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Social play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher education to support the development of social skills of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Experiencing a positive state of well-being throughout higher education is not a given for every student. Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder experience a significantly lower sense of well-being during their time in higher education which is often caused by a lack of social skills. On the other hand, it is difficult for educational professionals in higher education to support this specific student group in their development. This article researches the practicality and usability of a Table-Top Role-Playing game, The Sisters of Nature, that aims to increase the social skills development of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in higher education. The literary research has been used to create a conceptual framework and design requirements that led to the design of the game. The practicality of the TTRPG has been researched through a walkthrough of a partially detailed product. Several scenarios of the TTRPG were tested with educational professionals of different levels of experience in both TTRPG's and education. The usability of the TTRPG as a new educational method has been researched by analyzing the data through the challenge & support model. The data has been analyzed with another researcher to ensure the validity of the results. A major outcome of this research has been the level of support needed as an educational professional when implementing new educational methods depending on the levels of experience. The article concludes with a discussion of ways to strengthen the future development of the TTRPG.
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Social play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher
education to support the development of social skills of
students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
O.M.N.C. Jansen
Master Thesis: Talent Development & Diversity
Hanze University of Applied Sciences
Groningen, the Netherlands
o.m.n.c.jansen@pl.hanze.nl
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Carla Geveke
Wordcount: 9918
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Abstract
Experiencing a positive state of well-being throughout higher education is not a given for every student. Students with
Autism Spectrum Disorder experience a significantly lower sense of well-being during their time in higher education which is
often caused by a lack of social skills. On the other hand, it is difficult for educational professionals in higher education to
support this specific student group in their development. This article researches the practicality and usability of a Table-Top
Role-Playing game, The Sisters of Nature, that aims to increase the social skills development of students with Autism
Spectrum Disorder in higher education. The literary research has been used to create a conceptual framework and design
requirements that led to the design of the game. The practicality of the TTRPG has been researched through a walkthrough
of a partially detailed product. Several scenarios of the TTRPG were tested with educational professionals of different levels
of experience in both TTRPG’s and education. The usability of the TTRPG as a new educational method has been researched
by analyzing the data through the challenge & support model. The data has been analyzed with another researcher to
ensure the validity of the results. A major outcome of this research has been the level of support needed as an educational
professional when implementing new educational methods depending on the levels of experience. The article concludes
with a discussion of ways to strengthen the future development of the TTRPG.
Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs), Well-being, higher education, social skills
development.
Social Play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher education to support the development of social skills of students with Autism
Spectrum Disorder. O.M.N.C.Jansen | Thesis Master TD&D 31/05/2021
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Table of contents
1 Introduction ............................................................................................................................................................................ 3
1.1 Relevance .......................................................................................................................................................................... 3
2 Theoretical Framework ........................................................................................................................................................... 4
2.1 Strength-based learning ................................................................................................................................................... 4
2.2 Collaborative learning ....................................................................................................................................................... 5
2.3 Play .................................................................................................................................................................................... 7
3 Conceptual framework ........................................................................................................................................................... 8
3.1 Design requirements......................................................................................................................................................... 8
3.2 Research question: ........................................................................................................................................................... 9
4 Methodology ......................................................................................................................................................................... 10
4.1 Design Research .............................................................................................................................................................. 10
4.2 The participants .............................................................................................................................................................. 10
4.3 Procedure ........................................................................................................................................................................ 11
4.4 Instrument....................................................................................................................................................................... 11
5 Data Analysis ......................................................................................................................................................................... 12
5.1 Thematic Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................... 12
5.1 Challenge & support model ............................................................................................................................................ 12
6 Results ................................................................................................................................................................................... 12
6.1 Research question 1: Practicality of the intervention .................................................................................................... 12
6.2 Research Question 2: Usability for the educational professional.................................................................................. 13
7 Conclusion ............................................................................................................................................................................. 15
7.1 Conclusion on Practicality ............................................................................................................................................... 15
7.2 Conclusion on usability ................................................................................................................................................... 16
8 Discussion.............................................................................................................................................................................. 16
8.1 Recommendations .......................................................................................................................................................... 16
9 References ............................................................................................................................................................................ 18
10 Appendices ...................................................................................................................................................................... 24
10.1 Appendix A: Short Pitch of the Sisters of Nature ...................................................................................................... 24
10.2 Appendix B: Invite for test session ............................................................................................................................ 26
10.3 Appendix C: Walkthrough Details for the Test Session ............................................................................................. 27
10.4 Appendix D: Interview plans ..................................................................................................................................... 32
10.5 Appendix E: Defining themes .................................................................................................................................... 34
10.6 Appendix F: Quotes connected to the themes defined during triangulation .......................................................... 39
Social Play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher education to support the development of social skills of students with Autism
Spectrum Disorder. O.M.N.C.Jansen | Thesis Master TD&D 31/05/2021
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1 INTRODUCTION
Studying in higher education should be a time for self-development and growth on both a professional and personal level.
Areas of development are a positive progression in academic performance, development of professional behavior, social
skills, integration in society, and life satisfaction. To do so, students need to experience a positive state of well-being
(Samuel, Bergman, and Hupka-Brunner, 2013; Gräbel, 2017).
Well-being is the experience of positive emotions, feeling engaged in activities, having good relationships with other people,
finding meaning in one’s life, and experience a sense of accomplishment in the pursuit of one’s goals (Seligman et al., 2009).
However, not all students experience a positive state of well-being during their time in higher education. Students with
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), are among the students who experience a negative state of well-being (Van Heijst and
Geurts, 2015; Dijkhuis et al., 2017). Students with ASD are characterized by impairments in social communication and
interaction with others as well as restricted, repetitive behaviors (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Autisme, no date; American
Psychiatric Association, 2013). Research shows that the lack of well-being is caused by difficulties experienced with social-
emotional skills, such as working together in groups, asking questions, striking up a conversation, and a lack of awareness of
social problems (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Autisme, no date; Starr et al., 2003; Cai and Richdale, 2016; Dijkhuis et al.,
2017; Volkmar, Jackson and Hart, 2017; Valérie Van Hees, Tinneke Moyson, Ph.D. & Herbert Roeyers, 2018). This not only
results, in poor academic achievement and slower progression rates, (Bakker et al., 2020; Comer & Comer, 2019; Shattuck et
al., 2012; Welsh et al., 2001), but may also cause negative peer interactions (Locke et al., 2010; Bolourian, Zeedyk, and
Blacher, 2018), an increase in social anxiety (Bellini and Peters, 2008), feelings of loneliness and isolation (Bauminger,
Shulman and Agam, 2003; Humphrey and Symes, 2010; Locke et al., 2010), and a decrease in self-esteem (Tantam, 2000). All
these components negatively affect the students’ sense of well-being (Garrison-Harrell, Kamps and Kravits, 1997; Welsh et
al., 2001; Locke et al., 2010; Calder, Hill and Pellicano, 2012). It has been noted that these students do not lack the
intelligence to study in higher education, nor the willingness to learn (Bakker et al., 2019; Bakker et al., 2020; Dijkhuis et al.,
2017; MacLeod et al., 2018; Van Heijst & Geurts, 2015).
During preliminary research (Jansen, 2021a, 2021b), students with ASD were asked about their experiences in higher
education and quoted:
“There were some people that were making fun of me, several classmates at [university] put me to the
side, whether through ignoring me, spreading rumors about me, or not trusting me as a valid partner for
projects. I don't get it, I don't know what I am doing wrong, if I try approaching them friendly then
people don't seem to bother most of the time (Jansen, 2021a). ”
“Making friends was hard but once I had a small social group it was the best I've ever experienced
(Jansen, 2021b).“
I had a fair number of negative experiences with teamwork in both college and higher education
Oftentimes, this came down to communication and reaching consensus. I do not want to get isolated or
ostracized, yet on occasion, I did run into disagreements I couldn't voice because of that (Jansen, 2021b).
It has been shown that when students experience a positive sense of well-being, their academic performance goes up, but
the opposite is also true; students who experience a lack of well-being will see a negative effect on their academic
performance (Gräbel, 2017). Combine that with the fact that less than 40% of students with ASD in higher education
graduate (Shattuck et al., 2012; Bolourian, K.M. Stavropoulos and Blacher, 2019; Comer and Comer, 2019), shows that there
is a problem in higher education that deserves looking into.
1.1 RELEVANCE
The way higher education is designed doesn’t always fit every type of student (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Autisme, no
date; Valérie Van Hees, Tinneke Moyson, Ph.D. & Herbert Roeyers, 2018; Jansen, 2021b, 2021a), but it is the job of
education to ensure that each student receives the opportunity to achieve their goals in higher education and become ready
professionals for the work field. Studies show that both higher education and the work field require young professionals to
be adept at skills such as; communication & collaboration, critical thinking & problem solving, planning & organization,
flexibility, and emotional intelligence (Blair and Cybele Raver, 2015; Cai and Richdale, 2016; Luksha et al., 2018; Ackerman,
2020; Jansen, 2020; World Economic Forum, 2020), which are the exact skills that students with ASD struggle with due to an
executive functioning disorder (Van Heijst and Geurts, 2015; Dijkhuis et al., 2017).
Social Play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher education to support the development of social skills of students with Autism
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Several researchers state the need for targeted interventions in higher education that focus on the development of social
skills, to improve the well-being and academic performance of students with ASD (Adreon & Durocher, 2007; Attwood,
2000; Bakker et al., 2020; Yasamine Bolourian et al., 2018; Durlak et al., 2011; Rao et al., 2008; Shattuck et al., 2012; Valérie
Van Hees, Tinneke Moyson, Ph.D. & Herbert Roeyers, 2018; White & Roberson-Nay, 2009).
However, many educational professionals in higher education lack the knowledge or training to support students with ASD
(Swift, 2012; Hendrickson et al., 2017). Research stated that a strength-based approach would be ideal when it comes to
educating students with ASD (Grandin, 2007; Mottron, 2011). A strength-based approach aims to help each individual to
recognize and act on their strengths (Reynolds, Williamson, and Galloway, 2020) which results in higher levels of
engagement, and boost well-being and academic performance (Anderson, 2006; Grandin, 2007; Louis, 2008; Lopez and
Louis, 2009; Bowers and Lopez, 2010; Stebleton, Soria and Albecker, 2012; Cornwall, 2018). Engagement is of great
importance for learners with ASD as it helps set a foundation for the development of skills and disposition which are
essential to increasing well-being (Carini, Kuh and Klein, 2006; Grandin, 2007). Educational professionals should practice the
principles of strength-based education themselves when diving into the role of a coach while students are learning to put
their strengths to work in both learning and social situations (Lopez and Louis, 2009; Department of Education and Early
Childhood Development, 2012; Dochy, 2018)
There are several components in this study that have been taken into account during the development of the intervention;
(1) the students need support in the development of social skills to improve their sense of well-being and subsequently their
academic performance, (2) the educational professionals need support and guidance on how to apply a strength-based
approach when supporting these students, and (3) the intervention needs to be designed to combine both aspects.
Purpose of the study
This study has been conducted to increase the sense of well-being of students with ASD when they enter higher education
by supporting their social skills development. The results of this study will aid in the design process of an innovative and
playful solution. The intervention has been designed to help students with ASD develop their social skills through engaging
play while being supported in their development by an educational professional in the role of coach. Important in this study
was to keep the strength-based approach at the forefront, having students use their existing talents to develop new talents
in social skills, while their coach supports the students with ASD in the process.
2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
2.1 STRENGTH-BASED LEARNING
Developing one’s strengths is essential for success in study and in life (Lopez and Louis, 2009; Reynolds, Williamson and
Galloway, 2020). Grounded in positive psychology (Bowers, 2009; Seligman et al., 2009), the strength-based learning
approach aims to help each individual to recognize and act on their strengths (Reynolds, Williamson and Galloway, 2020)
which results in higher levels of engagement, and boost well-being and academic performance (Anderson, 2006; Grandin,
2007; Louis, 2008; Lopez and Louis, 2009; Bowers and Lopez, 2010; Stebleton, Soria and Albecker, 2012; Cornwall, 2018).
This educational approach is particularly effective for students with learning difficulties such as ASD, as it helps the
development of social-emotional skills (Grandin, 2007; Pedaste et al., 2015).
To apply a strength-based approach it is important for educators to intentionally discover their talents, to apply their
strengths in their daily work, to continuously improve, and to establish activities to help students discover their talents and
apply their strengths while learning knowledge, acquiring academic skills and 21st-century skills while demonstrating their
learnings in educational and social settings (Lopez and Louis, 2009; Sebastian, 2017).
Strength-based learning is grounded in several principles. Although researchers categorize them differently, the principles
come down to the following six.
An understanding of student’s strengths
In a strength-based approach, it is not only important for a student to gain insight into their strengths, but for the
educational professional to understand the talents of their students to help them apply these strengths in and outside of the
classroom. By understanding the talents of the students, the educational professional can help the students reflect on how
to use these strengths outside of the direct learning environment (Carey, 2004; Lopez and Louis, 2009; Bowers and Lopez,
2010; Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, 2016). Since people with ASD are more often identified by
their weaknesses instead of their strengths this can become difficult (Cosden et al., 2006). Understanding the strengths of
Social Play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher education to support the development of social skills of students with Autism
Spectrum Disorder. O.M.N.C.Jansen | Thesis Master TD&D 31/05/2021
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students with ASD will improve the support given by the educational professional. Research suggests using visual aids and
discussion to help students with ASD identify their strengths. (Teti et al., 2016)
Personalized learning experiences
The learning environment needs to connect to the individual needs and interests of the student to create an environment in
which development can take place (Steenbergen-Penterman et al., 2008; Zacarian, Lourdes and Judie, 2017; Katō, 2019). In
a personalized learning experience, it is important to allow room for choice as to how to demonstrate their strengths within
the program or intervention. Feedback from the coach or educational professional is needed to address the development
and application of strengths when it comes to pursuing goals (Lopez and Louis, 2009). If the learning environment matches
the needs and interests of the students, students with ASD more freely demonstrate their talents and will also find
conversation and interaction more enjoyable (Katō, 2019).
A social environment
Learning takes place in a dynamic and interactive environment (Veenker et al., 2017; Dochy, 2018) and within the strength-
based approach, programs or interventions must allow for learning in smaller groups (Lopez and Louis, 2009; Zacarian,
Lourdes and Judie, 2017; Dochy, 2018). Working together and developing relationships in groups also directly influence well-
being (Lopez and Louis, 2009; Seligman et al., 2009) and while students are discovering their strengths in a group setting,
they can also share these findings with each other, learn how to work together better and provide each other with feedback.
Over time, in this setting, students could create strength-collaborations with their peers. A collaboration that happens
through communication in which the students can combine strengths to aid their learning and development process (Lopez
and Louis, 2009).
A growth mindset
In applying a strength-based approach it is important that the environment supports and affirms the strengths of the
individual student, be it peers or educational professionals to help develop a growth mindset that focuses on positive
development (Bowers and Lopez, 2010; Zacarian, Lourdes and Judie, 2017). According to renowned psychologist and
researcher Carol Dweck (2017), the growth mindset helps students believe in their abilities, helps them embrace challenges,
see their value through positive feedback, and inspires them to do more. Important to keep in mind in a strength-based
approach, is to always set goals for the future, utilizing strengths to continue development, and to avoid a fixed mindset
where the student might think they have learned enough which could result in a decline in motivation and performance
(Asuza Pacific University, no date; Louis, 2008).
Deliberate application of strengths
Deliberate application of strengths is done by both the student and the educational professional. For a student, this comes
down to deliberate practice to improve their academic performance (Van Gog et al., 2005). Coincidentally the educational
professional applies the strength-based approach themselves, implementing new didactical methods into the deliberate
practice that enhance the talent development of the students. (Van Gog et al., 2005; Lopez and Louis, 2009). An educational
professional works to identify and highlight the strengths of students during the learning process to increase the self-
awareness of the students in situations where they are deliberately applying their strengths. Self-awareness does not come
easy for students with ASD (Zager, 2017) but can be established by creating opportunities for the students to apply their
strengths too, connecting sensation, affect, and motor action through pleasurable interactions (Zager, 2017). These practice
situations are not bound to short or larger increments as long as these situations are scheduled for a fixed period during the
day (Van Gog et al., 2005; Lopez and Louis, 2009)
Reflection
In a strength-based approach, reflection becomes an important principle. Highly effective educational professionals help
students reflect on their responsibilities, on their developing strengths and talents, and their engagement in programs,
interventions, or activities. Through reflection on the application of their strengths, students will start to understand how to
use their strengths to their benefits in both academic challenges and social situations (Carey, 2004; Louis, 2008; Lopez and
Louis, 2009; Bowers and Lopez, 2010; Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, 2016)
2.2 COLLABORATIVE LEARNING
As strength-based learning partially drives interaction in groups to enhance well-being and academic performance,
collaborative learning should be added to the intervention. Collaborative learning focuses on the development of knowledge
and social skills concerning communication, collaboration, reasoning, and critical thinking, through active knowledge-sharing
and co-creation of new skills and knowledge (Dochy, 2018). This educational method has proven to be an effective method
for students with ASD to promote the development of social skills (Bambara et al., 2016). Other benefits of collaborative
learning for this target audience are an increase in student engagement, academic performance, motivation, high-quality
Social Play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher education to support the development of social skills of students with Autism
Spectrum Disorder. O.M.N.C.Jansen | Thesis Master TD&D 31/05/2021
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relationships, and self-esteem which simultaneously benefit a student’s well-being. (Dugan et al., 1995; Johnson and
Johnson, 2009; González and Merino, 2016).
Several other researchers state consistently that students who learn in teams outperform students who learn individually in
cognitive and moral reasoning, time-on-task, long-term retention, intrinsic motivation, expectations for success, creative
thinking, and the transfer of the learned knowledge and skills into real-life (Bowen, 2000; Johnson and Johnson, 2009; Kyndt
and Baert, 2013; Dochy, 2018).
ASD is a complex spectrum disorder, characterized by impairments in social skills as well as restricted repetitive behaviors in
different levels of severity (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; McPartland, Law and Dawson, 2016). Collaborative
learning opens opportunities for interaction when these students are being supported by their environment. A supportive
environment helps the student overcome learning challenges by being accepted for their contributions within the group
(Grenier and Yeaton, 2019). Collaborative learning, like strength-based learning, focuses on several principles to enhance
learning.
