This guest post comes from Denise Lindstrom, a teacher education professor at West Virginia University and an editor of the Journal of Digital Learning and Teacher Education. This is her second entry in a series of posts about incorporating games in teacher education (First Post Here).
I found out about a game that has been developed at the MIT Teaching Systems Lab called Committee of N. Committee of N was designed as a way for education students to learn about education theories, the history of American schooling and instructional approaches. Here are the four domains covered by the game.
- Theories of Intelligence (i.e., Theory of Multiple Intelligences)
- Purposes of Schooling (i.e.,Elite College Prep, Student Achievement)
- Theories of Learning (i.e., Behaviorism, Constructionism)
- Instructional Approaches (i.e.Flipped Classroom, Design-Based Learning)
Normally students learn about these topics by reading about them. In Committee of N, preservice teachers learn about these topics as they work in teams to design a school using randomly chosen cards from categories that represent a different aspect of schooling. Each card has quotes that represents the concept, and it is up to the teams to research and learn about the ideas in order to design their school.
My observations and interactions with student during game-play indicated that Committee of N helped to achieve my goal of providing preservice teachers with a playful learning experience to cultivate their interest to learn more about educational theories and instructional approaches. However, to determine the success of my implementation of Committee of N and I needed to investigate the experience from the perspective of preservice teachers. So I asked them to respond to the following prompt:
If I were to use Committee of N again for an learning segment designed to introduce and develop preservice teachers understanding of educational theories and instructional approaches, what should I do differently? Specifically, at what point do you think it would be best to Play Committee of N? Why?
After reading and rereading student responses to the prompt several themes emerged.
Theme 1: Student enjoyed playing Committee of N (13/19).
I liked being able to work with a partner and create something." "It was motivating to research/discover the philosophies and terms for ourselves." "I liked playing Committee of N first and then moving to teaching philosophies."
Theme 2: Committee of N helped them learn about educational theories and instructional approaches (11/19)
“I felt it provided a lot of helpful information and a greater understanding of all the processes involved in teaching and designing a classroom setting. Doing the research on my own did help me to understand the material a bit better.”
“The exploring aspect of Committee of N was a good way to introduce the theoretical side of learning and how theories are incorporated into designing schools (I hadn’t really given that topic much thought before). The game helped me get a foundation for writing my teaching philosophy.Active researching and learning what the different theories and terms meant.Connecting the ideas to form coherent principles regarding the particulars of school operation.”
“I think that overall Committee of N was good for starting the discussion about educational philosophy and teaching models, as well as how they can be applied in a school and how they can work together.”
Theme 3: Most students felt they needed more information about educational theories and instructional models PRIOR to playing the game (16/19).
More specifically, some students stated they felt lost or confused:
I did not have much prior knowledge about these topics, so I felt slightly lost but I feel having a little more background, or at least some resources given to understand the material, would have been helpful." "It was confusing to play the game without knowing anything about it, but we figured it out fairly quickly. It's ok to play it first, We were all very confused and had no idea what we were doing!" "Also, I think it was confusing to use the word "game." I didn't fully know we were playing the game when it started because I was expecting an interactive game with peers in the class." "A couple of the times, I felt like we were just kind of making up what we thought the definition meant instead of actually knowing what the concept was." "It took me a while, however, to realize this was the purpose of the game, and maybe this was your intention."
Others indicated that it was too hard or time consuming to look up information on their own or make connections between concepts:
I think the game would have been easier for me to play and understand if I was taught what the theories/philosophies mean before playing the game." "I felt like we spent too much time looking those up while playing the game and then looking them up again when we made mistakes when using them the first time around." "I just wish I would have had a little bit more specific background information.I think it would have been easier to jump in and see connections between the different aspects of the game." "Our team spent most of our time researching what the terms meant, and not constructing our school designs. If there were articles to read or brief summaries of the terms that we could have accessed before playing the game, I think that would have made the game more enjoyable and more productive in the learning process." "I had a hard time with the game because I did not have prior knowledge of many of the theories and concepts. I had to constantly look up definitions, and that took away from actually playing the game." "....trying to teach ourselves some of the trickier concepts by googling didn't always go so well." "I felt like a lot of our time as a group was spent researching the topics themselves instead of considering how they fit with the other concepts, which was probably where the designers wanted more of the focus to be. Even providing a generic glossary with a bit of background would have been helpful to reference so that someone who picked up the game for the first time would have this to refer to."
One complained that the game did not help them “memorize” information:
Going further, I still feel like I need more experience with the theories and models. I still have to look up the definitions and read examples."
One student response implied that having to look up information on one’s own was an indication of disorganization on the part of the instructor:
I think it would have been a little more organized if we would have had more information before we started playing the game." "I was surprised to learn students experienced these kinds of frustrations during game play. But I am intrigued by the contradiction in students perceptions that learning THROuGH the game was effective and an aversion to the time consuming and sometimes frustrating process that often accompanies self-directed learning."
According to (Gee 2004) good games for learning are characterized by providing players with a pleasantly frustrating experience (Gee, 2004). If preservice teachers are going to adopt game-based learning in their future teaching practice it is essential that preservice teachers develop positive attitudes about game-based learning. The driving question for my next implementation of Committee of N is:
How can I scaffold student knowledge about educational theories and instructional approaches to provide a better balance between teacher guidance and self-directed learning in my next implementation of Committee of N?
The opinions expressed in EdTech Researcher are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.