At the end of a day of teaching it is rare that my mind is not running through loops and mazes in considering how to better serve my students. It sometimes results in a ten-hour workday, as I leave school at 5:30 only to go home and continue research and planning. As part of a community of educators, my social media feeds are always filled with resources, and for as many issues I encounter in the classroom I am given entryway to troubleshooting mechanisms. In the past year I have been exposed to a number of inquiries into integrating gaming into the structure of lessons. This past year I started playing Dungeons & Dragons, a table-top role playing game, with a group of friends. In our campaign I assume the role of a gnome druid, and my team and I are on a quest to recover pieces of an ancient relic. The game is further enhanced by crafting backstories and narratives that add layers and personality to the adventure, helping us in dictating our actions. As an educator I became very interested in investigating how these same of creative problem solving, world-building, and teamwork found in table-top RPGs could be used in guiding students through art history.
As an assignment for my Secondary Methods class my classmate Carolina Arroyave and I researched RPGs as an educational tool and designed the skeleton for our own art history RPG, Untitled, Artist Unknown. I was able to reimagine our project for a 4th and 5th grade audience during my elementary student teaching apprenticeship. Students were drawn into an investigation of stolen art. Clues were gradually revealed and students were creating, discussing and responding to material presented within the narrative of the case they were working to solve. They had developed characters with unique abilities that could be played in solving the mystery, and rolled dice to add an element of chance into the strategies they developed. Although my students were highly engaged, I found that the schedule of elementary art, only seeing each class once per week, did not make for the best environment for using the RPG structure. Taking what I have learned from past research and experience in implementing my idea at the elementary level, I am curious as to how things would play out with a high school Art 1 class, where I would see students each week.
As an educator I am curious. I am open to trial and error, and I am always working towards adapting my lessons to provide the best learning experience for my students. I want them to develop a sense of creativity, to be problem-solvers, and to have strong communication skills. The following action research proposal looks at implementing the structure of an RPG at the secondary level, as I work towards inventive ways to engage students and help them retain content and develop skills. In imagining a class of Art 1 students, hesitant to learn, I am hoping to see the lure of an entertaining game focused around teamwork and problem solving affects student engagement towards a greater retention of material covered, and motivation and openness to create.