Seminar 2 – the potential of games for change

This event took place in Sept 2020. Its purpose was to connect Theories of Change in education with the potential of games and playful approaches to enabling that change.

You can find recordings of the presentations and a summary of the event below.

The co-design part of this seminar fed into an analysis of stakeholder needs for the ACT Toolkit. You can read much more about this in our blog post here: A toolkit for change – user needs analysis

Theories of Change: Stories from the field, Karen Laing & Prof Liz Todd

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What’s in a game? Designing games to make a difference, Joanne Craven

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Playful and Gameful Education: Seriously? Prof Sylvester Arnab

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Event information

  • Date – 23rd Sept 2020
  • Time – 14:00 – 16:30 BST
  • Venue – online

The overall aim of the seminar was to tie together previous work in theories of change with practical applications in schools and then to identify specific opportunities for games/playful activities to assist in enabling and inspiring that change.


14:00 – 14:10 – Welcome and project update, presenting the toolkit structure, Dr Nataša Pantić

14.10 – 14:25 – What do teachers want from a Toolkit for Change? Reflections from Workshop 1, Barbara Dzieciatko & Daisy Abbott

14:25 – 14:30 – What do YOU want from the ACT Toolkit? 5 minute co-design activity

14.30 – 15:00 – Theories of Change: Stories from the field, Karen Laing & Prof Liz Todd

15.00 – 15.05 – BREAK

15:05 – 15:35 – What’s in a game? Designing games to make a difference, Joanne Craven

15:35 – 16:05 – Playful and Gameful Education: Seriously? Prof Sylvester Arnab

16:05 – 16:30 – Opportunities for games for change, discussion and co-design activity

Programme background info

Schools are recognised as important arenas for addressing pressing issues such as inequalities or climate change, for example through the Scottish Government strategies for closing the poverty-related attainment gap of learning for sustainability. Our programme develops ACToolkit to facilitate teachers’ and schools acting as agents of change towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ACToolkit will be designed to help educators a) build SDGs related targets in their development plans; b) identify relevant knowledge and network with players within and beyond schools to consider solutions; and c) evaluate their impact.       

Underlying research shows that teachers can and do act as agents of change when they work flexibly with various others to support the learning and wellbeing of all students and protect the vulnerable ones. ACToolkit will draw on cases of innovative practice to develop a ‘serious game’ (i.e. a game that has an educational as well as entertaining purpose), to help school staff engage in planning, implementing and evaluating change towards the achievement of SDGs. ACToolkit aims to enable an accessible, structured and engaging way of thinking through the whole-school approaches incorporating research and theories of change into schools’ self-evaluation and development activities, such as Whole-setting and community approach to learning for sustainability.

Game-based learning has considerable potential for efficient delivery of both knowledge and behavioural outcomes. Potential users and experts from Scotland and internationally will co-design a game for teachers and other school staff and leaders who are key for planning, implementing and evaluating change towards the achievement of SDG at different levels.

The programme is supported by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, including 2 seminars to consider research on teacher agency for change, and on educational potential of game-based learning, and 4 practical workshops to co-design the ACToolkit together with various stakeholders, including teachers, school leaders and policy makers at different levels. ACToolkit will include rules for how to use the game as well as step-by-step guide that outlines its potential uses for planning, implementing and evaluating change towards SDGs.

Our hope is that the toolkit will be used in professional development, as well as incorporated in different course units, such as the Edinburgh Futures Institute module on social change and agency. The toolkit will be disseminated to potential users from different Scottish and international networks of Continuing Professional Development providers and other organisations, such as OECD, Regional Improvement Cooperatives and Learning for Sustainability Scotland. For those schools that express interest in using the Toolkit we will also seek to provide opportunities for research-informed support, for example by working collaboratively with researchers, or with students on relevant courses who can help design and implement change with support from tutors.