Anyone involved in education will tell you that engagement is the one of the most essential aspects of learning. From the primary school teacher through to the corporate trainer, the ability to attract and hold the attention of an audience is an integral part of effective teaching. If your students are interested, they learn more and the whole experience becomes more rewarding for both the pupil and the teacher.
Yet engagement is about much more than a teacher’s performance. It’s about creating a quality learning environment, one that includes interesting activities that are of relevance to your students. When you do this, you draw students in and they become active participants in the learning process.
One of the many things that we have discovered through our work with schools is that using games is among the most effective ways to engage students and to keep them working on problems for a sustained period of time. Used properly, games enhance the learning experience, because they challenge and reward the learner. They have rules, which provide structure to learning, and they have results that allow progress to be measured.
We also use experiential or active learning as a means of engagement within games. For example, in our life-skills programme, Keep the Cash!, we place teams of students in the position of having to start their own life after education. They experience what it is like to be an independent adult, making all of the decisions associated with that, but they do so in an environment in which they can make mistakes without real-life consequences. More importantly, they are able to return to certain tasks, allowing them to improve their performance and to see the rewards that brings.
Engagement is also enhanced through collaboration; once the game rules have been established, we don’t provide any assistance or intervention, so students have to work together to solve problems. The process of having to overcome challenges, as a team and as individuals, coupled with the ability to earn rewards and measure progress against other teams, combines to create a compelling learning experience.
In fact, the most common piece of feedback that we receive from young people who play Keep the Cash! is that they want to keep playing after the session ends – as sure a sign as any that they were engaged.