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Educating human rights by using game elements


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Educating human rights by using game elements

  1. 1. Educating human rights by using game elements Author: Jeroen Knevel, HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht & HU Research Centre for Social Innovation The 6th International Human Rights Education Conference is about teaching human rights. The purpose of this convention is to protect and promote the right of people with disabilities to participate equally in societal life. Implementation of the convention is a responsibility of the national government. The Convention refers explicitly to three mechanisms: focal points, coordination mechanisms and independent monitoring frameworks. Ministries, the parliament and the courts should have a role in implementing and monitoring the Convention (UN 2012). In relation to the process of implementation also educators bear responsibility to train their students in accordance with the Conventions’ doctrine. Key is to raise awareness of the implications of the Convention among students. One effective way of raising awareness and transferring knowledge is achieved by engaging students actively by using games. At the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences a social work course now includes an introductory lecture on human rights using objects and a game that addresses the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In educating human rights educators should not only want to transfer knowledge, but more importantly, inspire students to change their behavior towards a more humans rights based approach. Games are a way to change behavior. Furthermore, games are a means to ‘design behavior’: “A game designer should be capable of seducing game players to demonstrate certain behavior.” (Renger, 2015). The social work course on human rights will be explained in this paper. Besides, with this paper I argue for using games and game elements in human rights education. The argument encompasses the belief that teachers can be game designers and should be game designers (see also Van Geffen, 2014). Using games and game elements should be part of their didactic expertise. Games Games offer a wide range of opportunities for teaching a variety of subjects. They encourage active and self-directed learning which has proven to promote better understanding of the subject matters that are taught (Oprins & Korteling 2013; Oprins et al 2013). Within higher education games should be defined as serious games, which means that “we are concerned with serious games in the sense that these games have an explicit and carefully thought-out educational purpose and are not intended to be played primarily for amusement. This does not mean that serious games are not, or should not be, entertaining” (Abt Associates 2005, in Djaouti et al 2010). In addition Karl Kapp (2012) defines serious gaming to what is so useful in teaching human rights in a classroom: “A player gets caught up in playing a game because the instant feedback and constant interaction is related to the challenge of the game, which is defined by the rules, which all work within the system to provoke an emotional reaction and, finally, result in a quantifiable outcome within an abstract version of a larger system”. This larger system comprises a set of interconnected elements that occur in the space of the game – inside or outside the classroom. These elements can be playing cards, dices, tasks that need be fulfilled to earn points, the narrative of the game, the players, the rules, unpredictability, competition, collaboration etcetera. Serious gaming is helpful to explain abstract theory provided that the content corresponds to social reality as much as possible. Visualization and game elements support the learning process as it promotes engagement to the game and the content.
  2. 2. Didactics Reflecting on social work teaching methods is necessary to monitor learning objectives, i.e. whether student outcomes are accomplished and whether the educator has successfully taught the material. Successful teaching requires knowledge about learning methods to which teaching approaches and methods have to be adapted. Numerous research has demonstrated the effect of several learning methods varying from passive learning methods to active learning methods. Passive learning methods such as listening at lectures and reading literature are applied largely at higher social work studies. Audio-visual aids in teaching are often added to the lectures to illustrate theory or to present a case study, yet, it remains a passive learning method. Active learning methods vary from group discussions, practice and teaching others – e.g. students teach each other by organizing workshops. Edgar Dale (1969) developed a model that incorporates theories related to instructional design and learning processes. Students generally retain information best by seeing and hearing simultaneously (watching a demonstration), saying and writing (participating in a hands-on workshop or classroom discussions, a role-play situation), and doing (simulation of a real experience or going through the real experience). Edgar Dales’ model makes a case for what has become known as ‘learning by doing’ or ‘experiential learning’. The model is a tool to help educators make decisions about resources and activities to enhance learning. Using games in the classroom contributes to the learning process. For example an abstract challenge can be found in solving a case study based on real life experiences or having a debate about human rights related topics. Discussions often elicit emotions among students especially when there is difference of opinion. There is interactivity and feedback during discussions between students and there is interactivity when small groups of students work together to solve a fictional problem or a simplified problem from real life. There are rules for having a debate or a dialogue in the classroom. Games however, embrace most, if not, all levels of active and passive learning methods. Games contain all components presented in Edgar Dales’ model of ‘experiential learning’: reading, hearing, seeing, saying, writing and doing. Human rights course The social work course at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences includes a lecture about human rights using object and a game entitled youRight. The content of the game has been designed in collaboration with disability advocacy organizations, colleagues and students themselves and consists of descriptions of everyday situations in peoples’ lives vis-à-vis human rights and inclusive communities, statements for debate and quiz questions. Students are encouraged to work in teams with capacity for competition between teams. The collaboration with advocacy organizations is helpful in designing everyday situations which makes the content of human rights less abstract and, consequently, easier to understand for students. Introductory lecture The course consists of an introductory lecture (approximately 45 minutes) on human rights and the UNCRPD. Audio-visual aids such as objects and demonstrations of human rights cases using elements of drama are part of this lecture. Theatrical presentations help to make abstract ideas, which is characteristic of human rights, more concrete and lively. After the introduction the game is played with all students (approximately 45 minutes). This game requires students to join in group discussions, to experience practice (playing the game is a kind of surrogate of practice) and to teach others by pitching their best approach to a real life case study.
