. The present study was designed as an innovative intervention using an online, game-based learning intervention for refugee children, named Project Hope. Data gathered from a controlled field experiment show significant improvements in Turkish language acquisition, coding, executive functioning and overall sense of hopefulness. Implications for policy, practice and research are discussed.
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Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies
An International Interdisciplinary Journal for Research, Policy and Care
ISSN: 1745-0128 (Print) 1745-0136 (Online) Journal homepage:
Digital game-based education for Syrian refugee
children: Project Hope
Selcuk Sirin, Jan L. Plass, Bruce D. Homer, Sinem Vatanartiran & Tzuchi Tsai
To cite this article: Selcuk Sirin, Jan L. Plass, Bruce D. Homer, Sinem Vatanartiran & Tzuchi Tsai
(2018) Digital game-based education for Syrian refugee children: Project Hope, Vulnerable Children
and Youth Studies, 13:1, 7-18, DOI: 10.1080/17450128.2017.1412551
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Published online: 03 Jan 2018.
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Digital game-based education for Syrian refugee children:
Project Hope
Selcuk Sirin
, Jan L. Plass
, Bruce D. Homer
, Sinem Vatanartiran
and Tzuchi Tsai
Applied Psychology, New York University, New York, NY, USA;
CREATE, New York University, New York,
Educational Psychology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA;
Educational Sciences, Bahcesehir University, Instanbul, Turkey
Turkey is the top refugee-hosting country in the world, with more
than three million registered Syrian refugees. An international
research team was the rst to document the educational and
mental health needs of Syrian refugee children, nding that an
overwhelming majority are not enrolled in school in Turkey, partly
as a result of language barriers, and that about half suer from Post-
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or depression. The present
study was designed as an innovative intervention using an online,
game-based learning intervention for refugee children, named
Project Hope. Data gathered from a controlled eld experiment
show signicant improvements in Turkish language acquisition,
coding, executive functioning and overall sense of hopefulness.
Implications for policy, practice and research are discussed.
Received 23 June 2017
Accepted 31 October 2017
Syrian Refugees; Refugee
children; Digital games;
Game-based curriculum;
Mental health; Executive
The United Nations (2014) estimates that, as of mid-2017, over 5 million people had ed
the civil war raging in Syria; half of which were children. This makes Syrians the largest
refugee group in the world in our generation. Turkey, with more than 3 million registered
Syrian refugees, is the top refugee-hosting country. A New York University (NYU)
Bahcesehir collaborative research team was the rst to document the educational and
mental health needs of Syrian refugee children in 2013 (Sirin & Rogers-Sirin, 2015). As
highlighted in this report, an overwhelming majority of Syrian refugee children are not
enrolled in school in Turkey, partly as a result of language barriers, and about half suer
from PTSD and/or depression indicating a deep sense of hopelessness for their future.
In response to this educational and psychological crisis in Turkey, and in recognition
of the reality that these urgent needs cannot be met via traditional, on the ground
service delivery, we designed an online and game-based learning intervention for
refugee children, titled Project Hope. The intervention was designed around the needs
of Syrian refugee children in Turkey identied by Sirin and Rogers-Sirin (2015),
specically a lack of basic Turkish language skills, struggling in school when they do
attend and suering from a sense of despair. In addition to these three domains, i.e.
improving Turkish language prociency, improving educationally relevant cognitive
CONTACT Sinem Vatanartiran
VOL. 13, NO. 1, 718
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
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skills of executive functions (EF) and developing sense of hope, Project Hope included
coding skills, a key twenty-rst-century skill that is especially important for children
(Lafee, 2017). Children participated in this 4-week curriculum for 2 h a day during
weekdays, totaling 40 h over the course of 20 days. The daily curriculum included a
combination of four playful learning environments and games, including the commer-
cial game Minecraft (Mojang, 2017), game-based programming instruction from Code.
org (2017), the executive functioning training game Alien game (CREATE, 2016) and
Turkish language instruction using Cerego (2017). The curriculum and all research
measures were delivered via the DREAM platform developed at NYUs CREATE lab
(CREATE, 2016).
The educational needs of Syrian refugee children
More than 90% of Syrian children were attending formal school before the civil war
started. Inevitably, the educational system collapsed with the beginning of the war, and
today, more than half of Syrian children are not enrolled in schools, with up to 70% of
children not being enrolled in the hardest hit areas (Watkins & Zyck, 2014). Turkey
presents a unique challenge for educating Syrian refugee children due to the language
barrier Syrians speak Arabic, not Turkish, the ocial language of Turkey. As such,
according to the Turkish Ministry of Education, more than half of elementary school
age refugee children in Turkey are not currently enrolled in school. This gure is worse
for secondary school, where more than 70% are not currently enrolled (UNHCR, 2017).
Language is not the only barrier toward learning for refugee children. The disruption
in refugee childrens education before arrival puts them behind in all areas of academic
learning and, more critically, makes it dicult for them to catch up while learning a
new language and adjusting to an entirely new social and cultural environment (Brown,
Miller, & Mitchell, 2006). The acquisition of Turkish as a second language is particu-
larly challenging for children who have fallen behind in academic skills due to inter-
ruptions in their formal education (Robertson, Lafond, & Romah, 2010). More
importantly, the emotional trauma experienced by many refugee children may aect
cognitive, emotional and social development and compound the diculties of catching
upacademically (Fraine & McDade, 2009).
In our previous work with the Syrian refugee children in Turkey, we found that a
staggering 79% of the children had experienced someone die in their family, and about
60% of the children reported that they saw someone else get kicked, shot at or
physically hurt (Sirin & Rogers-Sirin, 2015). These are very high numbers when
compared to non-refugee children who live in relatively safe environments in the
West (Bean, Derluyn, Eurelings-Bontekoe, Broekaert, & Spinhoven, 2007). This level
of exposure to violence puts children at risk for PTSD and depression (Hasanovic,
2011). The onset of these mental health problems in childhood has long-term negative
consequences for the child and for society at large. Children who suer from PTSD and
depression must nd ways to cope with their symptoms while in refugee camps: a
setting that provides little, if any, support to address such symptoms. The potential
eects of not having caring adult gures who may have died or been left behind
only exacerbate these problems for refugee children who crossed the borders alone and
are now living without parents.
