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GAMIFYING THE TEACHING OF THEORY TO UNDERGRADUATE MEDIA STUDENTS.
DR MARCUS LEANING
SCHOOL OF MEDIA AND FILM
UNIVERSITY OF WINCHESTER
This paper details research into the use of games to aid in student learning of theory for undergraduate students on the BA Media Studies programme at the University of Winchester.
WHAT TO DO WITH A PROBLEM LIKE THEORY?
Critical and social theory often presents significant problem for students and lecturers.
• Difficulty in grasping the relevance of the subject :i. To student’s preferred activities – making things;
ii. Expectation of subject – “I didn’t know I had to do this”.
• Difficulty with the complexity or level of abstraction of the subject matter.
• Difficulty with pedagogic practices of extensive and tricky reading and summative assessment performance.
This causes two problems - engaging the student in the material and the students’ performance.
Campbell (1997) identifies two distinct strategies for teaching theory both with advantages, disadvantages and peculiarities:
• Nominalization – theory is taught in discreet courses identified primarily as theory.
• Problematization – theory is integrated into the teaching of other aspects.
Programme Theory in discrete modules / courses.
Theory integrated into topic modules
Focus Often ‘Survey’ in style Applied theory – focus is upon texts or practices rather than theory
Handling of theory Contextualise theoretical developments historically, culturally and socially.
Theory limited to text or practices – not require students to go beyond superficial application.
Method Lecture and seminar, reading.
Advantage / rationale Students need to be introduced directlyto theory otherwisethey will never develop confidence to read it for themselves
Students need theory contextualised through application to help them see its use
Disadvantages A gap between theory and its application.
Never a full engagement with theory
Adaptation of Campbell’s (1997) models of theory teaching.
PERSPECTIVES ON TEACHING THEORY CONTEMPORARY(ISH) BRITISH MEDIA(ISH) EDUCATION
1. Constructivist / Progressive: “Make it ‘real’ / relevant” – take it to them - “Make theory real, using examples that mean something to your students.”
2. Productive: “Put theory in practice” Integrate theory into practical modules.
3. Technological: “Use tablets and social media!” Ipads and Twitter solve everything.
4. Nostalgic: “Make them work” - I had to do it and so should they.
• It is hard stuff - students may find it very difficult and do not do well.
• Seen as irrelevant and student interest is often low.
I wanted to explore classroom activities that make it more interesting, foster engagement and may enhance performance (but not my only goal).
My interest is in actual activities and teaching practices rather than a new perspective or changing what is taught.
EXPLORING MEDIA THEORY / ADVANCED TOPICS IN MEDIA STUDIES
Two 2nd year (level 5) courses to get students theoretically engaged.
Primarily normalization model - lecture / seminar, survey of key theories / topics, summative assessment at end.
After a year I wanted to find a way to raise student engagement with the material – both encourage participation and engagement (with the breadth of material covered on the course) and deepen understanding
I sought to ‘gamify’ learning activities in seminars on one module.
GAMIFICATIONNOTHING THAT IS LEARNED UNDER COMPULSION STAYS WITH THE MIND - DO NOT,
THEN, MY FRIEND, KEEP CHILDREN TO THEIR STUDIES BY COMPULSION BUT BY PLAY.
PLATO, THE REPUBLIC.
Gamification is the use of game mechanics / activities in non-game environments – “The application of gaming metaphors to real life tasks to influence behaviour, improve motivation and enhance engagement” (Marczewski, 2013).
Gamification involves adding a new layer to an existing process that incorporates a new symbolic or ludic meaning above and beyond the merely instrumental activity of the task.
Piano Staircase at the Odenplan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipMib6ejGuo
GAMIFYING THE TEACHING OF THEORY
I did two things:
• Introduced an aspect of gamification to existing formative exercises;
• Actually made games to get them to engage.
LUDIFYING OR GAMIFYING EXISTING SEMINAR ACTIVITIES
Each week had a set reading.
Groups of two to three students had to make a two minute video on the reading and upload it to youtube.
This was shown in the seminar.
Each student in the seminar could award up to 10 marks and a league table was made of the videos with a prize awarded
for the highest scoring.
Formative – light hearted competition.
