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08 March 2013

"Building Skills for Independent Learning": A great article in support of simulation and games in our classrooms.

ASCD Express 8.11 - Building Skills for Independent Learning

Pease and Carpenter address an often-overlooked issue for teachers and students alike; "what are the attributes of an independent learner?" Far too often, both students and teachers look at the issue of independent learning in dichotomous terms. Independent learning either occurs outside of class while teachers maintain their sage on the stage presence or students simply sit in a class completing worksheets or other tasks, completely divorced from their instructor's feedback and counsel. Pease and Carpenter offer useful and pragmatic guidance on the middle ground between these two extremes.  Faculty should be teaching students self regulation through goal-setting, personalized feedback and assessment, and reflection. Secondly, faculty should create opportunities for students to learn persistance through repeated trial, error, and ultimately success in encountering complex and challenging problems. Finally, faculty should construct circumstances for students to collaborate with their colleagues in ways that allow them to practice and develop their social skills along with reflection on the dynamics of group processes.

This advice of course, is perfectly attuned for those of us who place games and narrative feedback at the center of our classrooms. Simulations and games allow students to embrace experiential learning on complex phenomena. Students set goals ('winning', 'survival', 'solve the problem'), receive individualized feedback about their play from fellow players, instructors, and the game itself, and reflect on the consequences of their actions. Games allow students to encounter problems in an iterated fashion where mistakes and failure are more common than victory. After all, who would play a game that was easy to win each and every time? This repeated play, where students learn and adapt their play to the construct of the game, builds persistance in a student's habits of learning. Finally, games are inherently collaborative in nature. Whether playing along side their classmates or with players from around the world, simulations and games allow students the context to hone their investigation, negotiation and diplomatic skills in ways that passive learning experiences such as lectures, routinized homework, or sitting for examinations cannot.