Artefact Five – Games-Based Learning

Rationale

I have included this artefact because it shows the importance of proper planning and staff involvement in bringing about change towards more student-centred learning at the school level. It also shows how games-based learning (GBL) can be used effectively in the classroom.

This artefact links with the following teaching standards (NSW Institute of Teachers, 2005):
3.1.2    Plan and implement coherent lessons and lesson sequences that are designed to engage students and address learning outcomes.
3.1.5    Demonstrate knowledge and use of a range of strategies to assess student achievement of learning outcomes.
4.1.5    Use a range of teaching strategies and resources including ICT and other technologies to foster interest and support learning.

Context

My artefact above is a resource from Year 8 Quest, which was a “middle school”-style combination of science and history. Over the past few years at my practicum school, they had been undergoing a radical paradigm shift towards more authentic student-centred learning. As part of this, the Year 8 teaching team were implementing the teaching approach of games-based-learning (GBL) for a history unit on the Incas called The Land of Blood and Gold. As a part of this arrangement I was required to teach this unit, even though history is clearly outside my KLA of science.

The scenario was that the Incas unit would be modelled on a board game, involving the ‘game board’ shown in the image above. These Year 8 students would use their personal digital device (PDD) to log in to the school’s Moodle portal and access the tasks via the game board, where each icon or image is a link to a task that the students had to complete. At the start of the unit, the students were given a paper copy of the game board and they had to get each task stamped off as they completed it. When they completed the tasks from Start to Finish (which involved two ‘routes’ that the students could choose from) and submitted their work from each task as part of their assessment, they would be eligible to take part in the treasure hunt that would take place at the end of the term.

Analysis/Research/Reflection

Games-based learning (GBL) is an approach that seeks to incorporate particular elements of gaming (whether video games or board games) into the classroom (Gros, 2007). Some of these elements include an overall theme, individual quests and ‘boss’ levels, incentives (e.g. badges, tokens, points), trial and error and role-playing (Miller, 2011). High-quality GBL lessons “… (1) transform a person from a passive recipient to an empowered actor, (2) they transform content from information that the learner has to remember to a tool that the learner can use to accomplish desired ends, and (3) they transform context from an assurance that ‘this knowledge will be relevant in the future’ to a present reality that responds to the learner’s actions” (Barab, Gresalfi, & Arici, 2009, p. 78).

On reflection, I am unsure of how many of these elements of GBL were actually used in this unit. At times it appeared to be more of a board game-inspired collection of relatively low level tasks. I believe that some students’ engagement may have had more to do with the incentives or the challenge than with meaningful learning. Having said this, the students were engaged and it was certainly better than a more teacher-centered alternative.

In general, I believe that the use of GBL was successful as a part of the school-wide change towards student-centred learning. I believe that the implementation strategy was very well planned out, as there were regular team meetings to check our progress and get feedback on what was and wasn’t working successfully. The students engaged well with the student-centred tasks, as they could decide which tasks to do in what order and work at their own pace. Some students did struggle with being self-directed whereas other students seemed reluctant to fully participate. I believe that this will become less of an issue as the students become more familiar with how the student-centred classroom operates. For the first time that GBL was used with these students, I believe that this was successful overall.

Conclusion

As a result of participating in this unit, I learned that school- or year-wide change needs to be managed properly, with staff brought on board early and involved in the planning as much as possible. I also saw that the extent to which students readily adopt the change to more student-centred learning depends on the quality of the tasks that they are asked to do. I also learned that high-quality games-based learning (GBL) is a useful teaching approach to adopt in the classroom.

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