LinkedIn emplea cookies para mejorar la funcionalidad y el rendimiento de nuestro sitio web, así como para ofrecer publicidad relevante. Si continúas navegando por ese sitio web, aceptas el uso de cookies. Consulta nuestras Condiciones de uso y nuestra Política de privacidad para más información.
LinkedIn emplea cookies para mejorar la funcionalidad y el rendimiento de nuestro sitio web, así como para ofrecer publicidad relevante. Si continúas navegando por ese sitio web, aceptas el uso de cookies. Consulta nuestra Política de privacidad y nuestras Condiciones de uso para más información.
Using Board Games to teach 21st Century Skills in the Classroom
Using Board Games to teach 21st
Century Skills in the Classroom
Jeet Samarth Raut
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Masters of Arts
Instructional Technology and Media
As the industrial revolution model of education grows more and more outdated,
measures must be taken in schools to insure that they deliver more useful skills in an
engaging manner (O’Rourke, Rahman, and Taylor, 2007). Needing to prepare
students to the demands of a more knowledge based economy; new educational
standards were introduced, known as the Common Core (Porter, McMaken, Hwang,
Yang, 2011). Forty-four states have adopted the common core model. With such
widespread acceptance, there is a window of opportunity to scientifically test new
methods of instruction across schools of differing resource levels. With the new
Common Core standards finally emphasizing 21st century skills such as
communication, collaboration, and problem solving, schools have to also find ways of
teaching soft skills, which employers are currently focused on (Dede, 2009). Board
games are a tool that addresses many of the Common Core skills in a financially
viable, and accessible way.
An efficient implementation of board games as educational intervention would
take place in 5th
grade public classrooms in states that are employing the
Common Core standard. The Social Studies Common Core standards for 5th
graders (early American history, and ancient world history accordingly) afford content
skinning onto a board game that would allow it to feel like a natural game and not
“chocolate covered broccoli”(Linehan et al., 2011). This is important to make the
engagement of the board game highly motivational, and not simply a guise of a
standard educational activity with a thin game layer placed over it.
By using a board game, we can teach communication, collaboration, and
problem solving in an engaging way (Pöllänen and Vartiainen, 2011). The game itself
would take about 40 minutes to an hour to play. It could be easily integrated in a
lesson plan, or be a stand-alone activity when children would have free time. The
physical aspects of the board game would be diminutive to save space, and would
minimize the number of necessary components to allow quicker set-up and take-down.
A group of 4 students would be able to play the game in the space of a small table. It
would be a collaborative game, so the children would have to work together to achieve
the game goals. By pairing the board games along with other activities in a learning
unit, the teacher could form a complete multimodal curriculum (Moreno and Mayer,
2007). In terms of technical requirements, the board game would require very few. A
video explaining the game to the teacher will allow the teacher to teach the students
how to play the game more efficiently, and rules cards will also be included to
minimize the amount of potential rules questions the students may have. A video
would also enable the teacher to see ways of qualitatively grading the communication
aspect of the game, as well as demonstrating the game’s place within the history
curriculum. The teacher would go around to students and make sure that they were
trying to play correctly. It would be played after a corresponding history lesson during
regular class time, and could be played many times
The primary learning goals would revolve around the 21st century skills of
communication, collaboration, and problem solving (Dede, 2009). Since many low and
middle cognitive level tasks have been automated and computerized, many new jobs
in the economy focus on these tasks, it’s important to focus on them in primary
education. While 21st century skills as a whole is a buzzword, there are specific skills
that the Common Core standard is hoping to address. Being able to parse complex
situations is becoming a more necessary skill, so complex analysis is important to
ensure longevity in the workforce. Each of the 3 Common Core skills (communication,
collaboration, problem solving) could be evaluated separately. Beyond the scope of k-
12 education, professional development specialists are currently using games to
improve the communication, collaboration, and problem solving skills of managers in
the workplace (Wust & Kuppinger, 2012). Providing an earlier exposure to these
games will benefit students entering the workforce in interview activities such as case
The secondary learning goals of the game revolve around the social studies
content. By forcing the students to move beyond a simple understanding of historical
events, and into complex ones, it will better address the social studies literacy
Common Core standards (Common Core, 2012). Beyond the 21st
century skills and
the content, the greatest affordance that a board game offers is engagement, and in
turn, motivation. Social cognitive theory describes that learners use cues from others,
especially their peers, in their environment, as opposed to purely autonomous actions.
