Critical Thinking as George Orwell’s Ministry of Information

The project attempted to address student engagement and comprehension issues in a core Philosophy unit (PHL137) that teaches critical thinking to first year undergraduates.  Students learn how to think critically by gaining a broad understanding of logical forms, methods for appraising and critiquing an argument, and identification of fallacies. Logical arguments are particularly hard to grasp for some students as taught traditionally, so it was thought that taking a different approach involving gamification elements might aid student understanding and provide more engaging opportunities for learning.

Design considerations

In early design sessions it quickly became obvious that something beyond adding gamification elements to the unit was required.  Logical arguments, for example, are best understood in the context of real or virtual world situations, so that students can map concepts onto their own life experience. This suggested that presenting ideas within a narrative game structure might provide a viable and engaging format for learning.

Games development

Three prototype games were proposed and developed, each covering one of the three knowledge areas taught in PHL137- Critical Thinking: The Fallacies Game tasks students with identifying fallacies in a series of connected statements, using a drag-and-drop interface developed by the project team. Icons represent fallacies such as an "appeal to authority" statement or an "ad hominem" attack on a person rather than a response to their argument. [thumbnail target="_self" src="http://teche.ltc.mq.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ltc_fpp_showcase_fallacy_game.png"]   The Venn Card Game is a matching exercise that students can use to identify syllogistic arguments.  Players match random cards containing Venn diagrams of arguments with a corresponding text card, as shown in the following card-pair: [thumbnail target="_self" src="http://teche.ltc.mq.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ltc_fpp_showcase_argument_type.png"]   Citizen 66 is an Interactive Fiction game that is played as a quest within a narrative text-based structure.  Its setting is a dystopian future where workers must prove their right to citizenship by exploring the fictional landscape and solving tests of logic based on the syllogistic argument forms presented in the Venn Card Game. [thumbnail target="_self" src="http://teche.ltc.mq.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ltc_fpp_showcase_fallacy_game.jpg"]

Outcomes

All three prototype games have been extensively tested with work colleagues over the project's development cycle.  They will be included in a future offering of PHL137 as a voluntary series of exercises that students can use as engaging learning activities.  Evaluation of the trial run in 2014 will inform future game designs in this and other disciplines.  The Exploring Gamification in Philosophy project resulted from a collaboration between Macquarie University's Learning and Teaching Centre (LTC) and the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts, through a six-month Faculty Partnerships Program (FPP) project that commenced in January 2013.

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