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Project Hope
Project Hope is a curriculum designed based on our previous research that identied the
most pressing needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey (Sirin & Rogers-Sirin, 2015).
Specically, the target curriculum includes the following.
Turkish language skills
Linguistic competencies were included in the curriculum as the need to be able to speak
the Turkish language is well documented as a prerequisite for attending school in
Turkey (Sirin & Rogers-Sirin, 2015).
Cognitive skills development
The importance of cognitive skills, and especially EF, has been documented for out-
comes such as externalizing behavioral problems (Young et al., 2009), social functioning
(Miller & Hinshaw, 2010) and academic success (e.g. Blair & Razza, 2007; Yeniad,
Malda, Mesman, Van IJzendoorn, & Pieper, 2013). Given the relatively short duration
of the curriculum, it appeared to be more benecial to train a cognitive skill than
specic subject areas.
Twenty-rst-century skills
Computational thinking and coding have been identied as critical skills to succeed in
the twenty-rst century (Grover & Pea, 2013), and entire school systems has adopted
coding curricula (e.g. New York City, the largest school system in the United States).
We have therefore added materials that teach computational thinking and algorithmic
thinking in a playful way to the curriculum.
Mental health
The need to reduce hopelessness and despair has been identied as another critical need
for Syrian refugees in Turkey (Sirin & Rogers-Sirin, 2015). Since there is an insucient
number of trained mental health providers available, we used a game-based approach to
address these issues, which has been shown to be a promising method (Schoneveld
et al., 2016). Minecraft is especially of interest in this context as it also includes elements
of computational thinking and design thinking.
The pedagogical approach we employed takes into account the situation of refugee
children outlined above:
(1) In order to assure that children will be engaged and enjoy learning, we used a
playful learning approach (Plass et al., 2010; Plass, Homer, & Kinzer, 2015).
Given the age of the participating children, and the fact that many of them had
not been exposed to formal education for some time, we believed that a playful
approach to learning would be the appropriate way to engage them. In particu-
lar, the use of playful methods to train cognitive skills is of advantage some of the
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tasks involved are not inherently interesting. Similarly, in order to enhance
participantslinguistic competencies, we used Cerego, a personalized learning
platform with playful elements, as language learning is often not something that
the participating age group nds intrinsically motivating.
(2) To make the program aordable and immediately available, we took advantage
of existing learning materials rather than designing materials ourselves. There
are many resources available online that have been used with a large number of
participants, and taking advantage of these resources, which are largely avail-
able for free, allowed us to design the curriculum quickly and at a low cost per
(3) In order to be able to deliver these materials and track outcomes, we used
online resources delivered by our own platform. All digital tools we used for
learning, as well as the DREAM platformweusedtodelivertheinstruction,
recorded individual student performance, which allowed us to track student
progress in ways traditional classroom instruction cannot. Tools such as
Cerego are adaptive to each individuals needs, therefore allowing for a level
of personalization that a teacher couldnotprovideforaclassof25ormore
(4) To respond to the shortage of qualied teachers, we included teacher training
materials but generally aimed for minimal preparation time required for tea-
chers. The curriculum we designed was ready to use without much preparation,
and the teacher guide provided specic information for the teachers in case there
were questions.
The immediate goal of this project was to test whether this curriculum could
eectively be implemented with refugee children in Turkey, and whether our interven-
tions had the intended outcomes. The longer term goal is to use this project to develop
and implement a curriculum that will allow Syrian refugee children to gain the required
competencies to be eligible to attend school in Turkey. Here, we report on a pilot study
to evaluate the eectiveness of our approach.
Participants and design
We conducted a pilot study to test the eectiveness of Project Hope in Sanliurfa,
Turkey. Participants for the study were recruited with the help of a local agency that
provides assistance to Syrian refugees. The initial sample included 147 children, ages
914 (M= 11.75; SD = 1.23), who were randomly assigned to be in either the
intervention (n= 75) or a wait-list control (n= 72) group. The intervention and
control groups did not dier signicantly on key demographic variables (e.g. age,
number of siblings, paternal education). Children in the control group were given
access to the intervention materials after the study was completed. Human Subjects
approval was obtained from the Bahcesehir University in Turkey, where one of our
authors works.
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Materials and measures
The curricular materials consisted of four dierent environments, Cerego, Alien game, and Minecraft.
Cerego (2017) is an adaptive learning engine that allows users to quickly create sets
of items, such as vocabulary, which can then be presented to learners using a spaced-
repetition paradigm (Greene, 2008). For the purpose of the current project, we devel-
oped 20 themed sets, each with 1015 Turkish vocabulary words and phrases, covering
topics from numbers and colors to everyday phrases. These sets use the target language
(Turkish) and visual images only, not the learnersrst language.
Alien game (CREATE, 2016) is an intervention to train EF which has been shown to
be eective for adolescents from middle school, high school and early college (Homer,
Plass, Raaele, Ober, & Ali, 2018; Parong et al., 2017). For the current project, a version
of Alien game was developed with the same gameplay, but all instructions translated
into Arabic. (2017) is an online platform for learning how to code using age appro-
priate, playful self-guided activities with explanatory feedback. The site reports
student achievement by showing how many levels have been solved, how well they were
solved and how many lines of code students wrote. For the current project, the students
used the Arabic versions of the International Computer Science Fundamentals unit and
were assigned the rst three courses in this unit to complete.