Modeling their behavior on the behavior of others motivates them to be involved, in
order to avoid out-group exclusion (Pintrich, 1992). Another motivational model that is
applied in the study of games is the ARCS model (Keller, 1987). Attention, Relevance,
Confidence, and Satisfaction are a central part of any well-designed game the blends
content with mechanics and dynamics. Games can also empower their players and let
them know that they can overcome challenges in a risk free environment (Dweck,
2008). The effects of games on low SES students are especially profound, where
games have shown to increase working memory (Mackey et al., 2011). These
combined factors make board games a motivational method of instruction for 21st
While there are educational board games that already do exist, most are not
interesting to the students, and focus more on attempting to purely teach content.
Focusing on 21st century skills, the mechanics and dynamics of how the children
interact is the highest priority. There are some popular resource management board
games that could potentially be used for education. Settlers of Catan is a very popular
resource management game where players have to collaborate in order to compete
with each other. The objective of the game is to gather victory points through a variety
of different tasks. Having goals that don’t require one strategy allows players to
evaluate different strategies and weigh options more than more familiar games such
as Monopoly (Lorenzo, 2013). Settlers of Catan is also has some distractors; mainly
that it can take a considerable amount of time to play. With games lasting up to 3
hours in length, it is not ideal for a classroom. Some of the strategies can also be fairly
complicated as well. Having a game that delivers similar mechanics and dynamics as
Settlers of Catan, but would be quicker to play and easier to understand, would be
more realistic for the classroom. A shorter game would also keep the children
engaged for a longer period of time. An engaging, history themed board game that
required it’s players to communicate, collaborate, and be efficient at problem solving,
would be an helpful way to tackle the mission of the Common Core.
The common core history requirement for middle-schoolers focuses on
American History, as well as ancient Western history. For the first game, ancient
Western history (Greco-Roman from 600 B.C. to 400 A.D.) will be the backdrop of the
game. The goal of the game is to make the ruler of the city as happy as possible
through appeasement. Players will collaborate and compete to gather appeasement
points (similar to victory points in Settlers of Catan) by constructing buildings. While
they manage their resources and laborers, they will also have to deal with major
events that take place during the time (wars, droughts, diseases, etc.) to understand
the severity of those events.
Board games are a great medium of education for teaching communication,
collaboration, and problem solving. They intrinsically require the aforementioned skills,
so it comes across as natural, and not a forced exercise. Children are also familiar
with board games.
The board game is a collaborative/competitive resource management (German-
style board game. German style board games offer players different win conditions,
and often encourage player collaboration. This is different from many board games
found in the United States(Monopoly, Risk)
The media that the activity will be delivered through is a board game. As stated in the
analysis section, board games offer a low cost and accessible method of interactions
that isn’t dependent on the technological specifications of a classroom. The game will
consist of a board, laborer tokens, resource cards, and event cards. The game could
be bundled with publisher’s textbooks as an additional activity in a learning unit.
The created game will be called Acropolis. Each of the players plays as a
Greek businessman who is trying to build as many buildings as possible to win the
favor of the city ruler. The game will make use of the MDA framework, and as such
can be summarized as having the following characteristics divided within the three
different categories of the framework:
- Mechanics: dealing, resource distribution, project undertaking and completion,
- Dynamics: negotiation, collaboration, sharing and cooperation.
- Aesthetics: project/investment failure, long and short term planning
Acropolis employs various motivational models (ARCS, social cognitive theory),
as well as various principles, which create good games (Gee, 2005).
First, identity. In Acropolis, each player becomes the manager of multiple resources,
trying to finish construction projects. This empowers the player to stand by their
decisions, and also motivates students who may feel as though they are not given as
much attention in class (Oyserman, 2009).
Second, interaction. In order to accomplish projects, players inevitably negotiate
and cooperate. While players watch each other’s resources and search for common
ground, abundant interaction is necessary to win the game. This combination of
communication and collaboration is vital component of the game, and addresses 2 of
Third, risk taking. Acropolis incorporates this element into the game through the
placement of laborers (which are sources of resources) by paying them with money.
