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An opportunity to reflect: second-level learnings and their application to third-level education

Presentation Pitch, Flamed for Murder Game

Trainee teachers spend a great deal of time on reflection. How and why a lesson went well or not so well, what could be done to improve learning outcomes and experiences for the students in the classroom, and action steps to take. As individuals get further and further away from those training years, they tend to take less and less time for reflective practice. Learning how to become a more effective educator by learning from our environment is an important tool to enrich learning opportunities and experiences.

In March 2022, 20 self-selecting Transition Year students (15-16 years old) participated in a week-long design sprint, centred around the theme of climate change adaptation. The sprint was structured to support the development of skills and competencies including the acquisition of knowledge to empower students and increase their confidence in tackling key issues related to the current climate crisis we are living through. Together with members from our team, we were joined by members of UCD’s Earth Institute, who developed content-based sessions for micro lessons.

The week-long climate-themed design sprint focused on one driving question: How do we increase awareness of climate change and adaptation for young people (aged 15-17) using game design?

Stages in the game design process

Observations on learning

For the third-level expertise brought into the sprint, the context and style of teaching were different from what they typically were used to. The sprint was set up to deliver knowledge and support participants to actively acquire, practice and implement that knowledge in their responses to the driving question.

This experience was noisier, with participants working much more freely and independently. This more dynamic pace and style led to accelerated learning, enhanced engagement and student-directed learning.

Some key observations on the learning process included;

  • There was a natural development of roles in teams. Teams who did not employ a lot of effort at the start put in the effort as time went on by watching other teams progress

  • No behaviour management was needed

  • Information was broken into sizable chunks and inspired by participants’ own content

  • Combining serious games with design thinking can spark students’ creativity

  • Learning is messy and not linear

  • Learners are taught key skills through structured tasks, but for the most part, lead their own learning

  • Initially, there were small struggles with the process of self-organisation and self- management in the group. There are always teams more or less motivated depending on the size and individuals - this often shifts with some encouragement from the facilitators but mostly from observing peers.

Applying reflections to third-level teaching practices

The value of the sprint both for learners and the potential for external third-level expertise, or those who do not commonly deliver education using experiential learning or more active methods, has been affirmed.

Some key observations included;

  • In this way of learning, participants have space to create, collaborate, have accountability (important for motivation), autonomy / ownership and agency

  • The working relationships between participants and facilitators changed over the week as the former became more confident / competent and trusting of the facilitation process and not being told what to do

  • Much scaffolding was required for the micro-lessons, mainly due to working with older students, longer time frames and more passive learning e.g. lectures and expectations of prior knowledge. Also due to third-level educators’ timetables - their input was integrated through a more improvised process than would normally be the case.

The reflective practice undertaken by Climate Change Engage facilitators was a useful lens to review their own teaching, and potential implications for reshaping the way information and skills acquisition are delivered in third-level institutions. By providing learners with ‘breathing space’ and incorporating a ‘design sprint’ approach to learning rather than didactic approaches, content acquisition and application is enhanced. Second-level education is also benefited from the integration of state-of-the-art knowledge and research to address the skills deficit.

The Future is Now.

It is time to prepare today's students for today’s world.

Please get in contact at if you are interested in using our resources with your learners.

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