Promote 21st Century Skills with Board Game-Based Learning

Table of Contents


No, today’s board games have little to share with the old “classics” such as Monopoly, Risk, or Trivial Pursuit.

Following a renaissance in gaming since the ‘90s, “modern” board games – such as Pandemic, Dominion, or The Settlers of Catan – have promoted an innovative, affordable option for engaging in social interaction. Therefore, they are more popular now than ever before among people of all ages.

Being cheap and easily available, they also represent an effective way to develop vital learning skills in young and older learners for those teachers who are willing to venture into this unexplored landscape.

Are you ready to take on the challenge?

This course will help you introduce board games in your classes as a novel teaching tool to engage your learners and promote their social and cognitive growth, as well as to raise pupil’s interest in curricular content.

Depending on the selected game and the focus of the classroom activity, there are tons of lessons your pupils can learn by playing in the classroom.

While board games may not represent the preferential route to teaching every curricular subject, they are extremely successful in promoting the acquisition of key competencies for lifelong learning, such as:

  • Ethical capacities: rule-following, learning to lose, respect;
  • Soft skills: sharing and openness, storytelling, just competing;
  • The popular “4 Cs”: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking;
  • Cognitive skills: self-regulation, working memory, cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, problem solving, risk assessment, autonomous decision-making, metacognition, learning to learn.

Board games are also optimal to make pupils practice in curricular subjects such as math, languages, or science. Finally, educational games are also suitable to familiarize learners with more unusual subjects such as environmental sustainability and the nature of European Institutions.

As a participant of the course, you will learn how to plan and conduct game-based learning activities to train your learners in the social and cognitive skills that are relevant to your subject. You will learn how to design an effective gaming session, how to explain the game and the rules, how to make your pupils play, and how to debrief about the gaming experience.

The course proposes a hands-on and collegial approach. We will play a wide variety of titles of the last decade (from the simplest to some more complex) to help you acquire the practical understanding necessary to re-propose them in your classroom. After each session, we will also discuss what skills and competencies the game may scaffold in different age groups (6-13-years-old), considering the different motivations and needs of primary and secondary school students.

What are you still waiting for? By the end of the course, you will be ready to surprise your students with an engaging activity and to exploit a new active learning paradigm to develop their ethical, social, and cognitive skills.

Concept by
Marco Fenici

Learning outcomes

Participants in the course will learn to:

  • Select games apt for educational activities;
  • Design and conduct game-based learning activities;
  • Debrief a gaming session;
  • Inspire their learners with engaging learning activities;
  • Introduce game-based learning activities in the school curriculum;
  • Start a board game club at their school.

Tentative Schedule

Day 1 – What are board games?

  • Introduction to the course, the school, and the external week activities;
  • Presentations of the participants’ schools;
  • Varieties of games and gamers;
  • Icebreaker games for primary and secondary schools.

Day 2 – Board games in educational contexts

  • Game-Based Learning (GBL) vs. Gamification;
  • What board games may help to learn (and not to learn);
  • Playing to train soft skills and key competences;
  • Educational games on environmental sustainability;
  • Focus: How to design a learning activity with board games.

Day 3 – Board games for ethical and social skills

  • Ethical and social development in childhood and adolescence;
  • Social board games, storytelling and logical deduction;
  • Board games for the 4 Cs: creativity and critical thinking;
  • Focus: How to implement a learning activity with board games.

Day 4 – Board games for cognitive skills

  • Cognitive development in childhood and adolescence;
  • Strategy games, planning, and risk assessment;
  • Board games for the 4 Cs: communication and collaboration;
  • Focus: How to debrief a learning activity with board games.

Day 5 – More games from the previous days, or a selected subject among the following proposals:

[A] Board games for curricular subjects

  • Science, Biology, and Physics;
  • Languages;
  • Mathematics.

[B] From abstract to simulation games

  • A day in the prehistory for primary and secondary school students;
  • Discover Renaissance and Florence through board games.

[C] Board game design

  • Notes on board game design;
  • Board game design activities for your classroom.

Day 6 – Course closure & cultural activities

  • Course evaluation: round up of acquired competences, feedback, and discussion;
  • Awarding of the course Certificate of Attendance;
  • Excursion and other external cultural activities.

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