For example, a player can place all of his/her laborers to metal, stone or wood, thus
becoming a more specialized producer in that area. By doing so, the player might be
able to acquire a higher ground position during negotiations depending on which fields
other players place their laborers. Players receive additional laborers throughout the
game to allow for a change of strategy and adaptation to the current dynamics of the
game: alliances, conflicts of interests, or other situations that arise throughout the
game. Investment in projects that cannot be completed on a single round also
incorporate a risk-taking factor. This element was crucial to our design, as it
represents one of the main problems within the construction world which we are trying
to address, i.e. that of miscommunication and lack of planning when taking on projects,
and the wasting of resources that this leads to, as players have a limited amount of
time to complete projects (maximum of four rounds). Risk taking and planning
addresses the final 21st
skill of problem solving.
Fourth, agency. Each player allocates human capital (i.e. laborers) to the
resources, which that player deems most important. By investing resources in projects,
players make those projects their own.
Fifth, freedom. Beyond the basic mechanics of the game, what makes the
and interesting are the dynamics that arise during the negotiation phase. Players are
faced with the freedom to failure through incomplete projects. Eric Zimmerman's
theory on stylized behavior describes how the rules in a game stylize the actions and
behaviors of players in a peculiar way. So Players have the freedom to play as selfish,
or as giving as they want (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004).
Each separate Age brings forth new manipulations to both laborers and
resources. This is to represent the introduction of new technologies and make players
adapt their strategies so that a single linear strategy won’t always garner the most
“Emergency” cards were included as a way to simulate unexpected or pressing
matters that must be addressed (e.g. natural catastrophes, foreign invasion, lack of
food) in the real world, some of which have direct consequences on players, such as
loss of laborers or resources. Players often do not have enough resources, but the
problem has to be solved. This is where negotiation dynamics become very important.
Players can negotiate cooperatively, or competitively while balancing to cooperate for
common good, and compete for individual success. The goal of this game is to win the
most appeasement point (which represent public good). This is how Acropolis
addresses the premise of managing organizations for common good.
While playing Acropolis, players are also faced with “mandatory” projects, which
they must complete before moving on with other projects. Facing various problems to
solve, players negotiate and cooperate, and sometimes face conflict between public
interest and maximizing their own benefit. Through this process, players learn about
the hurdles of management and collaboration.
The design of the game is currently taking place. Research must be done on
the specific history content that the common core follows in order to incorporate that
information into the game. After that, playtesting the game with board gamers in
Learnplay to see if the mechanics are solid and unbreakable. Afterwards,
implementation into classroom and other learning environments will be key to
understanding if the game has widespread classroom merit.
Acropolis will be created in the same manner that other games are created; an
extensive iterative game creation process that has many checks along the way to
ensure that the final product is effective and desirable. This is especially important for
educational games, particularly in the content area.
The history teacher will lecture about history as they normally would. After the lecture,
one group of 4 students would be taught the game, while the rest of the class would
perform their regular learning activities. The teacher would help with the first turn of
the game, and the students could take over to finish the game after that in about 30
minutes. The following day, a different group of students would be able to play. The
game would be simple enough to understand and play through quickly. By rotating
different educational activities(including the game), different aspects (the 21st
skills, historical content) can be learned more efficiently(Moreno and Mayer, 2007).
The game would be a piece in an overall history curriculum, with a bulk of the other
activities and instruction curated by a major textbook publisher(Kaplan, Pearson,
Evaluation would first begin with playtesting the game. After testing the game with
older experienced board gamers, playtesting would continue extensively with children
to make sure that the rules are easy to grasp, and that the game could easily be
played and completed in the standard class activity time. Students would have to rate
how engaging they found the game. After comparing the pre-test and the post-test
between a control group who does a more standard history activity (role-play,
worksheets) and the experimental group (playing the board game), running multiple
regression analyses comparing the amount both groups felt engaged with the test
scores. In terms of measuring 21st
century skills (collaboration, communication,
problem solving), it would be up to the teacher to do an observational evaluation.
