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Best Practice Case Study: Social Policy Planning and Evaluation

University of Peloponnese (UoP): use of the RUEU? game on a 3rd year Core Elective Course entitled “Social Policy Planning and Evaluation” to examine how social issues might be incorporated into exploring European Identity

Stakeholders

Our students in the Social and Educational Policy Department at UoP are part of the intended target group of students for the RU EU? Game, i.e. Social Science and Business students across Europe.

The participant students are studying at the University of Peloponnese to receive a Social and Educational Policy degree. They have a very strong background regarding the main themes around EU identity, since they receive a range of social science courses, i.e. Sociology, Institutions and Organisation of the European Union, European Social Policy, Political Science, Labour Market and Employment Policies, Individual and Social Rights, Migration Policy etc.

The focus for this Best Practice Case study is to help students to think about aspects of game design as well as European identity.

The final prototype of the RU EU? game was used with a group of 20 3rd year students who were attending a Core Elective course at the Department of Social and Educational Policy, entitled “Social Policy Planning and Evaluation”. The course is compulsory for the Social Policy specialisation.

The students used the game in a 3h computer lab session. The game was available on the Moodle e-learning platform, so the students could use the game either at home or at the university computer lab.

Each student had access to a computer and played the game individually. The students also provided feedback on their views of the prototype of the RU EU? game.

Narrative

The course “Social Policy Planning and Evaluation” aims at offering students the opportunity

  • To critically analyze/synthesize key concepts and the theoretical basis of Social Planning
  • To describe the role of Social Planning as a procedure of rational decision making
  • To understand/analyze the role of Social Planning towards social justice
  • describe/compare different Social Planning techniques focusing upon cost-benefit analysis
  • to understand the context and the critical role of evaluation in Social Planning

The students were encouraged to use the RU EU? game with the aim to explore, think and reflect on European identity and how it is built by using the.

The design of the RU EU? game is based on Social identity theory, an established theory in social psychology, that describes how a person’s sense of who they are is based on the groups that they belong to and the positive feelings that they have about their membership in these groups (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Social identity theory explains how strong intergroup feelings emerge via two different processes, self-categorization and social comparison. Self-categorization describes how we categorise objects and events by identifying similarities and differences between ourselves and others and feel pride in the characteristics of the groups to which we feel we belong. Social comparison is the process whereby we maintain our self-esteem in belonging to that group by comparing ourselves favourably to those in other groups.

The proposals of social identity theory that our feelings of belonging to groups are formed through the interactions that we have with others. In the game players would interact with individuals in the shape of non-player characters who express varied and contradictory views about European identity. These views were represented in the activities carried out in the game tools where players could interview non player characters, observe discussions between non player characters and evaluate Newflashes. Playing the game helps players to understand EU identity as a complex, multicomponent construct and how different components are evident in the polarised views about the EU.

Embedding in the course / education

The students attending the “Social Policy Planning and Evaluation” course had the opportunity to play the RU EU? game as part of their exercise during a 3h computer lab session. Playing the game was expecting to help them to understand EU identity as a complex, multicomponent construct and how different components are evident in the polarised views about the EU.

The workshop was accessed from the Moodle site for the module and could be played either at home or from the University computers. Full instructions for downloading the game onto a laptop or desktop computer were also provided.

To provide a context for the workshop the students were briefly informed about the RU EU? Consortium and the background to the RU EU? Project, the increasing popularity of serious games as an innovative approach to learning and the aim of the RU EU? game in trying to provide an innovative method of supporting students in thinking about the highly relevant but controversial topic of European identity.

According to the RU-EU design team, “It is hoped that the game will provide an engaging platform for young Europeans to confront some of the complex and confusing issues surrounding National and European identity at a time of change and increasing tension across Europe” (Boyle at al., 2019). During conducted small-group and large-group discussion, the students identified issues across Europe as they reflect to their own work.
To evaluate whether the RU EU? was successful in this aim of increasing the player’s understanding of EU identity, the game uses an “intern” test as a baseline measure of the players’ attitudes to the EU and European identity for later use in evaluating the impact of the game. These tests are incorporated into the game in an interview to assess the player’s suitability for the trainee journalist job. The questions in the “intern” test were derived from the Eurobarometer survey (Favell, 2010/1) which looks at different components of European identity, such as geographical belonging, whether one thinks of oneself as a citizen of Europe, both now and in the future, the balance between thinking of oneself as a citizen of one’s own country but also as a citizen of Europe. The survey also asks about emotional identification with Europe with respect to attachment to Europe, closeness to Europe and pride in Europe.