A positive learning environment
Cooperative learning provides students with the opportunity to engage with other peers in an environment that is designed
to foster support. To promote student learning, a positive learning climate needs to be established, through openness,
honesty, and trust (Autism Speaks, 2008; Dochy, 2018; Grenier and Yeaton, 2019). Giving recognition and praise on desirable
behaviors also helps the team positively identify areas of improvement. This also helps to manage expectations and to focus
on individual growth and competence (Autism Speaks, 2008; Dweck, 2017; Dochy, 2018). Positivity and shared responsibility
within a group helps to create equal peer relationships, especially among students with learning disabilities, such as autism
(Grandin, 2007; Dyson and Casey, 2012)
Individual accountability
By setting out tasks for the students to accomplish and by creating clear roles within a group, individual accountability gets
established (Zacarian, Lourdes, and Judie, 2017). These clear tasks can help promote student engagement, but also make it
easier for students to listen to each other and practice working together. Gonzales & Merino (2016) state that the effects of
collaborative learning are increased when group goals and individual accountability are implemented.
Having small groups with clear roles, goals and set out tasks creates more individual accountability for students with ASD.
Together with the group, rules for working together can be set out to encourage team consensus and keep an eye on both
individual and team goals. This is an effective method to encourage individual participation (Dochy, 2018; Grenier and
Yeaton, 2019).
Face-to-face interaction
An important factor in both strength-based learning and collaborative learning is the need for interaction to stimulate the
learning process. This can be achieved by encouraging discussions, sharing ideas and knowledge, but also reflecting on the
development of knowledge and skills and how to apply them (Veenker et al., 2017; Dochy, 2018). The tasks set out by the
educational professional create opportunities for both verbal and non-verbal interactions and encourage listening and
working together regardless of individual strengths and weaknesses and work best in a face-to-face learning environment
(Grenier and Yeaton, 2019). Combined with continuous feed-forward on team interaction will support and enhance the
quality of the interactions (Veenker et al., 2017; Dochy, 2018)
Real-life learning
Through real-life situations, opportunities for interaction and communication have been created that help the students with
ASD understand social rules, relationships, and the different types of communication that people use. Through the assigned
group roles, it becomes easier to share ideas and strategies for solving problems together (Grenier and Yeaton, 2019).
Group processing & reflection
Listening, dialogue and reflection are important parts of collaborative learning (Dochy, 2018) and aspects of group
processing that are often difficult for students with ASD (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Through these aspects, the
students learn to respect their differences as they work together (Grenier and Yeaton, 2019) and through evaluation learn
how well the group has functioned and where to improve (Grenier and Yeaton, 2019). This type of peer-learning benefits
collaborative learning as it promotes healthy relationships while the individual learning needs of the students are addressed
(Stackhouse, 2018; Grenier and Yeaton, 2019)
Social Play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher education to support the development of social skills of students with Autism
Spectrum Disorder. O.M.N.C.Jansen | Thesis Master TD&D 31/05/2021
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2.3 PLAY
Students with ASD benefit from elements of ‘play’ within their curriculum as it helps improve social skills and independence
as well as showing a boost in academic performance and student well-being (Broussard, 2011; Lei et al., 2018). An added
effect, according to Lei and colleagues (2018) is that implementation also helps with the transition to higher education,
something students with ASD also struggle with (Bakker et al., 2019)
‘Play’ creates a positive environment for learners to develop skills, such as communication, thinking, problem-solving and
other social skills (Madriaga, 2010; Bennie, 2020) For students with ASD, role-play is an interesting form of play as it can
draw from their inherent creativity while giving them the freedom to express themselves and their ideas, thus creating an
increase in engagement and self-confidence (Sherrin, 2015; Natekar, 2019). Role-play uses storytelling to act out actions and
reactions to improve social skills and creativity (Waskul and Lust, 2004; Karwowski and Soszynski, 2008). In role-play,
sometimes also referred to as cooperative play, players work together to achieve common goals through communication.
Clear visual instructions and rules will help the learners with ASD understand expectations (Raising Children, no date;
Karwowski and Soszynski, 2008).
A Tabletop Role-playing Game (TTRPG), is an interactive physical game in which a small group of people creates a fictional
story together using pencils, paper, dice, and conversation, often set in a fantasy world in which the players go on an
adventure, explore and solve conflicts (Hawkes-Robinson, 2008; Mearls and Crawford, 2014; Kilmer and Kilmer, 2019)
Tabletop Role-playing games (TTRPGs) are grounded in roleplay, action-adventure, and fantasy (Mearls and Crawford, 2014).
These are elements, people with ASD have indicated as their preference when It comes to games (Dinon, 2013; Fein, 2015;
Ali and Saad, 2016; Vetrayan, Mohamed Nazir and Victor Paulraj, 2016). In TTRPG’s, the players create a fictional character
that they will role-play throughout the game. Through role-play, they determine the actions of their character, based on
their personalities and background (Kato et al., 2012; Fein, 2015). The actions in the game will either succeed or fail
according to a formal system of rules and guidelines for play. This type of game is played over a longer period of time
(Hawkes-Robinson, 2008; Zagal and Deterding, 2018; Katō, 2019; Kilmer and Kilmer, 2019).
TTRPG’s have become increasingly popular in aiding learners with ASD during therapy and specialized training. They have
been proven to aid in the development of the social skills of players as they are focused on player communication and
cooperation (Hawkes-Robinson, 2008; García-Villamisar and Dattilo, 2010; Kato et al., 2012; Rosselet and Stauffer, 2013;
Gutierrez, 2017; Katō, 2019). Besides benefiting the development of social skills, TTRPG’s have also proven to improve
student well-being, high-quality relationships, self-esteem, creativity (Chung, 2012), and academic performance (García-
Villamisar and Hughes, 2007; Katō, 2019) However, not much can be found on the implementation within education.
When asked about table-top role-playing games, people with ASD stated (Jansen, 2021c):
“TTRPG’s gives me a sort of "playground" to practice social interaction without having to worry about
real-life stakes .”
“I really like being able to become somebody else in a tabletop role-playing game and live in another
world”
“Roleplay is difficult and doesn't come naturally, but it's probably the most rewarding part of the game
to me. I like a good story, and at the end of the day a story is usually about characters and how they
interact.”
2.3.1.1 Principles of role-playing
When role-play gets implemented into education, it allows the educational professional to tailor the learning moments to
the needs of the learner (Sherrin, 2015). By presenting the students with social situations they could encounter in real life,
such as conflict, compromise, identity, choice, and the consequences of their choices, the learned social skills can be easier
transferred to real-life skills (Jackson and Back, 2011; Sherrin, 2015)
The elements important in roleplay to enhance the development of social skills; an engaging topic, learning goals, urgency,
and an environment that allows for continuous feedback and development. With this setup, students are allowed to safely
deepen their skills, increase their self-awareness and continue learning during and after play (Jackson and Back, 2011).
Social Play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher education to support the development of social skills of students with Autism
Spectrum Disorder. O.M.N.C.Jansen | Thesis Master TD&D 31/05/2021
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3 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
The principles found in the theoretical framework
have been used to construct a conceptual
framework for the development of the intervention.
The conceptual framework applies to the individual
student that will use the TTRPG to increase their
social skills while being supported by the educational
professional in this framework. The desired situation
for the student is portrayed in figure 1.
To increase student well-being and academic
performance, it is important for a student to become
aware of their strengths, to be able to form strength-
collaborations with peers through working together,
to transfer learned skills to real-life situations, and
finally to reflect on their learning and development.
This in turn increases a student’s well-being and
academic performance.
Throughout the intervention, the educational
professional should coach the students with a
strength-based approach to enhance the
development of social skills (Grandin, 2007; Pedaste et
al., 2015).
3.1 DESIGN REQUIREMENTS
Based on the theoretical framework and conceptual framework, the design requirements and principles have been created.
The design requirements will be used to design the TTRPG, whereas the design principles will explain how this is being done
(Table 1).
Goal: The TTRPG aims to help students with ASD develop their social skills through stimulating the identification of one’s
strengths, working together with others, setting goals, applying their strengths in real-life situations, and reflecting upon
their actions.
Intervention name: The Sisters of Nature
Table 1 Design Requirements and Principles for the Sisters of Nature
Conceptual Framework
Design Principles
Design Requirements
Strength awareness
The student should learn to
identify their strengths.
To help students identify their strengths, the
intervention should use visual aids and
discussion to help them find their strengths
(Teti et al., 2016) as most young adults with
ASD can find strength identification difficult
(Cosden et al., 2006).
To support students in the identification of
their strengths, it is important to help foster a
growth mindset that focusses on positive
development, to help students to believe in
their abilities, embrace challenges and learn to
see their own value (Bowers and Lopez, 2010;
Dyson and Casey, 2012; Dweck, 2017; Zacarian,
Lourdes and Judie, 2017)
The TTRPG should facilitate both the
student with visual aids and a growth
mindset approach to support the
identification of their strengths.
Strength collaborations
The student should work
together with others to
understand the importance
By creating clear roles within a group,
individual accountability gets established
(Zacarian, Lourdes, and Judie, 2017). With clear
roles and identification of strengths, students
could, over time, start to analyze how the
The TTRPG should facilitate the
students with space to combine
talents to enhance the opportunities
for strength collaborations.
Well-being &
Academic
performance
Strength
awareness
Strength
collaborations
Transference
of skills
Self-reflection
Figure 1 Conceptual Framework
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of teamwork and to improve
their social skills.
strengths of others could manage their
weaknesses (Lopez and Louis, 2009).
Implementing group goals and rules increase
the effects of collaborative learning, individual
accountability and help build team
commitment (Jackson and Back, 2011;
González and Merino, 2016; Dochy, 2018)
The TTRPG should facilitate the
setting of goals, either individual goals
or team goals, have clear rules and
give the students space to discuss and
achieve goals as a team.