Minecraft (2017) is an open-ended sandbox game that allows users to construct
buildings and structures using 3D blocks in a virtual world with dierent terrains and
habitats. We designed three activities for participants to complete: (1) design your
dream room, (2) design your dream house and (3) design your dream community. The
idea behind this task was encouraging children to imagine a better future for them-
selves, even for a moment for the purposes of a video game. These tasks were chosen
based on evidence for the mental health benets of using specic types of video games
(e.g. Homer, Hayward, Frye, & Plass, 2012; Schoneveld et al., 2016).
Measures consisted of the questionnaires and surveys listed below. All materials were
translated from English into Arabic, with translations validated by a native Arabic
speaker from Turkey.
Demographic questionnaire
This instrument collected basic demographic, including age, gender, number of siblings,
fatherseducation and the like. The questionnaire was administered online.
Turkish language pre- and posttests
The language pre- and posttests consisted of multiple choice vocabulary denitions of
words included in the Cerego sets, as well as additional vocabulary items. The questions
were administered with visual prompts, and participants were asked to select the correct
words. The pretest included 30 words, and the posttest included 40 dierent words.
Dimensional change card sort task
The dimensional change card sort task (DCCS) is a standard measure from the National
Institutes of Health toolbox (Zelazo et al., 2013) that assesses the EF subskill of shifting.
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In the DCCS, children are shown a series of images that vary along two dimensions
color and shape. Children are rst asked to sort the cards into one of two boxes based
on one dimension (e.g. color). For example, if shown a picture of a blue boat and asked
to sort by color, they must press a key to place the image in the bluebox. The rules
then shift, and children must sort according to the other dimension (e.g. shape). For
example, the blue boat must now be sorted into the boatbox, regardless of color. After
the rule switch, younger children will typically perseverate and initially sort by the old
rules, and older children will show a performance delay after a rule switch. The DCCS
has been normed and validated for ages 385 and has been shown to have good
reliability and validity (Zelazo et al., 2013).
Beckshopelessness scale
This scale is measured to use hopelessness through 20 item self-report questionnaire
(Beck & Steer, 1988). This self-report has been shown to have an internal consistency
ranging from .82 to .93 (Beck & Steer, 1988), and the measure has been shown to
predict depressive symptoms in general and suicide in particular is one of the most
widely used scales for sense of despair (Alansari, 2014). We used a well-established
Arabic version of the scale, which was also shown to be highly correlated with depres-
sion and anxiety (e.g. Alali, 2016).
Satisfaction survey
This survey was designed to measure how satised participants in the intervention
group were with each of the four elements of our learning materials (i.e. Cerego, Alien
game, and Minecraft). For each curriculum component, we asked three basic
questions: How much did you like using this tool?,How much did you learn from this
tool?and Would you recommend this tool to a friend?. Participants answered each
question using a 5-point Likert scale.
The intervention was administered in Sanliurfa, a city on the border to Syria. We chose
Sanliurfa because, after Istanbul, it has the second largest Syrian refugee population
with numbers exceeding a half million people. It is also a city with the largest class size
and highest birth rate, both among Syrians and Turks. Given these demographic
challenges, most Syrian refugees in the city lack basic educational services. We con-
ducted the intervention in collaboration with a local school and municipality, whose
support made it possible to provide computer labs and transportation for children from
and to the section of the city where they live.
The intervention was designed to run in three sessions a day in 2-h segments for
5 days a week, over a 4-week period, totaling 40 h of game-based experience per child.
Children were placed into one of three sessions of 25 students that went through the
intervention together (i.e. in the morning, early afternoon or late afternoon). All
learning sessions took place in the computer lab of a local community center.
Participants were taken to the center and returned home in arranged buses. A pair of
instructors supervised each of the session. Instructors were provided with a detailed
lesson plan for each day.
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At the beginning of each session, students would individually sit at a computer and
log into the DREAM system, which would then take them through that days curricu-
lum. The instructors would assist any students that needed help with the computer. A
typical days curriculum would consist of 30 min of Cerego language learning, 10 min
of Alien game play, 30 min of and 40 min of Minecraft play. Pretests were
given in the beginning of week 1, and posttests at the end of week 4. The wait-list
control group received only the pre- and post test measures. They were bused into the
computer lab for the pretest in week 1, and for the posttest in week 4, which were given
in groups of approximately 25 students.
Retention rates for the intervention group were above 95%, a very high rate for a study
involving refugee children outside of a refugee camp. Attendance records indicated that
most children only missed 1 day out of the 20-day intervention (mode atten-
dance = 19 days; M= 14.7 days). Some data were lost due to participants missed
days. Unfortunately, in addition to data missing for participants who were absent for
individual sessions, due communication errors between the experimenters and the
instructors, not all of the intervention and control groups receive all of the posttest
measures (i.e. the DCCS was not given to two of the control groups). Because these data
were not missing at random (MAR), performing multiple imputations would be
dicult and unlikely to yield reliable estimates (Sterne et al., 2009). Therefore, in
each of the separate analyses, cases with missing data were omitted.
Means, standard deviations and correlations between the outcome variables (inter-
vention and control groups combined) are reported in Table 1. No signicant eects
were found for any of the demographic variables (i.e. age and gender), with the
exception that girls scored signicantly better than boys on the language posttest.
To examine studentsperception of the intervention, the anonymous weekly satisfaction
surveys given during weeks 24 were analyzed, see Table 2. Overall, satisfaction was
high, students reported that they felt they were learning from the interventions and
stated that they would recommend the intervention to their friends.
Table 1. Mean, standard deviation and correlations for posttest outcome measures.
MSD Age Language (posttest) EF (DCCS) posttest
Age 11.7 years 1.6
Language 23.6 10.9 .2
(n= 89)
EF (DCCS) 5.3 2.1 .28 .35*
(n= 48)
Hopelessness 1.79 .06 .16 .14
(n= 121)
*p= .016.
