Playful Pedagogy: Gamer Types and Board Games for Inclusive Learning


Educators often find themselves exploring innovative approaches to enhance student learning, and one particularly creative pathway is integrating games and playfulness into the learning environment. Navigating this terrain requires a delicate balance, ensuring that the joy and engagement of games enhance rather than detract from educational objectives while aiming to foster an inclusive and responsive pedagogy.

Playful pedagogy is an educational approach that emphasizes the use of play, games and interactive activities to engage learners in the learning process. It recognizes the importance of enjoyment, curiosity and exploration in facilitating effective learning experiences. As educators seek to harness the power of playful pedagogy, it becomes important to explore its practical application within educational settings.

In this pursuit, the Reinvent the Classroom initiative, a collaborative effort led by Digital Promise in partnership with HP, Microsoft and Intel, serves as an exemplar for leveraging game-based learning for inclusive instructional practices. The Reinvent the Classroom HP Teaching Fellows offer insights about integrating games and playful learning in their lessons.

Gamer Types in Educational Settings

Playful learning and games can inherently motivate and engage students. Teachers can enhance learning experiences by drawing inspiration from game development. For instance, it may be beneficial for educators to think of their students in terms of a modified version of Bartle’s gamer types: Hunter, Socializer, Explorer and Achiever. This approach allows educators to consider not only how students process information but also how they interact with the material and the classroom environment as a whole.

A Hunter is determined to win by defeating opponents at any cost, while a Socializer focuses on collaboration and teamwork. Explorers seek to experience every aspect of an activity, often looking ahead in assignments and exploring all links. The Achiever aims to earn badges and showcase accomplishments.

In a recent science lesson, high school biology students played Lighthaus’ virtual reality (VR) adventure Nano. The first experience featured an action-packed and timing-focused game. The hunters and achievers enjoyed the game and even stayed after class to keep playing. Socializers expressed that they did not like the play style of the game. To paraphrase: It’s too stressful and fast-paced! The following Nano VR experience involved more teamwork with time to discuss what was happening. The Socializers loved it, and the achievers responded positively as well.

Gamer types can also be used for grouping students. Before assigning groups, have students take an online Bartle test, using the results to ensure multiple player types are represented in each group. This approach could be more successful for longer projects, especially when explaining the logic of a well-rounded team. Using gamer types — alongside multiple intelligences, depth of knowledge questions, and varying teaching modalities — provides an approach to education that engages students on a personal level.

Leveraging Board Games for Interactive Learning

For those who are passionate about and love engaging in board games, they could be used as a means to introduce faculty and students to the type of learning and instruction that can occur in a makerspace. Board games do not require the faculty or students to learn new technologies but rather focus on the mechanics of what makes a game fun while testing knowledge.

For example, students in Chinese 4 and 5 classes were assigned a short story on the historical tale of Zheng He, a Chinese explorer who journeyed across southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa more than 600 years ago. This story seemed like a perfect idea for a board game. The teacher was provided with a basic rubric for the physical project and then worked with a colleague to add some specific goals on elements of the story that the students should use that demonstrated a deeper understanding of the story as well as helped them improve their Chinese language skills. She divided her class into two groups and stood back as they began to develop their game. This relinquishing of control to let students interpret the task is when the magic happens. Ultimately, the students were able to create two very different and robust games.

By integrating games and playfulness into education, educators can create a positive and engaging learning environment that stimulates curiosity, motivation and a love for learning.

For educators embarking on or even continuing the journey of implementing games and playfulness into learning experiences, embrace innovation, be open to experimentation and view these approaches as complementary tools rather than divergent from traditional methods. By fostering an environment that nurtures both academic growth and joy in learning, educators can pave the way for a more holistic and responsive educational experience.


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In the wake of all that educators are navigating these days, they’ve proven to be not only resilient but innovative. They continue to intentionally find new and exciting ways to create powerful learning opportunities for all students. We invite you to learn more about our powerful learning principles and leading-edge methods through the vantage points of HP Teaching Fellows through Digital Promise’s Reinvent the Classroom program.



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