Transference of skills
The student should be given
an opportunity to apply their
strengths in real-life
situations.
Learned social skills are more easily transferred
to real-life when the students get presented
with real-life situations they can safely practice
with, such as conflict, compromise, identity,
choice, and the consequences of their choices
(Jackson and Back, 2011; Sherrin, 2015)
By presenting the students with social
situations they could encounter in real life,
they are allowed to safely deepen their social
skills, increase their self-awareness and
continue learning during and after play
(Jackson and Back, 2011; Veenker et al., 2017;
Dochy, 2018).
The TTRPG should present the
students with real-life situations and
opportunities, while allowing the
students room for choice, to decide
how to apply their strengths.
The TTRPG should present the
educational professional moments to
provide the students with feedback
when strengths are applied well.
Self-reflection
The students should be given
an opportunity to reflect
upon their actions and
evaluate future possibilities.
Through reflection on the application of their
strengths, students will learn how to use their
strengths to their benefits (Louis, 2008; Lopez
and Louis, 2009), and possibly come up with
different methods for future situations (Online
et al., 2004; Jackson and Back, 2011;
Department of Education and Early Childhood
Development, 2012; Dochy, 2018)
Listening, dialogue, and reflection are an
important part of collaborative learning
(Dochy, 2018). Through these aspects, the
students learn to respect their differences as
they work together (Grenier and Yeaton, 2019)
and through evaluation learn how well the
group has functioned and where to improve
(Grenier and Yeaton, 2019). This type of peer-
learning benefits collaborative learning as it
promotes healthy relationships while the
individual learning needs of the students are
addressed (Stackhouse, 2018; Grenier and
Yeaton, 2019)
The TTRPG should allow the students
time to listen, engage in dialogue and
reflect on how they used their
strengths, how they worked together
as a team, and what they would like
to improve for the next session.
3.2 RESEARCH QUESTION:
The goal of this research is to understand the practicality and usability of the TTRPG “The Sisters of Nature” which aims to
support the development of the social skills of students with ASD in higher education, from the perspective of the
educational professional. In this current phase, there will be two research questions guiding the research, where the first
question will be answered to aid in the design process of the TTRPG and the second question will aid the development of
support systems for educational professionals with regards to the usability of the TTRPG.
1. What is the practicality of the TTRPG “the Sisters of Nature” which aims to develop the social skills of students
with ASD in higher education, with the design requirements; (1) identifying strengths, (2) creating strength
collaborations (3) transference of skills and (4) self-reflection?
2. What is the level of support needed by the educational professional with regards to the usability of the TTRPG
within the learning environment?
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4 METHODOLOGY
The Tabletop Role-playing game; the sisters of nature (Appendix A) has been designed as a stand-alone product that can be
used by educational professionals, coaches, and parents in either group coaching sessions, or as an extracurricular activity to
support the development of social skills among students with ASD in higher education. To define the learning environment
of the product, the curricular spiderweb by van den Akker has been applied (Akker, 2003; Thijs and van den Akker, 2009).
To support the development of the students with ASD, a method has been developed as part of the TTRPG, dubbed the
S.A.F.E Method. This method combines strength-based and collaborative coaching in a hands-on manual directly applied to
the TTRPG and is designed to enhance the impact of the support given by the educational professional to the student.
4.1 DESIGN RESEARCH
This thesis focuses on design research to test the practicality and usability of the TTRPG for the educational professional
supporting students with ASD in their development of social skills. This qualitative research has been done to provide
insights to aid the future development of the TTRPG and support systems for the educational professional.
Practicality
At the time of the test, only a partly detailed product has been developed which can be evaluated in a first iteration
(Nieveen, Folmer and Vliegen, 2012; Plomp and Nieveen, 2013; van der Donk and van Lanen, 2018). Important during the
design of the product was to create relevance through theoretical and scientific research and create a logical design based
on it before testing the first iteration. Based on theoretical research, a conceptual framework (figure 1) and design
requirements (table 2) were developed to support the design and development of the TTRPG (Appendix A). The Sister of
Nature allows the educational professional to coach students with ASD towards the development of social skills by using
their strengths to support the development of new talents via the S.A.F.E Method. In its current state, a walkthrough
(Appendix D) would give the best result in terms of actual practicality. (Nieveen, Folmer and Vliegen, 2012; van der Donk and
van Lanen, 2018).
Usability
As this is a new intervention for higher education, Moodian, Ed. & Bennet (2009) suggest analyzing the usability of the
intervention within the learning environment by using a challenge & support model. The challenge and support model
suggests that to effectively support the educational professional in learning how to use this new method within education, it
is important to examine what aspects of the learning context needs to provide support to the learner and which aspects
present challenges (Moodian (Ed.) and Bennet, 2009). Thus giving insight into how to balance the challenge of the design
with the nature of support needed by the educational professional.
4.2 THE PARTICIPANTS
While the Sisters of Nature has two target users, the students with ASD and the educational professionals, this research will
focus on the educational professional as research stated that they struggle with giving the right support to the students
(Swift, 2012; Hendrickson et al., 2017). To ensure validity, none of the testers have been involved in the design of the
product or have been informed about the product in any way, ensuring an unbiased and validated experience towards the
test (Plomp and Nieveen, 2013). A total of three educational professionals took part in the test. They have been selected
based on their diversity in years of experience in both TTRPG’s and Education (table 2) ensuring data triangulation (van Swet
and Munneke, 2017). To eliminate social influences and ensure validity in the data, the tests have been conducted in one-
on-one sessions (Tandon and Gaston, 2016). All participants were part of the evaluation on Monday, March 29, 2021, but at
different moments in time (table 2), ensuring validity through time triangulation (van Swet and Munneke, 2017).
Table 2 the participants of the evaluation and their diversity in experience
T1
T2
T3
March 29, 2021
March 29, 2021
March 29, 2021
60 min
60min
60min
6 months
10 years
7 years
2-3 years
0 years
6 years
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4.3 PROCEDURE
During the walkthrough (Appendix D) each individual educator would go through a set of scenarios and tasks they would
encounter in the TTRPG. This method ensured qualitative data and helped assess the product from different perspectives,
while the focus lies on testing the practicality and usability for the target user (Hunnes, Wibeke and Building, 2010; Nieveen,
Folmer and Vliegen, 2012).
For this test, the user was asked to apply the S.A.F.E Method to three scenarios and tasks of varying difficulty, taken directly
from the TTRPG (Appendix D). Each scenario starts with an introduction that would be read out loud by the researcher,
followed by a specific scenario and a task to perform by the students, after which the participant was asked to apply the
S.A.F.E method and demonstrate how they would coach the students to achieve the task that was given in the scenario
(table 3). During this phase, the participants were asked to think aloud to verbalize their thought processes as they perform
the specific tasks (Hanington and Martin, 2019) during the walkthrough. After each walkthrough, a semi-structured
interview was held to collect qualitative data (chapter 4.4. instruments)
Table 3 Setup for the walkthrough
Preparation of the test by the target user
Before the start of the test, the participants received the following items to aid them during the evaluation:
o An invitation and explanation of the test session (Appendix B)
o The S.A.F.E. Method in the form of a simple manual.
The participants did not receive the TTRPG in its current state as this would be used during the test, to not interfere with the
practicality of the method (Hunnes, Wibeke and Building, 2010; Interaction Design Foundation, 2020). This also ensured
validity through method triangulation to test for practicality and leaving the autonomy with the participants
4.4 INSTRUMENT
Semi-structured interviews
To collect qualitative data for further analysis, a semi-structured interview had been prepared regarding the practicality and
usability of the S.A.F.E Method (Appendix C). This allowed for the collection of consistent and qualitative data with regards
to the experiences, thoughts, and behaviors of the target user while also allowing for off-topic exploration (Lankoski and
Björk, 2015). The interview has been designed based on Lankoski & Bjork’s (2015) corresponding interview methods and
focused on its four phases; The introductory script (Appendix C), warm-up questions (Appendix D), substantiative questions
to collect data regarding the content, and demographic questions to collect data regarding the user (Table 4, Appendix D).
Data for both research questions have been collected through this semi-structured interview.
The interview was held three times per participant, once after each scenario and the corresponding task had been
performed by the participant (Appendix C). The test sessions took place online over Discord (Discord, 2021), and were
recorded Using OBS software (OBS, no date). All participants agreed to the recordings on record and usage of their data for
further research. The recordings have all been transcribed for further analysis.
Table 4 Variables measured during the semi-structured interview
Research Question
Substantiative questions
Demographic questions
Practicality
Gathering information about how the
participant used the method
Gathering information about how the
participant experienced the method
Usability
Provoking deeper thoughts about the
experience of the participant
Gathering information about the level of
experience of the participant
Introduction
The Scenario
The Stop
The Interview
The researcher
introduced the scenario
through storytelling,
simulating the role-
playing game as part of
the learning
environment.
The researcher explains
the scenario from the
perspective of the
students. The participant
is asked to play the
game towards achieving
the task set out in this
scenario.
The researcher asks the
participant to look at the
S.A.F.E Method and to see
what they could apply based
on what is seen there. The
participant plays the game and
talks out loud about what they
would do in this scenario.
After each round, the
researcher will interview the
participant to collect
qualitative data. (D).