EF: executive functions; DCCS: dimensional change card sort task.
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Executive functions
Posttest measures of the EF subskill of switching were examined. As predicted, by the
end of the study, students who received the intervention had signicantly higher EF, as
measured by the DCCS (M= 6.12, SD = 1.88, n= 14) compared to children in the
comparison group (M= 4.98, SD = 2.05, n= 37), t(49) = 1.88, p= .036, d= .58.
Completion of a level in requires demonstrating competency in the concept
being taught by that level; therefore, a separate assessment of coding was not given. On
average, children in the intervention group completed 182 levels of, writing
over 1800 lines of code. Successfully completing these levels indicated that the children
in the intervention demonstrated understanding of basic concepts of coding.
Language skills
During the intervention, students studied over 200 Turkish words via Cerego. At the
end of the intervention, language awareness was assessed through a test of 40 Turkish
words given to both the intervention and control groups. Students in the intervention
group (M= 29.2, SD = 8.8, N= 17) had signicantly higher language scores than
children in the control group (M= 22.3, SD = 17.3, N= 72), t(87) = 2.43, p= .017,
d= .50, indicating that the students in the intervention group had signicantly better
Turkish language knowledge compared to the control group.
BecksHopelessness scale (Beck & Steer, 1988) was given as part of the pretest and
posttest to the intervention group and as part of the posttest to the control group.
Pretest scores for the intervention group were not signicantly dierent from the
posttest scores for the control group, t(119) = .02, n.s. For the intervention group, a
paired-samples t-test was conducted comparing their pretest hopelessness scores
(M= 2.69; SD = 2.08) to their posttest hopelessness score (M= 1.20; SD = 1.84). The
analysis indicated a signicant decrease in hopelessness for the intervention group, t
(73) < 5.69, p< .001. d= .76. Furthermore, comparing the posttest hopelessness scores
of the intervention and control groups indicated that the intervention group had
Table 2. Student satisfaction with intervention components (nal week).
Component Liked using. . . Learned from. . . Would recommend
Cerego (language) 78% much or very much
(6% neutral)
82% average to very much 83% average to very much
Alien game (EF) 34% much or very much
(37% neutral)
65% average to very much 75% average to very much (coding) 55% much or very much
(30% neutral)
82% average to very much 75% average to very much
Minecraft (mental health) 65% much or very much
(17% neutral)
79% average to very much 82% average to very much
EF: executive functions.
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signicantly lower hopelessness scores compared to the control group (M= 2.70;
SD = 2.00), t(119) = 4.21, p< .001. d= .78. While we do not know whether the
whole intervention or the Minecraft intervention per se aected childrens sense of
hopelessness, we know that children who participated in Project Hope had a signi-
cantly lowered sense of hopelessness.
The results of the current study provide evidence of the eectiveness of the computer-
based, playful learning approach of Project Hope. Students in the intervention group
demonstrated evidence of language learning, improved EF, a decrease in hopelessness,
and an increased understanding of prociency in coding. Furthermore, the refugee
children reported enjoying participating in the intervention, indicating that they would
recommend it to someone else.
Although the results are positive, there are a number of limitations to the current
study. First is the amount of missing data due to communication errors between the
experimenters and the instructors. Another limitation is that the intervention took
place in only one location, which may reduce the generalizability of the ndings. The
conditions in which it may be useful to introduce a program like Project Hope may
vary greatly for example, the current study took place with refugee children who
had been in Turkey for a while and were living in apartments in a city, not in a camp.
Each location will have its own set of challenges that will inuence the results.
Because of these limitations, the current study may be considered more of a pilot
study or proof of concept. Nonetheless, the study does yield some promising results
for the use of well-designed digital materials to support the education of refugee
There is a great cost to society for failing to address the educational needs of refugee
children. The costs of failing to address their mental health problems may be even
higher. Individuals with mental health problems demand more resources in school and
during the transition to work and are not able to take full advantage of their educational
opportunities. They are also more likely to leave jobs and stay unemployed. This can
have a critical negative eect on the host countries of Syrian refugees, as well as on Syria
in the future, as it attempts to recover when the war nally ends.
Our study shows that using a game-based, playful learning approach can be an
eective, cost-ecient way to teach refugee children much needed skills, including
cognitive skills, language skills and essential twenty-rst-century skills such as coding.
The ultimate goal of a fully developed program would of course not replace schooling
but rather would help refugee children get to a point academically where they could
then take advantage of the educational opportunities provided by the host country, in
this case, Turkey. The project also showed that providing a structured environment
reduced hopelessness and gave distressed refugee children an outlet to imagine a better
future for themselves.
While it is preliminary, it is our hope that the ndings from this study demonstrate
that even with limited resources, and even when there are language barriers, we can
make a dierence in the lives of children by leveraging technology. Future research
should build on these initial ndings and nd innovative ways to help address the
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urgent needs of refugee children, needs that could not be met with traditional, on-the-
ground service delivery. Researchers, practitioners and developers must work together
to take full advantage of the power of digital media.
This project was supported in part by Mr. Enver Yucel (Bahcesehir Ugur Foundation), by
Cerego, Inc. (Andrew Smith Lewis), and by Microsoft Turkey (Asli Arbel and Eyupcan
Keskin). We thank the graduate student volunteers at New York University (Patrick OMalley,
Rabia Yalcinkaya, and Esther Sin) and at CUNY Graduate Center (Ayşenur Benevento, Teresa
Ober, Maya Rose, and Anna Schwartz) who helped develop the Turkish language learning
materials and the outcome measures. We also thank Essum Aslan (Urfa Bahçeşehir Koleji),
Ísmet Gokkan, and Mustafa Madenli at Bahcesehir Koleji. Finally, we thank Eyyubiye
Municipality, Turkey, for their local support.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
Selcuk Sirin
Bruce D. Homer
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... Three studies were cultural adaptations of programs [31,32,37], several were described as feasibility or pilot studies [20, 22, 28, 36, 38, 42, 44-47, 50, 51, 60, 62], one was described as a usability study [59] and two appeared to be formative evaluations [55,56]. Some of the feasibility/pilot studies were randomized controlled trials, but the majority of randomized controlled trials were concerned with effectiveness as well as acceptability [22,25,28,30,34,35,39,41,43,48,49,52,53,60]. ...
