Multimodal & Game-Based Pedagogy

This past Monday, Nov. 4, I attended an ITP workshop entitled, “Multimodal & Game-based Pedagogy,” led by Kahdeidra Martin, who proved to be a kind and enthusiastic steward into the world of student-centered praxis. The crux of the workshop involved integrating cutting-edge learning theories with hands-on pedagogical methods, in turn marrying theory and practice so as to facilitate a more intuitive, learner-centric approach to instructional design.

Kahdeidra began her workshop by requesting all participants to find a partner for a word-association game, in which each team chose two words from a bank of indigenous terms and proceeded to reel off as many associated words as possible within a limited time-span. We then went on to reflect on how this process inspired us to think collaboratively about the game-based logic of word association — which itself amounted to a fascinating conversation about the value of team-based, generative learning prompts. From there, Kahdeidra spoke about how teachers today might benefit from the practice of situating learning concepts and outcomes in the context of constructive game-based activities.

What’s more, Kahdeidra focused on the evidence-based value of student-centered pedagogy, citing an array of research from cognitive science on how communal and active learning experiences often serve to motivate student in ways that transmissionist pedagogy does not. Some of the key elements of student-centered pedagogy, Kahdeidra clarified, involve inquiry-based activities, strategic grouping and reciprocal learning, distributed knowledge production, as well as a personalized and interactive sense of student agency. At the center of these elements, we concluded, lies an impetus to tailor learning outcomes to actual student needs rather than pre-established lesson plans.

We further discussed how, in order to afford attention to learner needs, teachers ought to allow their students multiple points of access beyond that of a solitary text-based modality. Underpinning this approach to instructional design are two educational frameworks, both of which date to recent developments in cognitive neuroscience: namely, multiple intelligence theory (MI) and universal design for learning (UDL). Either framework confirms that using multiple entry points to attain knowledge demonstrates an equitable yet effective way to engage a diverse range of learners. Correspondingly, Kahdeidra cited scholars in demonstrating the manner in which “learning activities that include repetition and multiple opportunities to reinforce learning support brain plasticity, the continuous ability to adapt to new experiences” (Singer 1995; Squire & Kendel 2009). Using MI and UDL as a theoretical springboard for the rest of her workshop, Kahdeidra then provided each team with the handout below, otherwise known as the Martin Multimodal Lesson Matrix (TAPTOK):

After explaining these categories and how they constellate to enable an interactive learning experience for students, Kahdeidra asked each team to annotate one of her lesson plans with TAPTOK in mind. A fascinating question that subsequently emerged concerned the extent to which we as instructors can fit these categories into one cohesive learning activity without overwhelming students. In reply, Kahdeidra thoughtfully noted that the multimodal categories one employs will depend on the the nature of the subject matter and its associated learning outcomes. Put differently, it is invaluable for instructors to recognize, given the subject matter and time-constraints of their lesson, which multimodal categories might best facilitate dynamic and engaged learning habits, and which may rather serve as a distraction to students.

We discussed related topics, like Gee’s 16 principles for good game-based learning and Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development, but I’d like to wrap up at this point by expressing excitement over the contents of this workshop. Student-centered pedagogy, particularly in the context of game-based and multimodal learning, seems to me an important and valuable step forward for postsecondary education. The process of teaching is not about the teacher; it is about the student, the learner. I am confident this credo is one worthy of our attention — and so deserves our vested support and implementation if it is to eventually become a standard instructional practice of future educators. That said, multimodal and game-based learning only seem to be the tip of the iceberg, if only because student-centered pedagogy is so much more than a set of methods or practices: it is a mindset, a disposition, an enduring sign of respect for the learners we aim to enrich and support in these trying times.