Table of Contents
1. Managing difficulty
Formal educational system
Traditional attitudes about teaching (According to Richards (2008), methodologies are explained as forms of learning that were very much seen as being under the teacher’s control. In this regard, the traditional classrooms are seen as ceremonial places where students sat in rows like spectators, while the teacher sat in front of them, as a mayor or a priest would (Crawford et al., 2005). Unlike traditional methodologies, the modern teaching methodologies are much more student-centered. Scrivener (2005) explains that in modern methodologies, the main role of the teacher is to help students in the process of learning by encouraging, involving and helping them to try things out and to explore) and some teachers’ resistance to innovative elements in pedagogical practice and classroom experimentation would be a challenge to the implementation of an Escape Room.
Students’ attitudes are a very important factor for the realization of innovations. The internal resistance (explicit or implicit) of the participants in the educational process – principals, teachers and students- is a very serious challenge to overcome.
Each new endeavour, each new idea and methodological development is associated with investing a lot of personal time and effort for the development of the idea, planning activities and implementation of the idea. Legal restrictions related to the coverage of the curriculum in class and the acquisition of certain knowledge, skills and competencies, which require strict adherence to certain pedagogical methods and limited time for different disciplines can also be a challenge to integrating the Escape Room into the real learning process.
- Support from other teachers:
In some cases, the development and implementation of an Escape Room involves the participation of a team of teachers. They should have the same attitudes towards teaching methods. The support of all participating teachers is an important factor for practical implementation.
1.1. Decision on the type of escape room
According to the preliminary analysis and the challenges, the team of teachers before developing the scenario must decide on how to implement the activities and the number of participants needed to solve each task – small groups of students (up to 10), whole class (divided in groups of 4-5 students), single participants.
- Preparatory meeting of the teachers involved in the creation and implementation of the Escape Room
It is really easy to create an exciting and fun Escape Room that involves finding clues and solving puzzles pertaining to content, but it is a different thing entirely to use solid instructional strategies that match the activity to clear learning outcomes. While the game should be fun, the puzzles, clues, and game strategy should be based on sound pedagogical approaches such as recall of prior knowledge, evaluating information, making connections, etc.The team must decide on the main idea and topic for the educational task. All tasks and activities must be in accordance with the curriculum of the included subjects. Tasks can be diagnostic in nature for students’ knowledge before learning a new topic or area of study. Some of the activities can present new information, new scientific concepts or new ideas to students. Other activities may focus on self-directed learning or require the use of already acquired knowledge and skills from previous lessons. The team should also consider ways to assess students’ progress and develop criteria for assessing that progress. Appropriate tests should also be developed to assess objectively students’ educational progress. The expected results must be clearly and concretely defined so that the students achieve the goals set by the activities in the game.
- Next teacher meetings
At subsequent meetings, the team must identify and coordinate the educational content and determine the topics to be included. Teachers strive to select challenging and interesting tasks.
The teachers establish the difficulty of the tasks taking into account the levels of their students. That happens after they have analyzed the students’ needs and their learning styles. Teachers set tasks of varying difficulty, considering the age group and the individual abilities of students as well as the requirements of the curriculum. The selected tasks and activities should be fully consistent with the curriculum.
- Design the Escape Room
The team must decide on the duration of the game, the number of participating groups, and the number of participants in each group. The distribution by groups can be done after studying the needs of the participants.Teachers prepare scenarios as well as the relevant parts of the game. All parts of the game must be consistent and synchronized and have a complete finish and ultimate goal.The team designs the physical space and prepares scenes for the various activities. The team decides how to achieve game balance – a range of different types of puzzles; a range of different difficulties of puzzles; lots of different things for people to do; a variety of different types of locks. Students may inadvertently destroy a visual, a riddle or a clue. The team should make spares in case a replacement is necessary, or if the game should be run for multiple classes at the same time.
- Practical considerations when testing the game
Once the team has planned the game and prepared the puzzles that form the game, they have to bring them all together. After all the work the teachers put into creating the game, they really do not want the clues not to work, or for something not to add up in the game. They should re-read their explanation of the game and check all riddles and hints to ensure that the game is ready to go!The team should test the game with multiple audiences before deploying it for students. Some puzzles may take longer than the team expected, others shorter, and still others are unsolvable as written–a multi-level playtest strategy, with revisions between each new audience, is key to success.
At this stage, it will enable the teachers to discover whether they have the right balance of playability and learning. The game should be also tested for accessibility to a wide range of people – people with disabilities, allergies, or phobias. The safety of the game for all participants is also very important and it should be considered during the testing.
2. Supporting the players
To support participants, teachers develop Escape Room rules and present them in the form of general rules before the start of the game. They can present them orally, digitally, or put them on the wall of the room as a poster. The teachers introduce the format of the Escape Room and orient the students to the narrative/scenario briefly. Get acquainted with the rules of conduct, difficulties in unlocking or unusual locks.
Everyone should be acquainted with the rules for maintaining health and safety issues, which includes acceptable behaviour in the room and what to do in emergency cases.
You should develop a system to control what is happening during the game.
To communicate with the players, the teacher can be present in the room at the time of the game (straightforward communication) or be watching from a hidden place outside using a telephone, walkie-talkie, or texting via a tablet or smartphone.
Teachers give hints and clues when necessary to reduce the difficulty – they decide on how to give the hints (on request or when they think they are needed); the number of clues; straightforward or cryptic clues.
During the game, the teacher is not instructing and therefore is free to observe student learning without embarrassment. The teacher can identify which students are participating, which students are getting stuck on which task, and can provide more guidance to those that need it. The teacher should be watching, interacting, and taking notes on student learning and accomplishment during the game.
It is extremely important to find a balance between the teacher guidance and the participants’ feeling of autonomy during the Escape Room gameplay.
Teachers must ensure the active participation of all participants. When the whole class divided into groups of 4-5 students plays the game in the same room at the same time, confined learning spaces within the larger room should be created.
The use of different digital devices is recommended in order to foster teamwork and collaborative learning.
3. Managing the time limit
The distribution of playing time is of great importance for the practicality of its use. If the game itself is 60 minutes, then 15 minutes should be provided for being acquainted with the rules and the scenario before it starts, 10 minutes for discussion after the end and time for cleaning and tidying up the space. All of these needs need to be considered carefully for the game to be implemented effectively in the classroom.
4. Achievement of learning and debriefing objectives
- Testing the playability of the game
- Considering the degree to which the game is achieving its intended learning outcomes
- Thinking of an approach for self-assessment with respect to learning outcomes
- Self-checking the Escape Room before testing.
The power of the Escape Room experience often lies in the debrief. Debriefing as a reflection on learning. This is one of the most important aspects. Students can become so immersed in breaking out, that they may not always grasp everything they should have learned. Throughout the students’ participation in the Escape Room, the debriefing stage is their only opportunity for reflection; without reflection, experience cannot lead to long-term learning. Always include some type of post-activity review and/or assessment to ensure that the main learning points were recognized and understood. In groups, students will have to assess two aspects – the value of the Escape Room itself, which will be useful for identifying any problems in the ER and fixing them, and they will have to evaluate themselves as a group. Students must be aware that what one person in a group does might affect the rest of partners.