... Two initiatives by the same authors offered phone-based peer support [57,58] where newcomer women were trained to provide support networks utilizing phones to stay in touch, and included in-person engagement in the training for the peers. One additional smart phone-based intervention was a self-paced, audio-led relaxation guide for managing distress that included an in-person, two-hour training and orientation session [59]. ...
... While several interventions focused specifically on refugees or asylum seekers (See Table 1) [27,31,32,39,43,[56][57][58][59][61][62][63], a larger proportion of the papers focused on initiatives involving immigrants [20, 22-24, 28, 36, 38, 40, 41, 47-51, 54, 55, 60, 64, 65]. One study looked at East Asian international students in the USA [36]. ...
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Immigrant and refugee populations face multiple barriers to accessing mental health services. This scoping review applies the (Levesque et al. in Int J Equity Health 12:18, 2013) Patient-Centred Access to Healthcare model in exploring the potential of increased access through virtual mental healthcare services VMHS for these populations by examining the affordability, availability/accommodation, and appropriateness and acceptability of virtual mental health interventions and assessments. A search in CINAHL, MEDLINE, PSYCINFO, EMBASE, SOCINDEX and SCOPUS following (Arksey and O'Malley in Int J Soc Res Methodol 8:19-32, 2005) guidelines found 44 papers and 41 unique interventions/assessment tools. Accessibility depended on individual (e.g., literacy), program (e.g., computer required) and contextual/social factors (e.g., housing characteristics, internet bandwidth). Participation often required financial and technical support, raising important questions about the generalizability and sustainability of VMHS' accessibility for immigrant and refugee populations. Given limitations in current research (i.e., frequent exclusion of patients with severe mental health issues; limited examination of cultural dimensions; de facto exclusion of those without access to technology), further research appears warranted.
... Two of the eight studies examined interventions which were aimed at increasing access to education (de Hoop et al. 2019;Meloche et al. 2020), whereas the remaining six interventions were aimed at improving the quality of learning focusing either on second-language acquisition or on various academic outcomes (Busch et al. 2021;Krüger 2018;Metzler et al. 2021;Rousseau et al. 2007Rousseau et al. , 2014Sirin et al. 2018). Sample sizes ranged from 62 (Krüger 2018) to 3,426 (Meloche et al. 2020). ...
... We identified seven studies which examined interventions aimed at improving the quality of education for refugee children (Busch et al. 2021;Krüger 2018;Meloche et al. 2020;Metzler et al. 2021;Rousseau et al. 2007Rousseau et al. , 2014Sirin et al. 2018). These included one experimental study (Rousseau et al. 2014), two quasi-experimental investigations (Busch et al. 2021;Meloche et al. 2020), and the remaining four used pre-and post-test design (Krüger 2018;Metzler et al. 2021;Rousseau et al. 2007;Sirin et al. 2018). ...
... We identified seven studies which examined interventions aimed at improving the quality of education for refugee children (Busch et al. 2021;Krüger 2018;Meloche et al. 2020;Metzler et al. 2021;Rousseau et al. 2007Rousseau et al. , 2014Sirin et al. 2018). These included one experimental study (Rousseau et al. 2014), two quasi-experimental investigations (Busch et al. 2021;Meloche et al. 2020), and the remaining four used pre-and post-test design (Krüger 2018;Metzler et al. 2021;Rousseau et al. 2007;Sirin et al. 2018). Quality was measured in terms of learning outcomes, including literacy, numeracy and language skills. ...
Refugee children face numerous challenges in accessing quality education. In the past years, the number of interventions aiming to address these challenges has grown substantially. What is still scarce, however, is systematic evidence on what works to improve refugee children’s enrolment and learning. The authors of this article set out to find what robust quantitative evidence exists regarding interventions that seek to improve access to education and quality learning for refugee children. They conducted a first scoping review of quantitative peer-reviewed articles which evaluate the effect of specific interventions which aimed to improve access to education and/or quality learning for refugee children. While their literature search for the time-period 1990–2021 resulted in 1,873 articles, only eight of these fit the authors’ selection criteria. This low number indicates that there is a general lack of robust evidence as to what works to improve quality learning for refugee children. What the authors’ mapping of the research evidence does suggest is that cash transfer programmes can increase school attendance and that learning outcomes, such as second-language acquisition, can be improved through physical education, early childhood development programmes, or online game-based solutions. Other interventions, such as drama workshops, appear to have had zero effect on second-language acquisition. The authors conclude their article by addressing the limitations and implications of this body of interventions for future research.
... Non-clinical professionals such as licensed social workers (Acosta Price, et al., 2012;Allison & Ferreira, 2017;Mancini, 2020), 'a pair of instructors supplied with a lesson plan' (Sirin et al., 2018), and Arabic-speakers teachers (where Arabic-speaking psychologists were unavailable) (Gormez et al.,2017) delivered some of the interventions. This intervention is particularly interesting due to its use of teachers, who underwent an intensive 2-day training programme prior to the intervention and were supported through supervision following each session. ...
... Some of these are cost and resource-efficient and can be successfully implemented even in areas of disadvantage and with minimally trained staff (e.g. Sirin et al., 2018;Kalantari et al., 2012). In addition, our focus groups highlighted how schools have offered VPRS pupils a range of creative arts interventions involving Arabic language and culture, with reportedly beneficial results (though there is no empirical evidence of this). ...
