We have spent so much time nurturing the notion of one correct answer (convergent thinking) that we have lost sight of the bigger picture. Sometimes there isn’t one right answer, and divergent thinking is required to come up with many solutions to a problem. As stated by Sir Ken Robinson, divergent thinking is a long-lost notion that lies at the heart of creativity. Then why aren’t we using instructional strategies that encourage divergent thinking in our training?
A serious game is an instructional strategy that promotes divergent thinking. In the pursuit of the epic win, gamers explore multiple paths, review which approach would be best, analyse the pros and cons of each strategy, and come up with multiple ways to master a level. Learners evaluate the success of their actions and change strategies as needed. Not only are they mastering the skills with zeal and motivation, in the thinking of Sir Ken Robinson, they are nurturing their creative genes.
Throughout the divergent thinking process employed during serious gaming, something even more important is brewing under the tip of the iceberg. While players/learners are monitoring their comprehension and evaluating their progress, they are engaging in what educational psychologists refer to as metacognition. This self-regulating process is said to play a critical role in successful learning. Metacognition is also linked to intelligence, the connection being that the greater the metacognitive abilities, the more successful thinking and problem solving abilities will be. Thus, games are not only engaging the learner, they are also promoting higher order thinking whose effects spill over in all aspects of the learner’s life.
In his article On a Hunt for What Makes Gamers Keep Gaming, New York Times Columnist John Tierney wrote that serious games mimic the reality of the workday where you look at information on the screen, discern immediate objectives, and choose what to click and drag. If our workday is like a game and if metacognitive activities lie at the heart of the execution, then it’s only natural for serious games to have a place in corporate training. For this reason, greater efforts should be made to incorporate serious gaming as one of the instructional strategies in your training curriculum.