EXPERIENTIAL REFLECTIVE LEARNING WITH BOARD GAMES
Leadership as a competence area is becoming increasingly important in the field of higher education. In the Netherlands, for instance, the national educational profile for Human Resource professionals cites leadership as one of the core competences of the Human Resouce professional. The Human Resource professional needs to be able to show effective Human Resource leadership while working as a business partner with management. This trend can also be found in other Master's programs.
However, in reality it appears to be difficult to ensure that students not only learn about leadership theories and models, but also engage in practical experiences regarding leadership. Thus, and based on our experience in leadership development, we have designed a Learning and Development activity for higher education which successfully enhances reflective learning in the area of leadership.
Design requirements and basic assumptions:
The design of the activity was based on the following assumptions and requirements:
• The Learning and Development activity needed to be targeted toward future leaders in different fields, aged 18-28
• Learning about the impact of real behaviour should be the main focus, rather than simply studying theoretical frameworks. However, a certain amount of theory would have to be presented, to enhance reflection
• The learning should take place by doing, receiving feedback and engaging in personal and group reflection. Peer feedback should be prioritized over feedback from facilitators/lecturers
• Everyone should have an equal opportunity to learn about their leadership behaviour
• Everyone should be able to learn something about leadership throughout the whole Learning and Development activity
• Preparation and execution had to be as easy as possible
Choosing a board game as the basis for the Learning and Development activity:
A customized board game was chosen as the basis for the activity, since it offered the following characteristics:
• A (board) game features all of the intrinsic motivation elements that are mentioned in Self-Determination Theory: autonomy, competence and relatedness
• It activates natural behaviour, with no artificial interventions necessary
• Plug and play: easy execution
The final design met all the above-mentioned criteria
Results of 3 pilot sessions in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom:
3 pilot sessions were held at the departments of International Business Studies and Human Resource Management Studies of 2 different universities in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The pilot sessions were evaluated by means of evaluation forms completed by the students, and by evaluation meetings with the lecturers who participated.
The results were as follows:
• Reflection reports by students showed that it had been a significant learning experience
• Direct evaluation by students demonstrated high levels of engagement, as well as theoretical and behavioural learning about leadership topics
• The universities that hosted the pilot sessions have decided to include the Learning and Development activity in their standard curriculum
• Learnings included opportunities for applications with a focus on gender and cultural differences