  3. 3. Human rights game: youRight The game that is used offers space for entertainment, experiment, learning and transfer of knowledge. It helps students to get acquainted with the content of the UNCRPD, to understand the philosophy of the UNCRPD and to learn to think and act from a moral framework that is articulated in the Convention. The focus of the game is put on interaction between students, to let them get a sense of human rights and make them feel inspired. Using games mostly enhances insights and accomplish attitudinal change (Oprins, Bakhuys-Roozeboom, Visschedijk 2013; Wouters et al 2009). In case of the human rights game it enhances insight in human rights and accomplishes an attitudinal change towards normative professionalism (Ewijk, van & Kunneman 2013). If educators want students and (future) social workers to act according to a human rights perspective it requires more than merely a transfer of knowledge, it requires awareness of the moral framework of social work and an attitudinal change. Therefore the game first and foremost focuses on raising awareness and inspiring students to further immerse themselves in human rights issues outside the classroom. Results Many studies show that games and game simulations intensify the learning experience (see Kapp 2012; Oprins, Bakhuys Roozeboom, Visschedijk, 2013). Research shows that students’ learning growth is especially found in increased understanding and an improved attitude towards the subject matter that is being taught and not so much in measuring knowledge. Similar results were found in playing the human rights game at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences. Knowledge was not measured because this was not the main concern of the course. However, engagement to the human rights topic, inspiration and basic understanding of human rights was mirrored by an increase in the number of essays students voluntarily chose to write about human rights. Besides that, student evaluations of the introductory lecture and the game showed high scores of appreciation (on a zero to ten scale the average circles around 8,4). In addition to the evaluation scores students added quotes such as: “I did not know human rights could be this fun” and “it is both informative and entertaining”. Conclusion An introductory lecture and a game may not be enough to accomplish attitudinal change of students. For that purpose the course itself is too concise. Nonetheless, with the introductory lecture and subsequently playing the game engagement was achieved and students got inspired by human rights issues. Using game elements contributed to this result. Further exploration of how games and game elements can be applied in human rights education is needed because there is much to win in favor of awareness-raising among students with regards to human rights. The sequence of the game After the introductory lecture students form teams of three or four. Each team is joining the competition which is simply won by crossing the finishing line the first. To get there teams are competing with each other in a variety of assignments they need to fulfill. When an assignment has been completed correctly or when a team has carried out the task to the best, they will earn the points. Number of points to be earned is decided by throwing a dice. The assignment is also decided by rolling a separate dice. The game comprises four different assignments: true or not true quiz questions for one team, true or not true quiz questions for all teams, case studies and debates. Except the quiz question for one team only, all the other assignments are carried out by all the participating teams simultaneously. Consequently more teams, if not all, can earn points playing in one round (assignment). This way all players stay involved actively during the game. Interaction and collaboration within the teams is stimulated as team members need to discuss the case study and decide on what solution they believe is the best or is most persuasive to win the competition. For the debates team members can help each other in having the debate - who is taking the leaders role. Interaction between the teams is clearly stimulated by having debates, giving pitches, and the task to judge who wins the debate or the pitch round. By doing this all teams stay involved in the game constantly.
  4. 4. Literature Abt Associates. (2005). Biography of Clark C. Abt. Retrieved October 26, 2010, from in Djaouti, D., Alvarez, J., Jessel, J.P., Rampnoux, O. (2010). Origins of Serious Games. Retrieved November 25, 2015, from Dale, E. (1969) Audio-Visual Methods in Teaching, 3rd ed., Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York. Ewijk, H. van & Kunneman. H. (2015) Praktijken van normatieve professionalisering. SWP: Amsterdam Fogg, B.J. (2009). A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design. Persuasive Technology Lab Stanford University. Uploaded 10 October 2015. Geffen, S. van. (2014) Gamification in de klas. ontwerpen met het mission start model. Uitgever: School voor de Toekomst Kapp, K. M., (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. Pfeiffer: San Francisco. Oprins, E. & Korteling, H. (2013) Transfer of training of an educational serious game: The effectiveness of the CASHIER TRAINER. Simulation & Gaming. Oprins, E. Bakhuys-Roozeboom, M., Visschedijk, G., Kistemaker, L. (2013). Effectiviteit van serious gaming in het onderwijs. TNO rapport (R10415). TNO: Soesterberg. Renger, W.J. (2015). Over gaming gesproken … Tweeëntwintig deskundigen over de mogelijkheden van gaming en simulaties voor gemeentelijk beleid. In Haaster, K. van (red.). Saganet. Pieter, W., Spek, van der S., Oostendorp, H. van (2009). Current practices in serious game research: A review from a learning outcome perspective. In: Games-Based Learning Advancements for Multi-Sensory Human Computer Interfaces: Techniques and Effective Practices (Connolly, T., Stansfield, M. & Boyle, L. (eds.). Retrieved November 14, 2015,,Spek%26Oostendorp_2009.pdf UN (2012). A short introduction to the Convention: Module 2. Retrieved November 20, 2015, from UN, United Nations (2006). Verdrag inzake de rechten van personen met een handicap. New York, 13 december 2006. Traktatenblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, jaargang 2007, nr. 169. This paper is presented at the 6th International Human Rights Education Conference on 17-19 December 2015 in Middelburg, The Netherlands. The paper is a concise elaboration of the abstract entitled: Teaching about UNCRPD: youRight - a human rights game for higher education. The paper is related to conference themes: (1) Current themes in human rights education, in particular subthemes:(a) The use of new media in human rights education; (b) Education around specific themes, like childrens’ rights, women’s rights, rights of minorities and racial discrimination. (2) The practice of human rights education, in particular subthemes: (a) The pedagogics of human rights education; (b) Human rights in higher education. Contact: