Within the QAA benchmark statement (2014), experiential learning is highlighted as constituting ‘an essential aspect of engagement’ within Geography, playing a fundamental role in both promoting generic skills such as teamwork alongside providing an opportunity to apply theoretical concepts to more complex or uncontrolled field environments. Following Lewis and Williams (1994:p.5) ‘in its simplest form, experiential learning means learning from experience or learning by doing. Experiential education first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking’. Healey and Jenkins (2000) found that experiential activities such as fieldwork are common in geography. However, they stress that other experiential activities need to be incorporated into other parts of the learning cycle. As a result, I sought to integrate an experiential learning activity into the GG2053: Cities Economies and Ecologies Course. I also wanted to design a seminar which recognised that teaching and learning is overarchingly shaped by the students and the diversity and difference they bring (Hounsell et al., 2004). I therefore wanted the seminar to be a notable example of an inclusive learning and teaching environment. Hockings et al., (2010) highlights how teaching pedagogies should be student-centred, inclusive of individual interests and have an emphasis on collaborative learning. Paying attention to this combined need for inclusive practice alongside experiential learning, I decided to create a scenario game from scratch which I entitled CCTV Nation: Security Guardians Vs. Privacy Resistance. The Higher Education Academy (2018) recognise games-based learning as the ‘integration of gaming into learning experiences to increase engagement and motivation. Games which are goal-orientated and replicate real world experience are most effective learning tools’. In particular, game-related teaching has proven a successful and useful within Geography in Higher Education but this form of teaching remains underutilised within the discipline (Davidson et al., 2009).
In preparation for the 50 minute seminar, students were asked to watch an episode of the popular Channel 4 show ‘Hunted’, reflect back on the previous lecture around the theme of surveillance as well as their own experiences and use these foci to note down all of the various forms and examples of urban surveillance and security they could. Students were then asked to split these forms and examples of surveillance into those the ‘hunters’ could use to catch those being ‘hunted’ and annotate these examples with HOW these surveillance technologies could be used to catch the ‘hunted’. Students were also asked to note down the various ways that those being ‘hunted’ could attempt to subvert, resist or overcome the surveillance technologies used to ‘hunt’ them and HOW they might do this. In keeping with the need for inclusive learning practices, students were actively encouraged to use a variety of different formats (mind maps, sound recordings, lists) to write down these observations and bring these along to the seminar. These diverse modes of note-taking helped to draw on other skills aside from the written word which can aid active participation from all students (Cotton et al., 2013).
Upon entering the seminar, students were asked to randomly select a card which allocated them to either the ‘privacy resister’ or ‘security guardian’ team. This allocation to a group (rather than self-selection) helped to create a more inclusive and diverse learning context (Cotton et al., 2013) When students had been divided into the relevant teams, I played a short YouTube clip to set the scene of the game and gave a short introduction about how the game would work. The remainder of the seminar was then dedicated to student-centred experiential learning, through the active ‘playing’ of the game.
On each of the team tables, students found a profile for a fugitive; Grant. For each particular element of Grant’s profile, as a team the students had to explain how they would use a form of or technology of surveillance to capture Grant (security guardians) or would subvert a form of or technology of surveillance to help Grant to escape (privacy resisters). The teams got one point for each element of the profile they engaged with (up to a total of 10 points). On the table also, there was a pack of core readings for the course. Students were told that they would get one extra point if they could back up/explain their decision for each element of the escape or capture by using evidence from the literature in the packs. The preparatory lists also provided hints and tips for when students got stuck. The teams were all situated round a large table with different colour pens etc and were encouraged to draw/write or express their idea in any way they wished. Some students elected to write this as a series of points, other elected to draw this visually. I was always on hand to ask questions.
For the final section of the seminar, each team was asked to feedback to the group and each team member was asked to contribute at least one comment about the ‘escape’ or ‘capture’ plan. Within this feedback section, students were encouraged to reflect on the experience highlighting how issues of surveillance and security featured within the scenario. In particular, I asked questions which were aimed at aiding students in relating these reflections back to the course learning outcomes, where students should be able to explain the some of the intersections and tensions between mobility, security and the city. During this time, I also kept a running tally on the board to see which team would be the winner and therefore if Grant was ‘captured’ or ‘escaped’.
Informal responses given were overwhelmingly positive. In particular, the convenor of the course commended that seminars ‘worked so well within the module’. Informal discussions at the end of the seminar with students asking them to feedback about the session also elicited a variety of positive responses. Students noted that they enjoyed the teamwork element, as it enabled each member of the team to play to their strength through either critical thinking, critical reading or critical reflection. Students also liked that the seminar allowed them to apply concepts that could sometimes feel distant in the reading to their own experiences within the context of the game. Students also suggested that the ‘fun’ element of the seminar helped would help them to remember key readings and concepts from the course.
Cotton, D., George, R. & Joyner, M. (2013) The Gender and Ethnicity Attainment Gap Research Report. PedRIO: Plymouth.
Davidson, J.H. Du Preez, L., Gibb, M.W and Nel, E.L. (2009) ‘It’s in the Bag! Using Simulation as a Participatory Learning Method to Understand Poverty’, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 33(2), pp. 149-168.
Healey, M. and Jenkins, A. (2000) ‘Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory and Its Application in Geography in Higher Education’, Journal of Geography, 99, pp.185-195.
Higher Education Academy (2018) Games-based learning. Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/games-based-learning (Accessed: 14th June 2019)
Hockings, C., Cooke, S. and Bowl, M. (2010) ‘Learning and teaching in two universities within the context of increasing student diversity: complexity, contradictions and challenges’ in David, M. (ed.) Improving learning by widening participation. London: Routledge, pp. 95-108.
Hounsell, D., Entwistle, N., Anderson, C., Bromage, A., Day, K., Hounsell, K., Land, R., Litjens, J., McCune, V., Meyer, E., Reimann, N. and Xu, R. (2004) Enhancing teaching-learning environments in undergraduate courses (Project Report on L139251099). London: ESRC/TLRP.
Lewis, L.H. and Williams, C.J. (1994) ‘Experiential learning; Past and present’, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 62, pp. 5-16
Quality Assurance Agency (2014) Subject Benchmark Statement: Geography. Gloucester: Southgate House.
Vlachopoulous, D. and Makri, A. (2017) ‘The effect of games and simulations on higher education: a systematic literature review’, International Journal of Education, 14(22), pp. 2-33.