Sharon Sloane: Exploring Game-Based Instructional Methodologies that Reach the Cognitive and Affective Learning Domains

Serious Games Summit DC 2005Sharon Sloane: Exploring Game-Based Instructional Methodologies that Reach the Cognitive and Affective Learning Domains (Jerz’s Literacy Weblog)

The presentation, by Sharon Sloane, president of CEO of Will Interactive, began with a long video clip showing a military leadership training game, focusing not on combat but routine decisions, careerism, inappropriate comaraderie (a superior officer being too friendly in response to a screw-up), slackerism, and even on-the-job horseplay.

Sloane warned that some of the worst principles of brick-and-mortar teaching have moved into distance learning and serious games, and set up shop on CDs and on the internet.

She invoked Bloom’s taxonomy, and suggested that behavior won’t change unless the affective domain is reached, where emotions and life experiences convince people to apply the phsycho motor skills they’ve practiced, and the information they’ve been exposed to through cognitive doman. Affective learning leads to cognitive goals.

Tips to engage the Affective Domain.

  • Be learner-centric.
  • Know your audience
  • Get real.
  • Reach out to your learner’s world.
  • One more item I didn’t get…

Example of reaching out into the world of the intended audience, from an HIV education program designed to change the attitudes and behaviors of young adults.

Rule #1: Never take medical advice from someone hornier than yourself.

Advised that the learners will have different motives. Simply pass a course? Become a more successful person? Avoid casualties and maintain morale in a war situation?

Introduced “Hate Comes Home,” a game about bias and ethics, understanding, stereotyping and prejudice, used in California schools and elsewhere. (I’d call it a modern morality play.. just as doctrinal as Everyman, but filmed with shaky-camera effects and a documentary style – including “artistic” camera effects (slow-mo, etc.) and a voice-over narrative – that one doesn’t usually see in a computer game. The military is learning, through the global war on terror, that the old style of teaching military doctrine isn’t working. Since lower-level people are now making higher-level decisions in the field, the military needs to develop the critical thinking ability of people in the field, rather than relying on the centralized wisdom and experience of the upper-level officers.

According to a slide, “Generic content no longer works. We cannot rely on the leaner to make the leap to today’s realities and unique circumstances. In GWOT [Global War on Terrorism], education and training must depict real events in real environments in order to work.”

Today’s artillerymen are asked to do peacekeeping tasks and interacting with civilians in towns, rather than “putting steel on target.”

Described the characteristics of successful “game-based learning solutions.” Based on a comprehensive learning strategy; customizing the game on the fly to meet the needs of the learner; get useful feedback that’s not simply a score. Games need in-game reference materials that can be accessed easily during gameplay.

(By the way, that term is a wonderful example of marketese – no real human beings talk about “game-based learning solutions,” but I can understand why Sloane wants to use that term in her presentations. Her game philosophy is essentially the same as Gibson’s. but where he used Flash cartoons to teach a general point, she used videotape and special effects — blood, simulated burns — to create a gritty realistic detail. Having said that, the make-up was not exactly top-notch, and the acting was adequate in the training clip, low-key and documentary-style in the high school diversty game and a hostage-negotiation scenario, and really just adequate in a combat simulation. Sloane says her games are designed to recreate reality, and repeatedly apologized for only being able to show isolated clips out of context. Is it flippant of me to note that the games she showed were only partially successful at emulating the cinematic qualities of film?)

(I just asked her the above quesiton. She responded that her test audiences responded postively to this particular method of instruction. There is a difference, she noted, between educating people in the field to change their short-term behavior in order to achieve results, and teaching a complex concept in the context of a college course. While Sloane is an accomplished and confident speaker, numerous times she ran up against a wall when she realized the information the audience was able to glean from a three-minute clip is completely different from what a player might learn from an extended interaction with the whole training system.)