“Judge & Justify” Games for the University Classroom

On Monday, October 22, 2018, Anthropology professor Krista Harper and I hosted a gathering of University of Massachusetts Amherst instructors: Game-Based Learning Community of Practice: Make a Game for your Class.

The session was built on the premise that games emerging out of the loose heritage of the popular card game Apples to Apples (we chose to label this category of games “Judge & Justify”) had many features that could be adapted into productive and engaging in-class learning activities.

Session Outline

  • The participants played a few hands of Cards Against Anthropology, a game about assessing appropriate (or wildly inappropriate) responses to issues that can arise in anthropological fieldwork.
  • Krista and I presented on the heritage of Judge & Justify games, the affordances & constraints of this family of games, and ways to assess students who engage with games like this. See our presentation (pdf).
  • Participants split into 5 groups of 2-4 and spent about 30 minutes developing game prototypes based on their own instructional goals. See the game design handout we provided (pdf).
  • The groups presented their game prototypes, along with the game materials (card examples, rules text, etc.) that they had produced.

Session Outcomes

  • The 14 participants, split into 5 groups, produced 5 solid game prototypes: sample game components, assessment plans, and all.
  • In the anonymous evaluations filled out by participants, all expressed that they were “extremely satisfied” with the experience.

The Games and their Instructional Goals

  • Assessing symptoms and patient history to diagnose conditions.
  • Deciding on appropriate behaviors in the context of service learning and cross-cultural group communication.
  • Curing “monstrous” varieties of cancer.
  • Improving student critiques of their peers’ animation work.
  • Examining modern artifacts and well-known heritage sites through an “objective” descriptive lens.

What’s Next and What Could Be Improved?

  • There is an opportunity for a longer-form (half-day?) game design workshop focused on helping instructors build out near-complete game designs for their classes.
  • We briefly discussed how Judge & Justify game activities like this could be adapted for online and remote learning spaces, but I felt like I gave it short shrift.
  • We could have given more explicit prompts for what participants could do next after the workshop ended: offers for individual consultations, future events, etc.

Session Materials

If you have trouble accessing these documents, email me at sam dot anderson at umass dot edu.