Learner engagement in digital game-based vocabulary learning and its effects on EFL vocabulary development

Ruofei ZHANG, Di ZOU*, Gary CHENG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Learners tend to engage in task-based language learning from behavioural, cognitive, and emotional dimensions, and their engagement has overall positive influences on language development. Recently, digital game-based vocabulary learning (DGBVL) has been increasingly investigated and implemented. However, research remained insufficient on how learners engaged in DGBVL and how their engagement influenced their vocabulary knowledge. Since an in-depth understanding of learner engagement is essential for designing language learning tasks, it appears valuable to research this topic in DGBVL. Hence, we developed a DGBVL programme and conducted a mixed-method study to explore learner engagement therein and its effects on vocabulary development. Fifty Chinese EFL university students participated in the programme, completing pre-post-delayed vocabulary tests, questionnaires and interviews. Their eye movements during DGBVL were collected via a Tobii eye-tracker. The findings indicated learners’ overall active engagement in DGBVL behaviourally, cognitively, and emotionally. The three dimensions of engagement in DGBVL had different patterns, fluctuating degrees, and interdependent relationships. Statistically significant, positive effects of learner engagement in DGBVL were identified on vocabulary development, while engagement from different dimensions had different influences. Based on the results, we analysed the mechanism underlying learner engagement and the interactions among the three dimensions of learner engagement in DGBVL.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103173
Pages (from-to)103173
Early online date20 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Digital game-based learning
  • Educational game
  • EFL learning
  • Eye-tracking
  • Technology-enhanced language learning
  • Vocabulary learning


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