... Eight [40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47] included studies were RCTs; 15 48-62 were non-randomised single-group pre-post studies. Studies were diverse in intervention setting, population age group, intervention type, intervention form and intensity. ...
... 48 The same studies also reported on externalising problems. Behavioral problems of childhood Six out of the 10 reported effect size estimates showed statistically significant improvements in this category, however, meta-analysis was not appropriate due to the use Meyer DeMott et al., 42 Metzler et al., 41 Betancourt et al., 43 Lange-Nielsen et al., 44 Sirin et al., 45 Yankey et al. 46 and Scheiber et al. 47 *Risk of bias classification was based on ROB-2 and ROBINS-I instruments. 31 'Low' risk of bias is considered comparable to an RCT; 'moderate' risk of bias is considered inferior to an RCT but sound for observational studies; 'serious' risk of bias or 'some concerns' indicates at least one domain where bias likely affects results; high risk of bias indicates substantial risk of bias in one domain or concerns across multiple domains; 'critical' indicates risk of bias to a degree that renders the evidence likely not useful. ...
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Background Children represent nearly 40% of forcibly displaced populations and are subject to stressors that affect well-being. Little is known about the effects of interventions to enhance psychological resilience in these children, outside clinical settings. Methods We conducted a systematic review, following Cochrane methods. Eligible studies tested resilience-enhancing interventions outside clinical settings in forcibly displaced children/adolescents. We included longitudinal quantitative studies with comparator conditions irrespective of geographical scope or language. We searched articles published between January 2010 and April 2020 in PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, PsycINFO and the WHO’s Global Index Medicus. To standardise effect sizes across the different reported outcomes, we transformed reported mean differences to standardised mean differences using Hedge’s g statistic with associated 95% CI. We pooled data for meta-analysis where appropriate. We used Cochrane tools to assess study risk of bias and used Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation to determine evidence quality for meta-analysed outcomes. Results Searches yielded 4829 results. Twenty-three studies met inclusion criteria. Studies reported 18 outcomes measured by 48 different scales; only 1 study explicitly measured resilience. Eight studies were randomised controlled trials; the rest were non-randomised pre–post studies. Interventions were diverse and typically implemented in group settings. Studies reported significant improvement in outcomes pertinent to behavioural problems, coping mechanisms and general well-being but not to caregiver support or psychiatric symptoms. In meta-analysis, resilience was improved (g av =0.194, 95% CI 0.018 to 0.369), but anxiety symptoms and quality of life were not (g av =−0.326, 95% CI −0.782 to 0.131 and g av =0.325, 95% CI −0.027 to 0.678, respectively). Risk of bias varied. Quality of evidence for most graded outcomes was very low. Conclusions The multiplicity of study designs, intervention types, outcomes and measures incumbered quantifying intervention effectiveness. Future resilience research in this population should use rigorous methods and follow reporting guidelines. PROSPERO registration number CRD42020177069.
... Refugee youths are not a homogeneous group; they have different needs, challenges, and resources. They come from different countries with great variation in their characteristics (Sirin et al., 2018). For instance, in terms of literacy, while 47.9% of young people between the ages of 15 and 25 in South Sudan can read and write (The United Nations Association of Norway, 2020b), that figure in Syria is almost double at 92.5% (The United Nations Association of Norway, 2020a). ...
... For example, research on Syrian child refugees in Turkey showed that 79% had lost family members and 66% had closely witnessed physical violence (Sirin & Rogers-Sirin, 2015). Post-traumatic stress disorder is common among this group of adolescents, and the fact that some flee without a caregiver can exacerbate the condition (Sirin et al., 2018). ...
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As the inclusion of youths in decision-making around their media use is increasingly normalized in the family context in the Global North, one could ask how media literacy support can be adjusted for youths in vulnerable situations, situations where their family cannot be involved in regulating their media use, such as gaming. Drawing on interviews conducted in 2021 with 13 unaccompanied refugee youths (16-25 years old) and 10 social actors working in eight organizations, this study investigates the gaming habits of such youths in Norway and the ways in which relevant social actors are involved in guiding their gaming practices. This study shows that social actors' views on gaming vary according to their level of involvement in the youths' housing arrangements. Whilst those working directly with such arrangements are involved in direct or indirect rule-setting for gaming practices, others struggle to find their role within this context. The youths, however , emphasize the importance of gaming in building relationships with other unaccompanied refugees, learning about the culture of socialization, and mitigating trauma. Moreover, there is a lack of a dialogical approach to welfare services' regulation of these youths' gaming practices. Employing such an approach could not only give these youths a voice but also expand gaming's democratization ability beyond the family context.
... As shown in the upper panel of Table S3, gamified programs that have been conducted with community samples, who did not experience any clinical problems, have been generally effective in mitigating depressive symptoms, and these positive findings tend to be obtained across age groups and in nations with diverse cultural values. For instance, medium-to-strong effects of gamification on mitigating depressive symptoms are found in studies that used (a) the gamified mobile application "Mentalis Phoenix" for treating depression in a sample of German adults (Lukas et al., 2021), (b) a popular exergaming system "Wii Fit Plus®" for fostering functional mobility, mood balance, and quality of life in a sample of Turkish seniors (Cicek, Ozdincler, & Tarakci, 2020), and (c) an online learning platform consisting of a cluster of games for facilitating learning in a group of Syrian refugee children (Sirin, Plass, Homer, Vatanartiran, & Tsai, 2018). ...
