A Colorado State University faculty member has received fellowship and grant money to study learning in a couple of unorthodox settings: role-playing games and teacher professional development that employs game design.
Antero Garcia, a CSU assistant professor of English, has been named a 2015-16 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow, one of the most prestigious fellowships in the field.
He’ll use the $70,000 over two years to research the tabletop gaming community of Northern Colorado, including roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons.
“I’m going to observe those who play D&D and how they interact and learn,” he said.
Garcia, whose specialties include the dynamics of interpersonal interactions in gameplay, is going to study a subculture in which players are governed by a hefty rulebook that serves simultaneously as a teaching guide, reference and piece of fiction. As part of the qualitative ethnography project, he’ll examine how new players get up to speed and interact with others.
“What does that learning process look like?” he asked. “And how do people agree to disagree?”
He’s also one of the recipients of a $2.5 million grant from Lucas Education Research, an arm of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Garcia is part of a multi-institutional team exploring two emerging areas that interest the creator of the Star Wars franchise: “project-based learning” and “social and emotional learning.”
Specifically, Garcia will be continuing his ongoing research into how project-based learning can enhance education in the classroom. He and fellow team members will visit Lucas’ famous Skywalker Ranch in Marin, Calif., twice annually.
His $120,000 share of the grant, along with the fellowship money, will allow him to focus solely on research in lieu of some of his teaching responsibilities over a two-year period.
In the meantime, Garcia has been staying busy this summer: He recently returned from the annual Comic-Con International convention in San Diego, where he helped lead a hands-on workshop about how teachers can incorporate comic books into the educational process.