Gamification and PBL

Gamification is, most simply, the use of game elements and game-like learning in non game settings with the goal of improving learning and outcomes. Problem Based Learning (PBL) is a similar idea that engages learners in real-world problems to encourage deeper learning, with the goal of improving learning and outcomes. In both cases, the similar emphasis is clear, how can we help students learn better, learn more effectively. In both cases I also wonder how can we help students critically reflect on that learning so they know the type of learning they’ve accomplished.

Yesterday during our beginning of the year convocation the Dean of CAL mentioned that our goal in Humanities is not to help students write better so they can be industry leaders in X, Y, Z, devolving the humanities to a school room for future factory workers, but to continue to help students engage in critical thinking – critical thinking skills that are necessary for industry to continue, to innovate, to move forward, to make the world a better place. Our mission in engaging in discussions about professional development is not to tell students how to get jobs, necessarily, but to help make them aware of the thinking they’re comfortable with, and how that approach to learning and thinking makes them the best candidate for the job of their dreams. While I’m expanding on the Dean’s ideas here, his focus on critical thinking and critical engagement had me self-reflecting on my new course designs for Fall 2015.

I teach a Principles of Rhetoric class that i’ve gamified, I teach a Rhetoric Capstone that I’ve designed quests and gamification for, and I teach a Graduate level Participatory Culture and Social Media course that I’ve gamified and designed PBL for their final project. In each of these cases I’ve taken steps to incorporate the gamification in a way that integrates with the course and doesn’t seem forced. The next step in this thinking, especially for the upper division courses, is how to help students reflect on learning, so they can discuss their learning and problem-solving skills in resumes, cover letters and job interviews. The quests and problems become demonstrated examples and situations where students were tasked with solving problems, on student budgets which means with little to no money expended. This is the type of thinking almost all companies appreciate and want.

As I finalize my course syllabi, I’m building in final reflective papers, to ask students what they think they learned, and what they think they can do with this learning. My next step is to find a way to incorporate this question into the curriculum at various points to ensure students understand  and receive feedback on their discussion of learning and their demonstration of learning through discussion. I think a goal within humanities should be this reflective piece. How do we include reflective spaces within our curriculums to help students become aware of learning, and their own critical thinking? How do we make this meaningful to students? How do we then get industry jobs to take this idea seriously, to see the value in humanities students for their companies?

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