25th February 2014

Board Games deliver!

Posted in: Business, Other

There is no doubt that online digital formats are adding much to learning in schools and in workplace training.

In the same way that TV did not sound the death-knell of radio nor did videos wipe out cinema, however, online games will not replace the quality of active learning from playing board games.

According to Prensky (2007), young students primarily learn through play, games, and gaming activities that blend real world situations with traditional learning environments, for example, learning to take risks and make choices. Research indicates that games can encourage authentic learning situations in K-12 classrooms, which are beneficial to helping students develop enthusiasm for new curriculum and allowing students to envision mastering the content (Barab, Gresalif, & Arici, 2009; Gee, 2005).

It’s all in the design

Well designed board games, both in school classrooms and in corporate training rooms, have long demonstrated their worth with players of widely differing ages and abilities. Their versatility, their capacity to engage players and their inherent fun are as valid today as ever before.

Tapscott (1998) contends that Net Gens typically expect a more interactive and less linear approach to learning and when games are used in the classroom students have multiple learning opportunities allowing “schools to become a place to learn rather than a place to teach” (p. 143).

Games fit in almost every subject in today’s classrooms because they accommodate various student-learning styles while encouraging complex skills such as decision-making, enabling students with disabilities to also utilize them

Active learning through the use of gaming has shown a positive impact with students by allowing them to actively participate in a learning project instead of passively listening to lectures or watching videos with educators assigning games as pre- and post-tests, reviews, and even as homework assignments (Annetta, 2008).

Board games

    • provide exceptional and cost-effective resources
    • embrace heads-and hands-on learning
    • capture and reinforce important information in an understandable format
    • motivate (sometimes reluctant) learners
    • promote discussion and grow communication skills

Not only were the powerful learning and enthusiasm generated by our board game, Business on the Move, repeatedly demonstrated during our trials with over 500 young people, a massive 86% of young people aged from 9-19 fed back that we should NOT develop a computer version!

Prensky (2007) listed reasons why games were engaging including providing structure, motivation, enjoyment, gratification, pleasure, intensity, learning, creativity, and social opportunities.

Students respond to a number of learning activities during game play including facts, skills, judgment, behaviours, theories, reasoning, processes, creativity, language, systems, observation, and communication (Sharritt, 2008)

Individuals learn best by doing, so when educators allow students a hands-on opportunity it has been proven beneficial (Annetta, 2008).

Learn and have fun

Indeed, it was as if the board game offered the young players something novel, something often denied to them online. This was the chance to learn and have fun at the same time, interacting as part of a group. The face-to-face competition, the tangible playing pieces, the map of the world, cash and real brand names all combined to help them believe they really were running their business better than their friends.

When K-12 students are learning to play games, they are in fact learning a new literacy or language that is defined above and beyond traditional reading and writing, but through multiple interactions including images, text, diagrams, symbols, and movement (Gee, 2007). These multiple interactions need correct interpretations for the student to master the game resulting in out of the box thinking and risk taking which are based on active learning.

Haystead and Marzano (2009) found using academic games gained 20% in achievement scores.

Games arouse curiosity and interest, which educators should take advantage to generate enthusiasm, encourage competition, and increase student engagement (Marzano, 2007).

Academically researched

As you can see academic research appears to confirm what we have experienced first hand over and over again observing young people – and not so young people too — play Business on the Move

Games potentially enhance and can fill gaps between school and the real world through higher-order problem solving. Skills addressed through games are missing in traditional lecture style of instruction (Berson, 1996).

When motivated and engaged, even the most uninterested student is willing to face the challenges created by games to solve problems (Kara-Soteriou, 2010). These uninterested students will often complain about and refuse to complete homework, and would rather spend a number of hours devising strategies and having social interactions with other players (Kara-Soteriou, 2010). Students have time to reflect between game sessions, as they likely will have conversations with their classmates about strategies. Additional play/practice can transfer the generalizable skills with minimal support

Games are played because they are fun and offer learners a choice about how and what they learn. Instigating learning through play is easier because games employ artifacts permitting students to feel they are playing instead of wasting time learning irrelevant curriculum (Aldrich, 2009).

Currently, through games, students are able to learn various skills including spelling, vocabulary words, counting, money management, history, social studies, using what is given and not complaining, following rules, waiting turns, problem solving, communication skills, trivia, telling time, matching colors or shapes, and exhibiting appropriate behaviours by playing board games. Games fit in almost every subject in today’s classrooms creating unexpected or stealth learning opportunities while accommodating various student-learning styles and encouraging complex skills such as decision making which allows even students with disabilities to utilize them.


 (1): Stealth Learning: Unexpected Learning Opportunities Through Games (printed in Journal of Instructional Research)

Author Biography 

Laura Sharp is an adjunct professor in the College of Education at Grand Canyon University teaching courses in special education. She received her M.Ed. in Cross Categorical Special Education from Grand Canyon University and is in the final year of an Ed.D in Organizational Leadership – Higher Education. Laura’s career has included teaching alternative, gifted and talented, ELL, and special education (mild, moderate, severe, and profound) K-12, undergraduate, and graduate level students. Her research interest includes the Gamucation, social presence, learning styles, student engagement, motivation, and online learning. One of Laura’s passions is sharing her knowledge of teaching and curriculum with preservice teachers, mentoring and coaching new instructors through their first year, and helping these new teachers engage and motivate their students.

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