(Learning) Activities and outcomes

Students learning engagement and activities were implemented during a 3h lab session. At first, they had the opportunity to familiarise with the game, to play the ‘Rights of immigrants’ scenario and to explore many different themes regarding EU identity. In addition, they were encouraged to reflect on critical game features, i.e., Game flow, Usability of the game, Learning Content, and Learning design. While playing the game, students were asked to think about a) the game scenario and b) the game content. They were prompted to play two scenarios, i.e. the immigration scenario and another one of their choice.
The students were also encouraged to reflect, discuss and share ideas with their peers about regarding the learning outcomes of the RU EU? game, in terms of knowledge, attitudes and values about their EU identity (De Freitas & Oliver, 2006; Romero, Usart & Ott, 2015). The RUEU? game includes activities that require players to encounter differing views about European identity and to engage in tasks requiring higher order thinking skills such as classification, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and judgement in making choices, evaluations and decisions about these differing opinions.
The majority of the students considered that the game was interesting and important towards approaching the European identity. They were positive about the general game features and the usability of the game. They reported that the game helped them to consider and rethink about different opinions regarding EU identity. The majority of the students were satisfied of the game activities, which helped them a) to receive new knowledge about EU identity issues, b) to rethink about personal identity and attitudes, and c) to better understand the anti-EU views.
The RUEU? game includes activities that require players to encounter differing views about European identity and to engage in tasks requiring higher order thinking skills such as classification, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and judgement in making choices, evaluations and decisions about these differing opinions.

The game content
The content area for the RU EU? game is European identity. This was operationalised in the RU EU? game as a multi-component construct where 10 key components (themes) were selected to reflect the breadth and complexity of factors underlying European identity and provide an operational definition of European identity to be implemented in the game. The themes were: Social, Environment, Rights & Responsibilities, Security, Emotions, Jobs & Economy, Political, History, Culture & Geography.
They students were positive about the game content, the dimensions of European identity that emerged, the quality of arguments presented and the many different perspectives of exploring EU identity. They liked many aspects of the game content stating that the game topics were interesting, meaningful, useful and relevant to its main target, and they found that the game helped them to question their identity.

The questions used in the “intern” test
The students were also encouraged to think about the questions used in the “intern” test. These were derived from the Eurobarometer survey which looks at different components of European identity, such as geographical belonging, whether one thinks of oneself as a citizen of Europe, both now and in the future, the balance between thinking of oneself as a citizen of one’s own country but also as a citizen of Europe. The survey also asks about emotional identification with Europe with respect to attachment to Europe, closeness to Europe and pride in Europe.
The students were also encouraged to think about the questions used in the “intern” test. These were derived from the Eurobarometer survey (Favell, (2010/1) which looks at different components of European identity, such as geographical belonging, whether one thinks of oneself as a citizen of Europe, both now and in the future, the balance between thinking of oneself as a citizen of one’s own country but also as a citizen of Europe. The survey also asks about emotional identification with Europe with respect to attachment to Europe, closeness to Europe and pride in Europe.

References

Boyle, E., Baalsrud Hauge, J., Leith, M., Sim, D., Hummel, H., Jandrić, P., & Jimoyiannis, A. (2019). Linking Learning Outcomes and Game Mechanics in the Early Stages of the RU EU? Project. In M. Gentile, M. Allegra, & H. Söbke (Eds.), Games and Learning Alliance. GALA 2018. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 11385 (pp. 191-200). Cham: Springer, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-11548-7_18.

De Freitas, S., & Oliver, M. (2006). How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated? Computers & Education46(3), 249-264.

Favell, A. (2010/1). European identity and European citizenship in three “Eurocities”: A sociological approach to the European Union, Politique Européenne 30, pp.187-224.

Romero, M., Usart, M., & Ott, M. (2015). Can serious games contribute to developing and sustaining 21st century skills? Games and Culture10(2), 148-177.

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behaviour. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (eds.). Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall. pp. 7–24.