Position Team Video Score
1 Joseph, Rachel and Katie Postmodernism 7.8
2 Zoe and Beth Feminism 7.4
3 Joseph, Rachel and Katie Marx 7.3
4 Shelby and Lucy Feminism 6.8
5 Harrison and Daryl Class Q and A 6.4
6 Julia, Jamie and LouiseStrinarti mass culture
7 Julia, Jamie and LouiseSymbolic anihilation
GAMES IN SEMINARS
Each seminar incorporated a ‘game’ aspect that would require the students to engage in the reading to a quite extensive degree.
Games were different each week:
• McLuhan cryptic crossword;• Postmodern ‘Choose your own adventure’;• The Amazing Mechanical Baudrillard Pub Quiz Machine• Synoptic ‘University Challenge’.
Big question: did the activities work?
Did adding the ‘gamification’ element to the module improve student engagement and performance?
RESEARCH DESIGNCompared ‘experimental group’ with three control groups.
Experimental group = Exploring media theory in 12/13
Control group 1 = Exploring media theory in 11/12
Control Group 2 = Advanced topics in media studies in 11/12 (same cohort as control group 1 but S2 module)
Control Group 3 = Advanced topics in media studies in 12/13 (same cohort as experimental group 1 but S2 module)
Exploring Media Theory
Control group 1 (N=35) Experimental group (N=27)
Advanced Topics in Media Studies
Control group 2 (N=37) Control group 3 (N=26)
4 instruments used:
1. Comparison of grades.
2. Focus groups on student engagement (part of a University / HEA funded project (FASTEC) conducted by LTDU).
3. Analysis of anonymous module feedback forms.
4. Frequency of essay question selection.
Comparison of arithmetic mean grades:
Experimental group average score is slightly higher than control groups.
11/12 12/13Exploring Media Theory
57.06% 59.43% +2.37%
Advanced Topics in Media Studies
2. FOCUS GROUPS:
Conducted as part of a larger University wide project on the relationship between student assessment and engagement in seminar and online activity.
I parasitically secured the transcripts of the focus groups with each group.
Very revealing (and quite bruising!) about what they thought of the class.
No real criticism of the games and lots of positive comment.
EXPERIMENTAL GROUP -COMMENTS EXPLICITLY RELATED TO THE GAMES:
• “It makes you actually do the work and we always get to use our notes but then you actually review what you’ve learnt last week.”
• “It’s good fun because it’s different to the normal academic way of doing things. You spend so much time in the library reading, to come in and have a bit of fun it’s like ‘Oh yes, let’s do that’.”
• “It’s always a little bit competitive but in a fun way.”
CONTROL GROUP 3• “It helped the information sort of stick in your head a bit more.
Whereas now we’re just left to our own devices to discuss the topic for like half an hour. We sometimes get a bit off track.”
• “Last year [semester 1, 2012] I would actually go through my notes before class, because I knew we would play a game and it would get a bit competitive. This time it’s just discussion in a little group….most of the times the topic swayed off into anything but what we were supposed to talk about.”
3. MODULE FEEDBACK FORMSVery positive about the games from control group:
• “Love the games, makes me do the reading”• “The seminar activities are very entertaining, fun and we end up
learning + recapping”• “The games are great and not what I was expecting”• “The games helped make me do the reading”• “seminars a good reflection on the lecture especially the quiz”• “The choose your own adventure game was hard and I had to go
back over my notes a lot but it was brilliant”• “post modernism story sheet was cool”• “Ha ha university challenge was excellent”• “fun seminars”
No negative comments on the games (though lots on other issues).
4. FREQUENCY OF ESSAY QUESTION SELECTIONEMT 9 QS, ATMS 10 QS
Exploring Media Theory 11-127.40740740740741
Exploring Media Theory 12-13
Advanced Topics in Media Studies 11-12
Advanced Topics in Media Studies 12-13
Students in the experimental group answered a wider and more evenly distributed variety of questions than in other groups take
Using games did result in:
• Slightly higher average scores - • A lot of enjoyment of the games and reported
deeper engagement with reading material – a factor to explain the higher grades?
• Wider selection of questions answered could indicate a broader engagement.
• Lot of work to develop the games however…
Campbell, A. (1997) Teaching Literary Theory to Undergraduates: What Have We Learned? English, 46 (185): 131-159.
Marczewski, A. (2013) Gamification: A Simple Introduction and a bit more, Amazon Digital Services, Inc. Seattle: WA..