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5 DATA ANALYSIS
5.1 THEMATIC ANALYSIS
After the data has been collected, multiple textual readings of the transcripts have been done to understand the thoughts,
experiences, and behaviors of the participants during the evaluation as these are commonly found through semi-structured
interviews (Lankoski and Björk, 2015). Through textual analysis; the content, structure, and functions of the participants'
utterances were described, analyzing the interactions, repeating words, topics, and actions to identify common themes
(Frey, Botan and Kreps, 2000). Grounded theory was applied to code and categorize each utterance (Chun Tie, Birks and
Francis, 2019).
Each utterance has been coded as a meaning unit and converted to a condensed meaning unit. Each condensed meaning
unit was given a code. Codes that held similar meaning were connected to a category and the categories were then used to
define the themes.
Intersubjective agreement
To ensure the validity and reliability of the analysis, another researcher has been asked to collaborate on the thematic
analysis (van Swet and Munneke, 2017). On April 9th, 2021 a session for the intersubjective agreement took place on Discord
(Discord, 2021) between O.M.N.C. Jansen and S.A. Smith that lasted a total of 60 minutes. This session has been recorded
with permission. Before the session started, the transcripts of the recordings were shared with S.A. Smith. Both researchers
performed a textual analysis in which they closely examined the transcripts to identify common themes; consisting of topics,
ideas, and patterns of meaning that came up repeatedly to allow for qualitative and valid data collection (Frey, Botan and
Kreps, 2000; Clarke and Braun, 2017). The found themes were then discussed between both researchers until consensus
was reached on the interpretation of the results through intersubjective agreement (van Swet and Munneke, 2017)
In total, five themes have been defined during the intersubjective agreement (Table 5). These five themes have been
identified based on repeating words, utterances, similar sentences, and topics (Frey, Botan and Kreps, 2000). Quotes from
the transcripts were used to identify and analyze the themes (Appendix F).
5.1 CHALLENGE & SUPPORT MODEL
To aid in answering the second research question regarding the usability of the TTRPG, the challenge & support model by
Moodian Ed. & Bennet (2009) has been used. Applying this model has given insights into how to balance the challenge of
the design with the nature of support needed by the educational professional. When the user knows neither content nor
process, the user will be lost, whereas learners who possess either content or process have space to learn new skills or
knowledge, while at the same time learners who possess both content and process could find the learning experience
unchallenging (Moodian (Ed.) and Bennet, 2009).
6 RESULTS
The themes found during the intersubjective agreement were then connected to the research questions to aid in presenting
the results (Appendix E, Table 5).
Table 5 The found themes and their connection to the research questions
6.1 RESEARCH QUESTION 1: PRACTICALITY OF THE INTERVENTION
Three themes focus on the design of the TTRPG and its practicality.
Practicality
Usability
Theme
S.A.F.E Method
Execution of Task
Strength Approach
Experience
Collaboration between players
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S.A.F.E Method
All participants mentioned using the S.A.F.E Method, and all participants mentioned applying the method
differently and in different orders. T2 stated going through all components of the S.A.F.E method starting with
Stimulate, followed by Address, Feedback, and Empowerment last. T1 and T3 argued they used the S.A.F.E Method
when they deemed it fitting as indicated by: T1: “What I want to sort of do is 'cause this is about stimulate, but it
was also empower.” And T3 “I guess naturally the feedback section, since it's specifically, ask them to look back on
how they think things went,”.
All of the participants indicated not having prepared the S.A.F.E. Method beforehand and started applying it in
real-time. All participants, when using the S.A.F.E Method, argued they used the questions that were given in the
examples.
T3 indicated needing time to think as to how to apply the feedback component of the S.A.F.E Method as indicated
by I'm trying to figure out if there's an interesting way to do this without immediately going out of the game and
discussing something as the gamemaster instead of in a situation”. T2 argued they used, the Feedback part of the
method as a questioning round, taking the students out of the game, proving the worries of T3 to be true. T3
instead, incorporated feedback as an NPC by creating an emotional connection between the players and giving
them in-game feedback and indicated “I did not want to let them reflect on a meta-level”.
All participants indicated using the Empower part of the S.A.F.E. Method, by giving positive praise.
Strength Approach
T1 and T3 argued they focussed on the strengths the students had chosen for their characters beforehand (the
talent cards). T3 indicates this by saying: “hey, you could use your nature ability while you use your perception
ability in conjunction with each other and that could help out as well. To show that it's OK to work together that
you're basically a team.” and T1 by saying “look at you. Come over here. Let's try your bowmanship out or your
auditory skills to try to stimulate to see if the group bites on it.” T2 argued thinking about the strengths of the
students as indicated by “And what does it say about your talent?” but did not directly indicate specific talents of
the students.
T2 argued they were thinking about the transference of skills as indicated by: “Because that's actually what also
happens when doing sports. They do martial arts or something, or another thing. They also use this technique in
real life.” .
Choice was provided to the students by all participants on multiple occasions as seen in utterances such as T1
stated ”So what would you like to do?”, and T2 stated “after we've had done this, where should we go next?” and
T3 stated, “Maybe this simply calls for a gamemaster theme where it's like hey, can everyone look at their talents
or skills and what do you think your character would like to do?”.
Collaboration between players
All participants allowed the students to work together to progress through the scenarios but all did in different
manners. T1 came up with a combination of coin-flipping, leaving the choice to work together with the student,
while T2 asked if someone else could help the student who wanted to use a talent and T3 did so by pointing out
the student’s strengths that worked well together or asked the group as a whole.
6.2 RESEARCH QUESTION 2: USABILITY FOR THE EDUCATIONAL PROFESSIONAL
Two themes focus on the usability of the new educational method.
Execution of the task
All participants completed the tasks and scenarios but approached the scenarios differently. All participants
indicated switching between their roles of Game Master, Educational professional, and NPC (non-playable
characters). All participants did so in different moments and different ways throughout the scenarios. In the first 2
scenarios, T2 acted mainly as Game Master and educational professional in the first 2 scenario’s, asking open-
ended educational professional questions, before trying to assume the role of an NPC in scenario 3, indicated by:
“I think I would have gotten more out of it. Using other perspectives, but for now it, I was like only focusing on one
character. I choose the major because I think it’s closest to me.”. T1 and T3 argued they immediately started as an
NPC in the first scenario, role-playing with the students through the given task. T1 Indicated this by saying: “hey
you, there you look like a mage or a fighter. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, what makes you part of this
team?” And T3 indicated this by saying: “I try to use some kind of story to connect him like hey, an actual character
is asking about you, so you probably want to somehow answer to them as well.”
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Experience
All participants entered this evaluation with diversity in levels of experience. All participants finished the task but
did so in different ways. T2 asked multiple questions during the test, both about the TTRPG and the S.A.F.E
Method as seen in utterances such as; “can I use the information from a previous scenario here?” and “Should I do
it like this?”. T1 only voiced thoughts of doubt regarding the S.A.F.E Method as seen in the quote: The reason I'm
thinking about this so much is because it's a topic that I haven't really… with just students themselves then I think it
would be easier for me to answer, but I'm wondering if it's still the same answer.” T3 did not ask any questions
regarding the method.
Supporting self-reflection seemed to go different depending on the participant. T1 and T3 indicated actively
thinking about how to support the self-reflection of the students as indicated by “I think that's also a moment that
encourages reflection straight after the task is accomplished” and ”OK, so I've read through these a day or so ago,
so I'll have to use this as I go along” and “You don't want this to just become like a reflective session, where
constantly sort of out of character going into hey, what did you think of this and that? I think for them, especially if
they're like 18 years old, they really just want to have fun an unbeknownst to them actually learn about themselves,
or learn to open up, and I think, I think Characters or these situations in game can do that really well.” T2 did not
indicate thoughts on supporting self-reflection of the students.
Level of support needed
To present the results regarding the experience needed by the educational professional, the challenge & support model by
Moodian .Ed & Bennet (2009) has been used. This part attempts to categorize the participants to create an understanding of
the level of support needed with the TTRPG as a new educational method.
Participant T1 has experience with TTRPG’s (table 2). This was
indicated during the test when T1 stated: I would most likely try to
take on the role of Hordohr and then use the stimulate method and I
would probably start by asking questions within this stimulate section
and maybe sort of giving them feedback on what they've said. So I
essentially repeat what they've said and ask them to correct me if I'm
wrong. These, and other quotes (appendix F) indicate the educational
professional starting to learn to work with the S.A.F.E. method
acquiring knowledge of the method. As TTRPG’s provide a low
challenge for T1 (table 2), the participant could focus on learning the
content; how to apply the S.A.F.E Method effectively as a Game
master. This could indicate that the educational professional would
land in the learner acquires knowledge grid (figure 2), indicating that
there is space for the educational professional to learn and develop as
they only require support on the content, which is of great importance
in a strength-based approach (Department of Education and Early
Childhood Development, 2012; Reinert Center for Transformative
Teaching and Learning, 2016; Dochy, 2018)
Participant T2, without experience in TTRPG’s (table 2), indicated they struggled with the process of TTRPG’s, as indicated by
quotes such as: “I think I would have gotten more out of it. Using other perspectives, but for now it, I was like only focusing on
one character. I choose the major because I think it’s closest to me.“ and “So I'm not sure if you. Yeah, yeah. So I'm not sure of
this.”.Participants T1 and T3 did not ask questions or indicated doubt (Appendix FE). Participant T2 also indicated a high
challenge with the S.A.F.E. method as shown through the approach of T2 during the walkthrough. T2 indicated always
starting with the Stimulate part of the method and focus highly on using it on each individual student instead of supporting
interaction within the group as a whole. This would categorize T2 in the learner leaves grid of the model (figure 2).
