A Case Study of Teaching Complex Skills in Philosophy Through Games. Are You Flourishing?
Keywords:Philosophy, Communication, Transformative Experience, Board Games, Gamification, gamevironments
This paper explores the potential for and challenges of teaching sophisticated and flexible skills in philosophy using games. The setting is philosophy at a UK university, and the example is a game-based learning activity designed by the author for teaching the topic transformative experience within a skills-based third-year undergraduate module, Communicating Philosophy. This module’s learning outcomes include for students to be confident applying philosophical skills in novel settings, and this provides an incentive to teach in ways that challenge students’ conceptions of how ideas can be communicated. The multiplayer card game Are You Flourishing? (2022) was therefore designed by the author as an engaging game that raises questions about rationality, subjective value, and the challenge posed by transformative experiences as discussed by Paul (2014, 2015). In this case study I describe the game and its rationale, its application in a particular classroom, and the impact of the game’s inclusion on the student experience. This allows reflection on the potential for games to help students develop more flexible skills and build toward “professional artistry” (Schön 1987, 14). The results indicate a game-based learning activity that was seen as moderately enjoyable and encouraged reflection about transformative experience, games and gamification, and ways of communicating philosophy, in a substantial majority of participants, as well as being viewed as contributing to learning by a smaller majority. Problems with the activity generally centred around the complexity of the rules and other features of effective facilitation, indicating that similar projects to exploit the freedom and creativity afforded to learners by games should focus on identifying ways to simplify without compromising the game’s aims and on making facilitation as effective as possible by streamlining the explanation of rules.