Esports Is Proven to Help High School Students Achieve Better Grades and Attendance

Unique ‘Gaming Concepts’ coursework boosts GPA averages by 1.4 Points, harnessing students’ passion for video games and turning it into cross-curricular academic success.

It’s everywhere. On the TV, radio, and in newspapers about how video-games are the bane of modern society. Video-games are constantly scrutinized and blamed for horrendous crimes like mass shootings, to name but one. President Donald Trump delivered a statement recently in the wake of the tragic mass shooting that killed 20 people in El Paso, Texas in which he stated that “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society — this includes the gruesome and grizzly video games that are now commonplace,” Trump said. “It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence… We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately.”

As most gamers know, video-games do not cause violence – it’s an easy avenue to take for those who fear what they don’t understand. It’s a simpler method for those who don’t seek to educate themselves in the facts, but rather follow blindly to the beat of a fear-mongering media. Thankfully, High School Esports League (HSEL) and their new video game-centric curriculum are hoping to change that perception and show how video-games can drastically enrich students lives in the classrooms with their studies and also make them want to be at school.

The HSEL’s unique ‘Gaming Concepts’ coursework – in partnership with Microsoft – is developed and piloted by principal Dr. Kristy Custer and teacher Michael Russell at Complete High School Maize in Kansas. The aim of this is designed to teach college-and-career-ready skills and social-emotional learning through the lens of video games and esports, aiming to prepare students for life beyond the classroom — both in-game and off the screen. The curriculum covers a variety of relevant topics and skills, including self-advocacy, personal and social behaviors, interpersonal communication, fluency in technology, and strategy development.

What Dr. Kristy Custer and teacher Michael Russell have discovered through this incredibly insightful program, as well as being the largest and longest-running competitive gaming organization serving high school students, is that esports provided a noticeable positive impact on students’ overall engagement and academic performance. Wanting to take things further, Custer and Russell constructed a semester-long elective course to which they witnessed students who took the course average 1.4 points of GPA improvement and 95 percent or better attendance. This only goes to prove that there’s strong and substantial evidence that video games and esports places a positive factor in the lives of students, even more so in an academic environment.

Mason Mullenioux, co-founder and CEO of High School Esports League states that “We’ve known for a long time that bringing students’ passion for games into a supportive, educational environment can be transformative for kids who otherwise might be disengaged or left behind. HSEL Gaming Concepts is further proof, and we can’t wait to see the impact on students’ lives across the country as it launches on the Microsoft Education Community.”

Dr. Kristy Custer, principal at Complete High School Maize and co-author of the HSEL Gaming Concepts curriculum further discusses the positive impact HSEL has on her students and how beneficial it is – “Students with chronic absenteeism who do not feel a connection to the school especially benefit from esports. Eighty-two percent of students on our team had never participated in an extra-curricular activity prior to offering esports”.

Donald Brinkman, a senior program manager in charge of the Bing Esports team explains that “Esports has tremendous potential, both to inspire students to learn 21st-century skills and also to include many students who have previously been marginalized with respect to competitive activities. The HSEL Gaming Concepts curriculum is designed to teach pro-social and pro-academic behaviors that are positively correlated to better academic performance—all through the lens of esports. We are thrilled to support it.”

For those who are interested in this innovative program, you can receive news and updates from HSEL on Twitter or on Twitch. You can also find a wealth of information over on their official website.

If you’re interested in some further reading on the positivity that surrounds video-games, especially in regards to how it can help in the treatment of mental health issues like depression and anxiety, you can view that article right here.

Rachael Fiddis

Rachael, who is Head of Culture, has been gaming for many years. Some of her favourite video games include The Witcher 3 and The Last of Us but also loves a good indie title. Gaming Culture is where her heart lies and spends many hours sieving through gaming fan art and cosplay displays. Other than gaming, Rachael is a book nerd and music lover.

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