According to Moodian & Bennet (2008), this would indicate that the learner would flee the learning context as the challenge
level is too high and the support too low, indicating a need for more support within the new learning environment.
Participant T3, has experience in both education and TTRPG’s (table 2). T3 offered feedback and thought critically about
their approach with the TTRPG as seen in Appendix E and G and as indicated by “You don't want this to just become like a
reflective session, where constantly sort of out of character going into hey, what did you think of this and that? I think for
them, especially if they're like 18 years old, they really just want to have fun an unbeknownst to them actually learn about
themselves, or learn to open up, and I think, I think Characters or these situations in game can do that really well.” Quotes
such as “I'm not sure how much else I should be doing without taking away their agency, but in terms of once they are
working together, I could maybe introduce new rules like suddenly your dice double or something simply because you're
working together so this Helping each other action is really strong, or combining talents or actions is really strong.” Indicate
Figure 2 Challenge & Support Model by Moodian Ed. &
Bennet (2009)
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a clear understanding of TTRPG’s and agency in changing the rules without impeding the learning. The participant indicated
they had not prepared for the test, yet argued they had no trouble working with the S.A.F.E Method. This would place them
in the learner rests part of the grid (figure 2). It shows that this educational professional requires less support in their use of
the TTRPG.
7 CONCLUSION
Based on the presented data it can be stated that the research has been successful as it has given tangible insights into the
practicality and usability of the TTRPG within the simulated learning environment. According to the theoretical framework,
the presented design requirements should eventually lead to the development of social skills among students. This research
focussed on testing the practicality for the educational professional as the intended target user as they are the ones lacking
knowledge and skills to support students with ASD (Swift, 2012; Hendrickson et al., 2017). Conclusions have been drawn per
research question.
7.1 CONCLUSION ON PRACTICALITY
What is the practicality of the TTRPG “the Sisters of Nature” which aims to develop the social skills of students with ASD in
higher education, with the design requirements; (1) identifying strengths, (2) creating strength collaborations (3)
transference of skills and (4) self-reflection?
Identifying strengths
All participants have shown that they can identify strengths among the students, remembering them while playing and
asking questions about their strengths and application of their strengths (Grandin and Duffy, 2008; Bowers and Lopez, 2010;
Dyson and Casey, 2012; Zacarian, Lourdes and Judie, 2017). Regardless of the level of experience of the educational
professional, all were capable of fostering a growth mindset indicated by the use of the empower component in the S.A.F.E
Method and the praise and positivity (Dweck, 2017) they brought out during the test.
Creating strength collaborations
Educational professionals without experience in TTRPG’s were less capable of helping the students form strength
collaborations as they focused on individual coaching and not on coaching the group (Dochy, 2018). The educational
professional who had identified the students' strengths during the evaluation could connect the talents of students to
support the formation of strength collaborations (Lopez and Louis, 2009).
Transference of skills
The educational professionals supported the transference of skills by allowing collaboration between the players (Bowen,
2000; Johnson and Johnson, 2009; Kyndt and Baert, 2013; Dochy, 2018). They allowed the students choices on how to
proceed within the TTRPG when the tasks were laid out. The feedback component of the S.A.F.E Method offered a
challenge for all educational professionals. The educational professionals with TTRPG experience used the characters of the
game to give in-game feedback to the players, complimenting them and offering moments of reflection as to how certain
talents could indeed be used in certain moments. In contrast, Educational professionals lacking experience in TTRPG’s
focused heavily on working through the S.A.F.E Method one by one, in which choice was offered to the students, but
feedback was only provided on an individual level when the F in the S.A.F.E Method was reached. This once more could
indicate that educational professionals without TTRPG experience need more support to achieve the intended design
requirements.
Supporting self-reflection
Through listening to peers, engaging in dialogue, and active reflection, the students learn to respect their differences as they
work together (Dochy, 2018; Grenier and Yeaton, 2019). Dialogue with and between players was only present for the
educational professionals with experience in TTRPG’s but only seen once out of the three scenarios with the educational
professional who lacks TTRPG experience. As dialogue is an important part of collaborative learning self- reflection (Dochy,
2018; Grenier and Yeaton, 2019) it becomes clear once more that the educational professional without TTRPG experience
requires further support to truly bring out the design requirements for the students. In contrast, the educational
professional with TTRPG experience encouraged dialogue between players while practicing with real-life situations
successfully.
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7.2 CONCLUSION ON USABILITY
What is the level of support needed by the educational professional with regards to the usability of the TTRPG within the
learning environment?
Based on the results, it has become clear that that the support and challenge levels differ based on the previous experience
the educational professional has with TTRPGs and the S.A.F.E Method. This shows that the diversity of the educational
professional needs to be taken into account when designing a new educational method (Moodian (Ed.) and Bennet, 2009).
Educators who experience higher levels of challenge should receive more support from the TTRPG as the usability results
indicated that the S.A.F.E Method and the TTRPG in itself are aspects within the learning environment that offer challenges
to the educational professional.
8 DISCUSSION
More and more students with ASD tend to enter higher education and these students require adequate support (Swift,
2012; Gurbuz, Hanley, and Riby, 2019). However, research has shown that many educational professionals in higher
education lack the knowledge or training to support these students (Swift, 2012; Hendrickson et al., 2017).
An important finding in this research was the level of support needed by the educational professional as presented in the
usability results. The less experience an educational professional had in either education or TTRPG’s, the higher the
challenge and the higher the need for support (Moodian (Ed.) and Bennet, 2009). This coincided with what Hendrickson
(2017) and Swift (2012) stated about educational professionals lacking the knowledge or training to support the
development of students with ASD.
During the practicality test, several educational professionals applied the S.A.F.E Method within the designed TTRPG; the
Sisters of Nature to see if they could support the students within the game and since all did, possibilities are that this method
could be applied to other Tabletop Role-Playing Games.
The transference of skills from in-game to real-life becomes easier when students are presented with real-life situations,
such as conflict, compromise, identity, choice, and the consequences of their choices (Jackson and Back, 2011; Sherrin,
2015). The Sisters of Nature presents the students with real-life situations in a safe environment in which students can
practice with and deepen their social skills. This increases their self-awareness and allows for continuous learning after play
(Jackson and Back, 2011; Veenker et al., 2017; Dochy, 2018). The Sister of Nature presents scenarios in which students are
encouraged to ask questions, communicate and work together as a team, through conflict and choices. Identity is at the
forefront of this as students stay true to themselves by allowing their real-life talents and skills to aid them in their learning
and development in-game. This enhances self-awareness and identity and helps students to see that their talents are unique
and that talents can be combined with others and used to help the development of other skills.
Validity
This research has been validated through several types of triangulation (van Swet and Munneke, 2017). However, when
looking at the data triangulation, only three educational professionals have been asked to evaluate the TTRPG. The validity
of this data triangulation comes from the fact that these educational professionals have been picked based on their differing
levels of experience to give the most accurate outcome of practicality. Due to these varying experiences, the TTRPG has
been concluded to be practical when the educational professional has a level of experience in at least one of the two
components. Similarly, the usability for the educational professional requires further recommendation.
8.1 RECOMMENDATIONS
Recommendations for the design
Based on this research the design requirements seem to function as intended from the perspective of the educational
professional, and it is the usability aspect where the first design iterations should be made.
Recommendations for the usability
Based on the research findings, iterations have been made to support the educational professional. Task boxes have been
implemented within the story to help the educational professional give concrete tasks to the students. Educational
professionals with a higher challenge level can use these to scaffold their learning with the tool. S.A.F.E. Boxes should be
implemented in the story to guide the educational professional that struggles with the method tips on how to apply the
S.A.F.E method within the displayed scenarios in the TTRPG. These recommendations for the next design cycle aim to help
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scaffold the learning of the educational professional so that they can move out of the learner leaves quadrant and into the
learner acquires knowledge/skills quadrant. These solutions should help lower the challenge level for the educational
professional and increase the practicality of The Sisters of Nature.
Recommendations for future research
This research focussed on qualitative research to learn more about the practicality of the Sisters of Nature. Relevance and
consistency are accounted for through the theoretical framework that led to the design requirements of the TTRPG and both
practicality and usability were tested within this cycle (Plomp and Nieveen, 2013). The effect being the last criteria for
qualitative design has not been tested yet. According to research (Hawkes-Robinson, 2008; García-Villamisar and Dattilo,
2010; Kato et al., 2012; Rosselet and Stauffer, 2013; Gutierrez, 2017; Katō, 2019), TTRPG’s have been proven to be effective
in the development of social skills amongst young adults with ASD.
Future research should focus on testing the newly designed aids within the TTRPG and the S.A.F.E Method amongst
educational professionals who would fall under the learner leaves quadrant (figure 1) to see if these design changes have
improved the usability for this specific target user. When this shows a switch to learner acquires knowledge/skills (figure 1) it
would prove the new designs scaffold the educational professional in the support of the student with ASD. Afterward, effect
could still be tested to see whether students develop social skills while being supported by educational professionals using
the S.A.F.E Method. The same can be said for the effects on the student’s sense of well-being as the hypothesis then
becomes: if the student develops their social skills through the use of the Sister of Nature, they then also increase their sense
of well-being.
