Games and the Teaching of Literature

Evaluating the effect of education games on the learning and teaching of English literature.

Video game level up screen


Research background

Initial funding came from the £10,000 award of a National Teaching Fellowship (2013) to Professor David Roberts. For some time, Roberts had been using games to teach Early Modern Drama and Literary Theory. A literature review showed that for all the current interest in games and pedagogy, very little had been written about the use of games in higher-level study of English. Roberts and Hopkins co-authored an article for the journal Changing English (2015) in which they sought to account for the gap in existing studies and to critique prevailing notions of the game in pedagogic literature.

Research aims

Having explored the rationale for the project in the Changing English article, Roberts applied for an £8000 grant from the HEA’s Innovative Pedagogies programme, with a view to building a bank of games for use in the university English curriculum and by more advanced ‘A’ level students. Working with Hopkins, a suite of more than a hundred games was designed to promote learning of higher-level skills in close reading, contextual studies, theoretical perspectives, and other aspects of the HE/‘A’ level English curriculum.

Research methods

The games were tested continuously with groups of students in classes led by Roberts at BCU, and by Hopkins at the University of Worcester. Feedback was gathered and refinements made. A pilot project for a card game called Shakespertise, testing detailed knowledge of individual Shakespeare plays, was successfully trialled with visiting doctoral students at the Shakespeare Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Research outcomes

Feedback from successive teaching events and trials suggests that the suite of games has a strongly motivating effect on student learning, and (in the case of Shakespertise) can act as a powerful way of developing and reinforcing textual, contextual and theoretical knowledge. The suite of games developed in the second phase of the project was published by Libri in 2016 as Games for English Literature.

Further reading