Playful learning for developing resilience?

It is time of the year for the annual (peer-reviewed) European Conference on Game-Based Learning (ECGBL) and I am so looking forward to meeting other researchers in a physical space again this coming September – assuming that the plan for the country to open up is on target.

One of the papers that will be presented at the conference and also published in the proceedings draws from the development of playful approaches in the ACES project (, which aims to underpin a playful approach as an empathic, agentic, and frugal means for engaging young people within a creative inquiry process to enhance social resilience.

There is a strong link between play that is iterative, experimental, and socially engaging and the development of a range of competencies young people will need to flourish. Iteration and experimentation can lead to the development of resilience through fostering the capacity to persevere with a task or activity. There is however no fixed formula nor methodology for articulating the mapping of the different aspects that could be embedded in the design of such an activity.

This paper argues that it is essential to gain insights on a granular level into the multi-dimensional aspects of the experiential design of playful activities. The relationships between the various aspects will contribute towards a better articulation and analysis of how playful activities could develop competencies for nurturing resilience.

Acknowledging that there is a link between play and the development of a range of competences young people will need to flourish, this paper proposes a mapping framework towards articulating the relationships between the aspects of play, the competencies that playful learning may afford, and the types of resilience that these competencies may develop (see Figure 1). Such a mapping approach can be used to analyse and form considerations for the design of playful educational activities. The mapping is co-created with the ACES partners in Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, and the approach takes inspirations from Learning Mechanics-Game Mechanics (LMGM) mapping model (Lim et al., 2013; Arnab et al., 2015) which has been extended to consider motivational theory (Proulx et al., 2017). 

Figure 1. The interconnection between aspects

The paper further discusses this potential interconnection, presenting perspectives from the four main pieces as illustrated in Figure 1 and the resulting mapping template (see paper – in press). A playful programme developed in Malaysia has been used as an example to demonstrate how the mapping could be carried out.

The proposed mapping approach serves as a hypothesis that is currently undergoing testing through fieldwork.   Further work includes analysing playful activities that are implemented with learners, and by using the articulated mapping, the concrete aspects of each category can be further elaborated and reflected on. Conducting such analysis based on well-articulated mapping will allow us to have deeper investigations into the granularity of playful learning activities, i.e., what part of these activities develop specific competencies and to what extent is resilience nurtured. A retrospective approach is also possible, where existing playful activities can be analysed using the proposed mapping for describing the relationships between the various aspects in the design and implementation.

The paper demonstrates a simple example of how the mapping could be carried out, which opens up opportunity for discourse around the rigour of playful experience design. The mapping approach can be adapted and localised to any specific needs concerning the pedagogical constructs the educators or learning designers are aligning to.

Paper: Towards the mapping of learning, playful, and frugal aspects for developing 21st century competencies and resilience

Authors: Sylvester Arnab, Dominic Mahon, Alex Masters, Luca Morini, Jacey-Lynn Minoi, and Fitri Mohamad

Acknowledgement: The investigation discussed in this paper is part-funded by UKRI-ESRC for the ACES project  (Grant reference: ES/T004789/1) and the GameChangers Initiative ( Thanks to all the partners involved in the ACES project.

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