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10 APPENDICES
10.1 APPENDIX A: SHORT PITCH OF THE SISTERS OF NATURE
The Sisters of Nature is a collaborative role-playing game designed to develop social skills of students with ASD within a safe
learning environment. The game is led by an educational professional who takes on the role of game master (GM). The
Game Master guides the students on their adventure using the S.A.F.E Method. This method has been designed to aid the
educational professional in their support of the students throughout the TTRPG.
Throughout the TTRPG, students will start by building a character with chosen abilities based on their real-life strengths.
These choices help the students in identifying their strengths (Bowers and Lopez, 2010; Teti et al., 2016; Dweck, 2017;
Zacarian, Lourdes and Judie, 2017). When these characters have been created, the students will, in the form of a dialogue,
introduce their characters to one another, with a focus on these strengths. As they’ve learned about each other’s strengths,
the students get to discuss how the strength of one person could benefit another, allowing the students to build strength
collaborations (Lopez and Louis, 2009; Zacarian, Lourdes and Judie, 2017).
Next up, the game master leading the game will read the pre-written story while applying the S.A.F.E Method. This allows
the students to dive into the role of their character. During the story, the students will be presented with opportunities that
simulate real-life situations, such as conflict, compromise, and consequences in which they have to communicate and
collaborate to choose how to respond in these situations to enhance the transference of skills (Lopez and Louis, 2009;
Jackson and Back, 2011; Sherrin, 2015). Throughout the role-play, the students get plenty of opportunities for dialogue that
allow room for setting or changing their goals (Jackson and Back, 2011; González and Merino, 2016; Dochy, 2018). Such as
who to talk to, which direction to take or how they would like to approach certain situations. The game master will provide
the students with continuous positive feedback that will give insights into how the students are progressing and enhance the
quality of their interactions (Veenker et al., 2017; Dochy, 2018). At the end of a play session, there will be time for self-
reflection, giving both the game master and the student insight into how they used their strengths, how this benefitted them
or not, and how they would like to approach certain situations in the next session (Carey, 2004; Lopez and Louis, 2009;
Bowers and Lopez, 2010; Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, 2016).
The role of the educational professional
The educational professional dives into the role of the game master (GM) and will be responsible for guiding the game and
supporting the students in their development. The Game Master leads and narrates the story that drives the SSistersof
Nature, stimulated interaction, and also helps the players with dice rolls, encouraging role-play aspects, storytelling, and
role-playing themselves.
Learning and development focus
The Sisters of Nature has been designed to help learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder, develop their social skills in terms
of communication & collaboration. In this adventure, the players learn to work together to solve conflicts between people,
to find creative solutions to problems they encounter, and to draw on their strengths instead of focussing on weaknesses.
Each chapter has been designed to help the game master coach in a strength-based manner and according to proven
didactical methods to support the development of talents and overcoming challenges.
The players
This adventure has been designed for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder who struggle with communication &
collaboration skills but can be played by anyone looking to improve these skills. For the adventure to be most effective, a
group should consist of 3-5 players. T
Duration
To enhance the impact of learning, the adventure should be played on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, taking up a total of 6-8
sessions to finish. The layout of the adventure follows the S.A.F.E method which is designed to help gamemasters with
effective support of the player group.
Materials
Box containing the following items
Playing cards
o Talent (ability) cards
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o Item cards
o Clue cards
o NPC cards
Maps (boards) of the regions being played on
o Set of Dice
Character sheet
A manual for the game master which includes the S.A.F.E Method
How to play
This is a semi-linear intrigue mystery-style adventure. The players are encouraged to interview the NPC’s, search the town
and the surrounding areas for clues and magical items.
As this is an adventure that focuses on learning how to work together and communicate as a team, the game master is
encouraged to coach the players to asking the right questions and to pause the game whenever necessary.
For example, when players seem to be stuck in a conversation with an NPC or not ask the right questions, as a game master
you can pause the game and ask what the players have found out up until now, you can ask them for a summary and ask
them what information they might be missing and how they think they can find that information before resuming the
roleplay.
The most important part of this adventure is to have fun in a safe learning environment, in which making mistakes is okay
and which will never cost the players their in-game life or rewards.
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10.2 APPENDIX B: INVITE FOR TEST SESSION
Dear [ participant name],
Thank you for agreeing on participating in this test session. As you may know I am currently developing a TTRPG (tabletop
role-playing game) for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Higher Education to support them in the development of
their social skills.
A tabletop role-playing game is similar to a board game (visually) but uses a game master to tell a story to which the players
have to react. For the design of this TTRPG, you, the educational professional will dive into the role of game master through
which you can support the students.
As tabletop role-playing games are not commonly used within education, I have developed an educational method that aims
to help you support these students in an easier manner while playing tabletop role-playing games.
For this test you do not need any prior experience in tabletop role-playing games, but if you have previous experience, you
are free to draw from those experiences. The objective of the test is to try out this new educational method through a
simulation.
In the attachment of this invitation you will find a manual called the S.A.F.E. method. I would like you to read through this
manual before the session as the manual will guide your actions throughout the simulation.
Setup for the session
During the test we will walk trough 3 scenarios that would occur within the game. Each scenario consists of 4 components.
Introduction: in which I will read a bit of story that the game master would read out loud
Scenario: in which I will set the scene that the game master (you) would see in front of you
Stop: This is where I stop talking and you can apply the S.A.F.E. method to the situation. In this situation I would like you to
think out loud and try as many options as possible.
Questions: I have prepared a set of questions I would like to ask you after each scenario has played out.
Details about the session
The test session will take up about 45-60 minutes.
The test session will take place on Discord.
The test session will be recorded so I can use it for further research. I would like to ask you to share your camera
and sound with me.
The transcripts of the video will be used in the research.
Your names will not be used in the research, you will be named Target User 1, 2 etc.
Before the session starts, we will walk through the details of the session and you will have time to ask questions
were you to have any.
Permission
By attending the test session, I trust that you agree to keep the developments to yourself and do not share any
shared material with other parties.
By attending the test session, you agree to the session being recorded by video.
The video made during the session will not be shared without your permission.
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10.3 APPENDIX C: WALKTHROUGH DETAILS FOR THE TEST SESSION
Scenarios for the walkthrough
Introduction to the test
Welcome participant, you have been invited to take part in today’s walkthrough. Today’s walkthrough will take about 45-60
minutes of your time.
The research I have been doing aims to design a tabletop role-playing game to help improve the social skills of students with
Autism Spectrum Disorder in higher education while being supported by an educational professional. As tabletop role-
playing games are not commonly used within education I have developed an educational method that aims to help you
support these students in an easier manner while playing tabletop role-playing games. For this test, you do not need any
prior experience in tabletop role-playing games, but if you have previous experience, you are free to draw from those
experiences. The objective of today is to test out this new educational method through a simulation.
Introductions
Could you please state your name [wait for participant]
How many years of experience do you have in education? [wait for participant]
How many years of experience do you have with TTRPG’s? [wait for participant]
How often do you work with role-playing games in education? [wait for participant]
Do you accept that this session will be recorded and used for research? [wait for participant]
How this session works
Today’s walkthrough will present you with 3 scenarios that could occur within the tabletop role-playing game. I will start by
reading you the story you would be reading to the students while using the game. Then I will explain to you the scenario that
the students would be in. I will ask of you to use your imagination during this and to make notes: [insert link]. After the
scenario is presented, I will ask you what you would do in this situation. For this, I would like you to try and apply the S.A.F.E.
method which was presented to you beforehand. Please think out loud during this stage.
A brief explanation of the setting
Before we start with the scenarios, imagine you and four students are sitting around a table. These students have autism
spectrum disorder and are coming to you to receive help with the development of their social skills. You, as an educational
professional have this Tabletop Role-playing Game you will use to support the students in their development. On the table,
there is a gameboard with pawns on it. All students have pen and paper, a character sheet in front of them, and a set of dice.
The character sheet has been made in a previous session, they have chosen what their character looks like, what special
powers their character has and above all they have chosen 3 talents for their character, something they are really good at
and would come in handy during the game.
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Scenario 1: A Trip to Murlayfield
TYPE OF SCENARIO: ROLE PLAY EXPECTED DIFFICULTY: EASY
We will be starting with scenario 1 which is an introduction to the game. The students are not that familiar with each other
yet. The aim of this scenario in the game is to support communication among your students. All eyes are on you as you start
telling the story.
Visual aids
- Image of the carriage that the players are in with a backdrop of the mountains
Figure 3 Moodboard for Scenario 1
10.3.1.1 Introduction to the scenario
The characters have just undertaken an adventure to find a lost relic in the snowflake mountains. After receiving their
rewards, the party rested at an inn on the bottom of the mountain, eager to find their next adventure. There is a nice breeze
outside of the inn, being slumbered by the mountains as a sort of shield, the air is humid and the sun is out, these are the
last days before winter starts.
In the inn, Hordohr Sternbrow, a dwarven solo adventurer, joins their table while having breakfast. He has heard of their
adventure and as a fellow adventurer, understands the importance of good gear. Hordohr offers them a ride to the next
town over as a harvest festival is taking place which is a great moment in the village for adventureres to stock up on supplies
for their next adventure.
A dark wooden carriage, pulled by a strong looking, black horse stands on the road in front of the inn. You see Hordohr climb
in front of the carriage as he waves at you to jump in the back. “Come on, get in!” he shouts. As you grab your gear you all
climb into Hordohrs carriage. It is not the biggest carriage of all, nor the most comfortable, but you all fit and are off to a
new adventure.