Students could rate each other on collaboration; by acknowledging the other player
they felt was the most helpful. A key mechanic of the game distributes extra points at
the end of the game given by the players on who they thought was helpful. This
serves as a way to measure collaboration. Since the game minimizes luck, the
player’s score at the end of the game could be a measurement of problem solving
skills. The Teacher would have to observe the negotiation mechanic between the
players to qualitatively rate each student’s communication skill.
With the introduction of the Common Core requiring that 21st
century skills be
taught in classrooms, new methods of teaching involving content, 21st
and ways to motivate students become very valuable. Board games provide a
possible solution to address all three simultaneously. A quickly playable, engaging
board game that ties content with strategy is desirable. Content pre and post-tests
provide a direct method of testing if students are learning the educational material,
while teacher evaluations of student’s interactions provide a method of evaluating 21st
century skills. Teachers would implement the game after they finish lecturing as one of
several educational activities. This provides a new method of teaching and engaging
students material. The limitation of the project is that it requires significant user testing,
and training for teachers to ensure it’s implemented properly.
Allery L.A. (2004) Educational games and structured experiences. Medical
Teacher, 26(6), 504–505.
Black, J.B., Khan, S., & Huang, D. (2013) Video games as perceptually grounding
experiences to enhance formal learning. In F. C. Blumberg (Ed.) Learning by
playing: Frontiers of Video Gaming in Education. New York: Oxford University
Callios, R. Man, Play, and Games University of Illinois Press, 2001
Chase, C.C. (2012). The interplay of chance and skill: Exploiting a common game
mechanic to enhance learning and persistence. Proceedings of the 2012
International Conference of the Learning Sciences
Common core state standards for English language arts & literacy in history/social
studies, science, and technical subjects. Common Core Standards Initiative,
Dweck, C. (2008). Mindsets and math/science achievement. New York, NY:Carnegie
Corp. of New York–Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics
and Science Education
Garris, R., Ahlers, R. and Driskell, J. (2002). Games, motivation and learning: a
research and practice model. Simulation and Gaming, 33: 441-467
Gee, J. P. (2004). Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines.
Interactive Educational Multimedia, 8, 15-23.
Gee, J.P. (2008). Video games and embodiment. Games and Culture, 3, 253-263.
Gee, J.P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New
York: Palgrave Macmillan
Keller, J. M. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of instructional
design. Journal of instructional development, 10(3), 2-10.
Linehan, C., Kirman, B., Lawson, S., & Chan, G. (2011). Practical, appropriate,
empirically-validated guidelines for designing educational games. In Proceedings
of CHI ‘11.
Mackey, A. P., Hill, S. S., Stone, S. I., & Bunge, S. A. (2011). Differential effects of
reasoning and speed training in children. Developmental Science, 14, 582–590.
Miller, L. M., Chang, C.-I., Wang, S., Beier, M. E., & Klisch, Y. (2011). Learning and
motivational impacts of a multimedia science game. Computers & Education,
Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. (2007). Interactive multimodal learning environments.
Educational Psychology Review, 19(3), 309-326.
Oyserman, D. (2009). Identity-based motivation and consumer behavior. Journal of
Consumer Psychology, 19(3), 276–279
Pintrich, P. R., & Schrauben, B. (1992). Students’ motivational beliefs and their
cognitive engagement in classroom academic tasks. Student perceptions in the
Pöllänen, S. & Vartiainen, L. (2011). A textile-based learning game as a design
challenge: A learning by design project in teacher education. Problems of
Education in the 21st Century, 33, 50–61.
Ramani, G. B., & Siegler, R. S. (2008). Promoting broad and stable improvements in
low-income children’s numerical knowledge through playing number board
games. Child Development, 79, 375–394.
Taatgen, N. A., Huss, D., & Anderson, J. R. (2006). How cognitive models can inform
the design of instructions. In Proceedings of the Seventh International
Conference on Cognitive Modeling (pp. 304-309).
Wust, K. & Kuppinger, B. (2012) Is everything just a game? From the discrete to the
continuous time modeling of corporate strategy games Journal of Management
Control, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp. 211-228
Veracini, Lorenzo. (2013) Settlers of Catan. Settler Colonial Studies 3.1 131-133.
Zagal, J., Rick, J., & Hsi, I. (2006). Collaborative games: Lessons learned from board
games. Simulation & Gaming, 37, 24-40.