The team at Getting Smart have released a new post showing research into game based learning and how this can promote social and emotional development among students, in this instance, through Minecraft Education Edition.
The researchers pulled information from a number of listed sources:
- A global online teacher survey
- Several onsite observation and evaluation sessions of educators using Minecraft: Education Edition in classrooms
- Existing SEL literature reviews
- Phone interviews with experts in K–12 education
- Informal data gathering via several popular social media channels such as
Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
The concept of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) was new to me, but the report does give a definition up front about what it is:
In the context of K–12 education, SEL is the process through which students acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
From my perspective, this is really interesting as I would previously have associated some of the attributes around gaming as isolationist and less focused on the “soft skills” in life such as those involved in collaboration, participating and contributing and emotional resilience and empathy. It’s fascinating to me that research is showing that some game based learning can actually support the development of these critical skills in students.
The report indicates that the benefits of actively teaching SEL to students can include:
- Increasingly positive attitudes toward self, others and tasks including enhanced self-efficacy, confidence, persistence, empathy, connection and commitment to school, and a sense of purpose
- More positive social behaviors and relationships with both peers and adults
- A reduction in conduct problems and risk taking behavior
- Decreased emotional distress
- Better test scores, grades and attendance
Unsurprisingly, the report clearly states that unless SEL is implemented with clear, robust learning goals then it is likely to be ineffectual. This, of course, is true of most initiatives and serves as a reminder that the integration of technology into curriculum must always be well planned and thought through. Technology is a great servant of pedagogy, but when implemented poorly, can be a hindrance and distraction.
Comprehensive SEL goals include developmental benchmarks across five key social and emotional competency domains, encompassing: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making skills.
How Does Gaming Boost SEL In Education?
The report has some extensive quotes from various educators and again, I encourage you to read the original report here, as I will only be pulling a few of the quotes that really stuck out to me to include below.
In New Zealand’s Curriculum there are five “Key Competencies” and it’s interesting to see how these align with the SEL concept. One of those KC’s is “Relating To Others” and the quote below shows how Minecraft can support this:
Cultivating empathy through gaming isn’t a given; rather, it occurs as part of a guided experience.
“As educators, we have the opportunity to help students develop empathy through gaming and imagine how they’d like to be treated, talk through scenarios in gaming and in their personal lives, and discuss how they would do something differently (or have wanted to be treated differently), then practice those skills.”
Another of the Key Competencies is “Participating & Contributing” and this quote shows just how much inter-dependency and co-operating is required to succeed in Minecraft:
“It isn’t a secret that games are popular and engage students. They’re able to fail forward in a risk-free environment. When playing Minecraft, students must have a level of coordination and cooperation in order to accomplish shared objectives. They’re negotiating with one another, strategizing about resources and next moves, and delegating responsibilities. It’s really quite remarkable to see.”
School Case Studies:
The report finishes with three case studies from schools of different ages:
- International School Bellevue School District
- Years 6-12
- Bryant Montessori
- Years Pre-school to Yr8
- Renton Prep Christian School
- Years 1-10
I am thrilled there continues to be significant research into the ongoing benefits of eLearning and effective and purposeful integration of technology into education. If you’ve not seen it, I suggest you check the NZCER Research into eLearning use in New Zealand primary schools that I posted about recently.