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This meta-analytic review aimed to investigate the effectiveness of gamified interventions in bolstering mental health. The gamification and the control groups were compared in terms of the between-group differences in posttest scores of both mental wellness (subjective well-being and quality of life) and psychological symptoms (anxiety and depressive symptoms). The review analyzed 42 studies involving 5792 participants (aged 8–74) across eight world regions. The random-effects meta-analysis revealed an overall small to medium effect size (Hedges’ g = 0.38; 95% CI: 0.22, 0.55; k = 141). The benefits of gamification in enhancing mental wellness were independent of both game and demographic characteristics, but there were intricate findings for studies examining the benefits of gamification in reducing psychological symptoms. For anxiety symptom reduction, the effects were larger (vs. smaller) in studies adopting specific (vs. general) measures of anxiety and in samples comprising a higher (vs. lower) proportion of males (ps < .04). For depressive symptom reduction, the effects were larger (vs. smaller) in non-clinical (vs. clinical) samples (p = .01). These new findings are promising in showing the viability of gamification in promoting mental wellness, encouraging greater collaborations among scholars, practitioners, and game developers to contribute to the growing field of gamification science by co-designing more effective gamified interventions.
Conference Paper
Can digital game play enhance child wellbeing? Applying a wellbeing framework that identified six dimensions of wellbeing (competence, agency, relatedness, curiosity, optimism, and reduced stress) we conducted a playtesting study (N = 25) to develop wellbeing profiles for six games. These profiles informed an experimental study in which 8- to 12-year-olds (N = 62) either played tablet-based casual games over an 8-week period (play group) or engaged in other activities (control group) in an afterschool program. We administered the Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction Scale (BPNSFS) as pre-test, and the KIDSCREEN-27, a standardized measure of wellbeing, as pre- and post-intervention test. We found that for children with specific psychological needs, the play intervention improved related domains of wellbeing. Results have theoretical and practical implications, including guidance for game designers to add features supporting child wellbeing.
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Bu araştırma yabancı uyruklu çocuklara bir rekreasyonel aktivite olarak geleneksel sokak oyunlarının oynatılmasının çocukların sosyal becerileri, psikolojik sağlamlık ve umut düzeylerine etkisini incelemek amacı ile gerçekleştirilmiştir. Araştırmanın örneklem grubu, olasılıklı olmayan tekniklerden amaçlı örneklem yöntemi ile seçilmiş 25 erkek ve 26 kız olmak üzere toplamda 51 yabancı uyruklu çocuktan oluşmaktadır. Araştırmanın amacına yönelik birimler kontrol (n=26) ve deney grubu (n=25) olacak biçimde örnekleme dahil edilmiştir. Deney grubunda bulunan çocuklara rekreatif aktivite olarak haftada en az 2 gün olmak koşuluyla 8 hafta boyunca geleneksel sokak oyunlarının oynatılacağı bir protokol hazırlanmıştır. Kontrol grubuna yönelik herhangi bir uygulama gerçekleştirilmemiştir. Oyun protokolü öncesi ve sonrasında, gruplardan ön test ve son test sonuçları alınmıştır. Veri toplama aracı olarak demografik bilgi formu, Çocuklar için Sosyal Beceri Ölçeği (ÇSBÖ), Çocuk ve Genç Psikolojik Sağlamlık Ölçeği (ÇGPSÖ) ve Çocuklarda Umut Ölçeği (ÇUÖ) kullanılmıştır. Elde edilen bulgulara göre oyun protokolü öncesinde deney grubu ve kontrol grubundan elde edilen puanların istatistiksel açıdan anlamlı farklılık göstermediği belirlenmiş fakat oyun protokolü sonrasındaki puanların deney grubunda bulunan çocuklar lehine anlamlı farklılık gösterdiği tespit edilmiştir. Sonuç olarak, yabancı uyruklu çocuklara yönelik uygulanan rekreasyonel aktivitelerin sosyal beceri, psikolojik sağlamlık ve umut düzeyi üzerinde anlamlı derecede etkili olduğu görülmüştür.
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This study aims to examine the contribution of ArtiBos, which is designed as a Gamified Adaptive Intelligent Tutoring System for students' problem-solving skills. In the study, first of all, the system’s design features to improve problem-solving skills were examined, and then the effect of the system on problem-solving skills was evaluated. The study was carried out with 12 students studying in the ninth class of a High School in Türkiye and 6 mathematics teachers with different experiences working in the same school. A case study, one of the qualitative research methods were applied in this study through which ArtiBos system logs, student interviews, and teacher interviews were evaluated. Data pertaining to the number of solved problems, the number of problems created, the number of problems solved correctly, the duration of being online in the system, the rate of correct problem-solving, and the average solving time were examined to evaluate system logs. Interview questions have been prepared so that the contribution of system features to problem-solving skills can be evaluated. The data from the interview were analyzed and some codes for problem-solving skills were created. And then, sub-themes were created by combining the codes. The results show that ArtiBos affects students' problem-solving skills positively.
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Executive functions (EF), the skills required to plan, monitor and control cognitive processes, are linked to many important educational and developmental outcomes. The Alien Game is a digital game developed to train the EF subskill of shifting. High school students (N = 82; age range 14–18 years; average = 15.5 years) were asked to play the Alien Game for 20 min per week for 6 consecutive weeks. Two EF measures were administered before and after this intervention: the Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS) task (a measure of shifting) and the Flanker task (a measure of inhibition). Students had a significant pre- to posttest increase in DCCS, t (81) = 4.29, p < 0.001, d = 0.54, and Flanker, t (77) = 2.93, p = 0.004, d = 0.22. Controlling for pretest score, gains in shifting were significantly predicted by a measure of game performance in the Alien Game. These findings provide evidence that the Alien Game is having the intended effect of improving EF, and argue that video games can be effective tools for training cognitive skills when they are explicitly designed for this purpose and when a rigorous design approach is used.
