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Opening Teaching to Play

Today I am delivering a short session as part of the Open University’s pre-conference development workshop for scholars of Critical Management Studies, aimed specifically at early career researchers and PhD students. I’m particularly excited about being able to present, side-by-side, games promoting social change from 2018 (Who’s She by Playeress), and from 1908 (Suffrageto, sold by the WSPU).

Gamification is a current popular trend in HE. While there are many examples of poor or even unethical gamification, research has indicated that games offer a productive mechanism for cognitive learning, and even that the affective potential of games can help students develop valued graduate attributes. Drawing on Huizinga’s (1932) argument that play precedes culture, we can also identify playful behaviour within a wide variety of seemingly sacred social contexts (e.g. law courts), and particularly in the development of knowledge through wordplay and social competition. Office politics or the ‘game playing’ of career oriented behaviour is one such example! The way in which scholars publish, critique and challenge each other’s ideas to advance knowledge is an advanced form of this game-playing instinct.

So why should we keep games out of the classroom? Many teaching contexts continue to rely on information delivery based on talk and writing, with perhaps some limited discussion. This is then supported by independent learning using a variety of techniques, which may be supported or unsupported by institutional training. While many students have become highly proficient in this method through prior experience, it does not come naturally. By contrast, playing games does. The main challenge to such adoption lies in discovering or developing games which promote the designed learning outcomes. I call these ‘intended gaming outcomes’.

Follow the links if you would like to download the slides and handouts from the session.