Cooperative board game design for teaching principles of adult literacy and numeracy


One project that I’ve been thinking about for a while and that I’d like to work on this year is a board game for teaching principles of adult literacy and numeracy teaching. The basic idea is something like this:

  1. It would be a cooperative game where the players work together against the game.
  2. Players would have different functions and skills along these lines:
    1. Tutor
    2. LN specialist
    3. Materials developer
    4. Manager
  3. The game would represent the “enemy” – that is the rising tide of low literacy and numeracy levels caused by historical educational failure, poverty, and apathy on the one hand, and the exponential increase of technological complexity on the other hand.
  4. At each roll of the dice and turn, players would need to determine how to best use their skills and resources to implement best practice teaching solutions, take care of learners under their care, and generally raise literacy and numeracy levels everywhere.
  5. The content would be designed to reinforce what we teach in our NCALNE (Voc) training and qualification. Game play would provide an intro to the concepts and training, could act as standalone professional development for organisations, or provide refresher training for graduates and others.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Cooperative board game design for teaching principles of adult literacy and numeracy

  1. hmm sounds good in theory however how do you incorporate the social barriers that are difficult to overcome even with a dynamic program in place. And don’t tutors need all of the skills A-D? Each square or jump needs a scenario to provide background to solve the problem……….just a few thoughts………

    • Hi Debbie

      Thanks for the comments. My analogue for this is a cooperative board game called Pandemic. It’s pretty cool. There are four players (Medic, Dispatcher, Operations Expert, Scientist) trying to stop a global pandemic. As the game progresses you have to stem the infection rate in different cities. If I can adapt the basic idea to my purposes I’d like a game that requires players to adopt different roles (trades or vocational tutor, literacy and numeracy specialist, materials developer, manager for example) and work together using different skills to implement basically the same system that we teach as part of the NCALNE (Voc) training.

      The point would be to reinforce the fact that when people adopt and apply our system (understand the context, adopt good teaching practice, analyse training demands, implement diagnostic processes, plan and deliver embedded training, use appropriate assessments, and employ effective evaluation techniques) that the parts of the system work together to address the literacy and numeracy needs of the learners.

      In the game play various random variables (poverty, hunger, poorly trained tutors) would increase the effects of low literacy and numeracy across students in various classes in a school or training provider represented visually on the game board. As the participants implement the system, e.g. set up learning plans for a group of students, gain a quality assured LN qualification, use a diagnostic tool, the creeping effects of low literacy and numeracy would be reduced. Where they fail to implement the system, the board, representing organisations, classes, and learners, would fall into disarray and eventually end in school closure and the end of the game.

      None of this is going to change the culture of an actual organisation or overcome problematic social barriers that exist in real life. Those require a lot of work internally. The point of the game though would be to refresh the NCALNE (Voc) training for those that have done it, introduce the concepts in a fun way for those who haven’t, and promote discussion amongst the players regarding what they could actually do to improve their training environment.

      The conversations that would occur during and afterwards would provide the real context and scenarios for action.

      Further thoughts?

      • I like it!! This gets my passion for embedding rising!! I like the idea if that they don’t work together the ‘hospital’ can close down and the pandemic spreads. Just like literacy (or illiteracy) spreads. If you can bring the two together I’m sure it will encourage those completing the cert to see the big picture.
        With funding disappearing I can see an apathy that could creep in from tutors needing to meet kpi’s so this would be a fun way to overcome that

  2. Yes! You’ve got the idea… The roles of tutor, specialist, manager, or materials developer work on at least two levels. One the one hand, they can be distinct job descriptions for separate people in the real world. But on the other hand, as you alluded to in your first comment, they are all skills that all of us need to have (like different hats we have to wear).

    I’m sure the metaphor of pandemic = the spread of illiteracy will be subjected to all sorts of criticism, and it’s probably faulty on a lot of levels. However, the language that we use in LN reflects the medical profession in some instances. E.g. Diagnostic processes, interventions.

    I might split the board up so that some of the “learners” exist in classrooms, but others should exist in other contexts like businesses as well. Alternatively, I could have two separate boards: One for those working in a classroom-based context and the other for those doing training on the job or inside companies.

    Still a lot to think through… Most board games pit the players against each other with a single winner. However, in a cooperative game the emphasis is on using the skills of the group to beat the game. Without sounding too corny this is more how real training organisations need to work and more representative of a best practise approach.

    Thanks for your enthusiasm…! I’ll post an update here when I get the next stage done.

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