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The United Nations estimates that as of late 2014 over 3.5 million people had fled the civil war raging in Syria—of whom, 1.25 million were children. This paper examines the educational and mental health needs of Syrian children currently living as refugees. It starts with a brief outline of the historical roots of the conflict and how the progression of the conflict led to increasing numbers of refugees. It then looks at how the international community is addressing the pressing needs of Syrian refugees, particularly young children, both within refugee camps and among resettled people. It compares the situation of countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey who neighbor Syria and have taken the bulk of Syrian refugees, with steps taken by Western countries to help children displaced by the conflict. The paper also provides a review of the educational and mental health risks faced by Syrian refugee children. It describes how children in refugee camps encounter various disruptions and barriers to adequate education, with reference to research on the costs of interrupted education, and then discusses the high levels of PTSD, depression and anxiety among Syrian refugee children. Particular focus is given to a study by Sirin et al. conducted in Turkey to assess the levels of trauma and mental health distress experienced by children in refugee camps there. The paper concludes by reviewing intervention programs in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, and providing recommendations for best practices.
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Empirical evidence on the association between the shifting component of executive functioning and academic performance is equivocal. In two meta-analyses children's shifting ability is examined in relation to their perfor-mance in math (k=18, N = 2330) and reading (k=16, N = 2266). Shifting ability was significantly and equally associated with performance in both math (r=.26, 95% CI=.15–.35) and reading (r=.21, 95% CI=.11–.31). Intelligence was found to show stronger associations with math and reading performance than shifting ability. We conclude that the links between shifting ability, academic skills, and intelligence are domain-general.
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Jeannette Wing’s influential article on computational thinking 6 years ago argued for adding this new competency to every child’s analytical ability as a vital ingredient of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning. What is computational thinking? Why did this article resonate with so many and serve as a rallying cry for educators, education researchers, and policy makers? How have they interpreted Wing’s definition, and what advances have been made since Wing’s article was published? This article frames the current state of discourse on computational thinking in K–12 education by examining mostly recently published academic literature that uses Wing’s article as a springboard, identifies gaps in research, and articulates priorities for future inquiries.
The objective of the present study was to determine whether it is possible to design a video game that could help students improve their executive function skill of shifting between competing tasks, and the conditions under which playing the game would lead to improvements on cognitive tests of shifting. College students played a custom video game, Alien Game, which required the executive function skill of shifting between competing tasks. When students played for 2 hours over 4 sessions they developed significantly better performance on cognitive shifting tests compared to a control group that played a different game (d = 0.62), but not when they played for 1 hour over 2 sessions. Students who played Alien Game at a high level of challenge (i.e., reaching a high level in the game) developed significantly better performance on cognitive shifting tests compared to controls when they played for 2 hours (Experiment 1, d = 1.44), but not when they played for 1 hour (Experiment 2). Experiment 3 replicated the results of Experiment 1 using an inactive control group, showing that playing Alien Game for 2 hours resulted in significant improvements in shifting skills (d = 0.78). Results show the effectiveness of playing a custom-made game that focuses on a specific executive function skill for sufficient time at an appropriate level of challenge. Results support the specific transfer of general skills theory, in which practice of a cognitive skill in a game context transferred to performance on the same skill in a non-game context.
Background Childhood anxiety is a global mental health concern. Interventions are needed that are effective, but also cost less, are more accessible and engage children long enough to build emotional resilience skills through practice. Methods The present randomized controlled study aimed to examine the prevention effects of a neurofeedback video game, MindLight, developed based on evidence-based practices with anxious youth. Over 750 children (7-13 years old) in elementary schools were screened for elevated anxiety; 136 selected children were randomly assigned to play Mindlight or a control game. Self- and parent-reported anxiety was assessed at pre-, post-intervention and 3-month follow up. Results/conclusions Intent-to-treat analyses revealed an overall significant reduction in child- and parent-reported anxiety, but the magnitude of improvements did not differ between conditions. Future research comparing MindLight to cognitive-behavioral interventions is suggested, as well as testing a range of specific (e.g., exposure) and non-specific (e.g., expectations, motivation) therapeutic factors as mediators of outcomes.
Introduction This research aims at examining the relationship between anxiety, depression, and hopelessness among nonclinical Kuwaiti sample using Beck Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression, and hopelessness inventories. Objectives highlighting the relationship between anxiety, depression, and hopelessness among nonclinical sample of females and males and the common factor/s. Methods The participants were 616 (308 females & 308 males), Kuwait University students. The two genders were matched in age (18.15 ± 0.36 & 18.18 ± 0.38, t = 0.94, P > .05) and BMI (24.12 ± 3.27 & 23.50 ± 4.85, t = 0.54, P > 0.5). The Arabic versions of the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II), the Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS), and demographic surveys were administered to participants during classes. All participants read and signed a consent form before participating. The correlation matrices, exploratory factor analysis, and reliability analysis are used in this study. Results Internal consistency of scores were satisfactory for the BAI, BDI-II, & BHS inventories respectively (Cronbach's alpha (M) = 0.88, 0.75, 0.74 & (F) = 0.89, 0.84, 0.88). A correlation of (r = 0.53) between the BAI and BDI-II and (r = 0.43) with BHS. Meanwhile a correlation of (r = 0.58) between BDI-II & BHS. A principal-axis factor analysis with oblique rotation suggested one factor accounting for 67.73% of the common variance. Conclusion The results indicate that there is a strong relationship between anxiety, depression and hopelessness. This highlights the important of examining common factors between anxiety, depression and hopelessness among nonclinical sample.
In this article we argue that to study or apply games as learning environments, multiple perspectives have to be taken into account. We first define game-based learning and gamification, and then discuss theoretical models that describe learning with games, arguing that playfulness is orthogonal to learning theory. We then review design elements of games that facilitate learning by fostering learners' cognitive, behavioral, affective, and sociocultural engagement with the subject matter. Finally, we discuss the basis of these design elements in cognitive, motivational, affective, and sociocultural foundations by reviewing key theories from education and psychology that are the most pertinent to game-based learning and by describing empirical research on learning with games that has been or should be conducted. We conclude that a combination of cognitive, motivational, affective, and sociocultural perspectives is necessary for both game design and game research to fully capture what games have to offer for learning.