10.3.1.2 The Scenario
As the coach, you now see your students sitting in front of you. This would be a great opportunity for students to introduce
their characters to each other and especially to showcase the talents they have chosen. However, your students are very
quiet. They look around to see who will start to talk first.
10.3.1.3 The stop
Looking at the S.A.F.E method, what would you do in this scenario? Please think out loud.
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10.3.1.4 The Semi-Structured Interview
- After the participant has applied the method, check appendix D for the interview plans.
Scenario 2: Arrival at Murlayfield
TYPE OF SCENARIO: ROLE PLAY EXPECTED DIFFICULTY: MEDIUM
This second scenario continues on to the previous one. The players have arrived at a new town, where they will be
introduced to new locations and people. The aim of this scenario is to support cooperation and communication.
Visual aids
- Map of MurlayField’s town square where the harvest festival is played
Figure 4 Moodboard for scenario 2
10.3.1.5 Introduction to the scenario
After the initial meeting with Sylphi she is very eager to take the characters to the harvest festival and show them around. As
they approach the market square Sylphi explains every little detail about Murlayfield, showing them the tavern, the town
hall and the beautiful, but small harbour. When the characters are standing at the market square, she explains the different
stalls to them and the games that they have organised for this year’s special festival.
Sylphi twirls around and starts pointing out the different stalls and games present in the square. “Over there you can find the
stall of the Glaeldan family, they sell fruits, vegetables and fresh breads. They also host a haybale tossing competition. Over
there are the Stormwall family selling the fish they caught at sea and some gear they brought back from visiting Bromwich. If
youre good at fishing, you might want to try the game they have. And over there you can find my dad and brother, they are
selling roasted boars, pheasants, and sausages and since they are the best bowsmen of Murlayfield, they are hosting an
archery competition.”
As Sylphi explains all the stalls you can see that the farmers and fishermans stall arent as full as the stall of the hunters. The
hunters seem to have three or even four times as much to sell in comparison. After she has explained the market. Sylphi will
wave goodbye as she leaves to meet up with her father and brother at the hunters stall. What would you like to do?
10.3.1.6 The Scenario
As the coach, you have played Sylphi during the roleplay and showed them around. The goal of this scenario is for students
to decide what to do next. You can support your students from your game master perspective. They have been presented
with 3 subtle options, to go to the market stall of the hunters, the fishermen or the farrmers?
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10.3.1.7 The stop
Looking at the S.A.F.E method, what would you do in this scenario to support your students in their decision-making? Please
think out loud.
10.3.1.8 The Semi-Structured Interview
After the participant has applied the method, check Appendix D for the interview plans.
Scenario 3: Trouble in Murlayfield
TYPE OF SCENARIO: ROLE PLAY EXPECTED DIFFICULTY: HARD
This third scenario continues to the previous one. The players have arrived at a new time during a harvest festival. The
players have been introduced to the 3 families and have decided where to go first. In this scenario, you as the educational
professional will role-play the townspeople of Murlayfield in your role as coach. This scenario aims to support cooperation
and communication.
Visual aids
- Map of MurlayField’s town square where the harvest festival is played including the character icons in this
scenario
Figure 5 Moodboard for Scenario 3
10.3.1.9 Introduction to the scenario
As the characters are standing in the town’s square they hear an uproar behind them. People seem to be raising their voices
and gathering in the center of town. You see a big man with white hair and a big mustache trying to calm the group and
members of the different families standing around him waving their arms and screaming.
A small dwarven female shouts: “The Yorborin family has had enough fortune. Why are you not helping us?”. A big dwarven
male is standing next to her. “Calm down Thysnis, it does not matter what happens, we will be fine.” You see the dwarven
female whose sad eyes and flushed cheeks indicate anger and despair. “Look Major Reynolds” you hear another voice rise
from the crowds. “If it makes you feel any better, we will just take care of the ritual ourselves, it’s time for the Stormwalls to
be blessed. As soon as this tall man finishes his sentence the crowds burst into screaming again. The big man with the
mustache waves his arms and tries to calm down the riot happening in the middle of the square.
10.3.1.10 The Scenario
As the coach, you have just explained to the students that there is a riot happening in the marketplace, people seem to be
angry over something. The aim here is for the students to take action in this situation and use communication and
collaboration skills to improve the situation.
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10.3.1.11 The stop
Looking at the S.A.F.E method, what would you do in this scenario? Please think out loud.
10.3.1.12 The Semi-Structured Interview
After the participant has applied the method, check D for the interview plans.
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10.4 APPENDIX D: INTERVIEW PLANS
The interview plan has been prepared to aid in the collecting of data during the walkthrough session. As a semi-structured
interview has been chosen an interview guide has been developed to guide the questioning to aid in answering the main
research questions. The introductory script and for the walkthrough can be found in Appendix C.
Interview guide components
Purpose
Content
Warm-up
Put the participant at ease
and build report.
I will read parts of the story out loud and then you will
receive a task. After which I will ask you to apply the
S.A.F.E method to reach the task.
During the test, you are free to ask me any questions
you like.
Simple but on-topic
questions
- Do you have any questions about today’s
session?
- [after reading the scenario] Looking at the
S.A.F.E method, what would you do in this
scenario? Please think out loud.
Interview guide
components
Purpose
Answers question
Content
Substantive questions
Collect deeper data
that answers the
research question
regarding the
practicality
What is the practicality of the
TTRPG “the Sisters of Nature”
which aims to develop the
social skills of students with
ASD in higher education, with
the design requirements; (1)
identifying strengths, (2)
creating strength
collaborations & goals (3)
transference of skills and (4)
listen, dialogue & reflection?
- In this scenario, which parts
of the safe method could
help you uncover the
strengths of your students?
- In this scenario, which parts
of the safe method could
help you support a positive
attitude towards differences
in strengths?
- In this scenario, which parts
of the safe method help you
support students in
decision-making?
- In this scenario, which part
of the safe method, help you
provide feed-forward to
your student?
- In this scenario, which part
of the safe method, help you
support self-reflection in
your students?
Provoking deeper
thoughts about the
experiences of the
participant
What is the level of support
needed by the educational
professional with regards to
the usability of the TTRPG
within the learning
environment?
- What did you think when
you were given this task?
- How did you approach the
situation?
- What effect did the visual
aids have on you?
Interview guide
components
Purpose
Answers sub question
Content
Demographic
questions
Gathering
information about
the participants
What is the practicality of the
TTRPG “the Sisters of Nature”
which aims to develop the
social skills of students with
ASD in higher education, with
- How did you feel when
using the Stimulate part of
the S.A.F.E Method
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the design requirements; (1)
identifying strengths, (2)
creating strength
collaborations & goals (3)
transference of skills and (4)
listen, dialogue & reflection?
- How did you feel when
using the Adress part of the
S.A.F.E Method
- How did you feel when
using the Feedback part of
the S.A.F.E Method
- How did you feel when
using the Empower part of
the S.A.F.E Method
- Do you feel that this
method is helping you
coach a student?
Think critically about
the levels of
experience of the
participant
What is the level of support
needed by the educational
professional with regards to the
usability of the TTRPG within
the learning environment?
- What do you know about
Tabletop Role-playing
Games?
- How much of your previous
experience have you used
in this scenario?
- Why did you decide to do
[insert action taken by
participant]
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10.5 APPENDIX E: DEFINING THEMES
Through intersubjective agreement the themes of the data have been identified and connected to the research questions.
Participant
Research
Question
Theme
Categories
Code
Condensed meaning Unit
Meaning Unit
T1
Practicality
S.A.F.E
Method
Stimulate,
Address,
Feedback,
Reflection
Empowerment
NPC's,
jumping in
the method,
Reflection
I would take on the role
of an NPC and use
stimulate from their
perspective
What I want to sort of do
is 'cause this is about
stimulate, but it was also
empower.
I would most likely try to take on the role of Hordohr and then use the stimulate
method by asking maybe one of them and say hey you, there you look like a mage
or a a fighter.
OK, cool, so you do this and maybe sort of give them feedback on what they've
said. So I essentially repeat what they've said and ask them to correct me if I'm
wrong. And then I can say, well, nice, you have the brains of the group or
something like that.
OK, cool, so you do this and maybe sort of give them feedback on what they've
said. So I essentially repeat what they've said and ask them to correct me if I'm
wrong. And then I can say, well, nice, you have the brains of the group or
something like that.
Strength
Awareness
Strength
awareness,
choice
Talents,
asking about
strengths,
Player
Choice
I can confirm talents
back to the student
Look at your talents, can
you use them?
Have you ever been in like a a fight before and then I'll be like , and then I say OK,
what are your other strengths?
Remember to think about your talents and what you are good at.
“look at you. Come over here. Let's try your bowmanship out or your auditory skills
to try to stimulate to see if the group bites on it.”
So what would you like to do??
Collaboration
Student
communication
&
Collaboration,
The Team
Grouping,
asking
student
focussed
questions
How do you fit in the
team?
How do your talents
complement each other?
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, what makes you part of this team?
How do your talents complement each other?
Social Play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher education to support the development of social skills of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. O.M.N.C.Jansen | Thesis Master TD&D 31/05/2021
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Usability
Experience
Educational
professional
support,
Educational
professional
talents
Coaching,
Learning
I am unsure how to
apply the feedback
I would not intervene
but let the student
reflect on their actions
Ill repeat what they said
to check to see if I got all
the information
The reason I'm thinking about this so much is because it's a topic that I haven't
really, with just students themselves that I think it would be easier for me to
answer, but I'm wondering if it's still the same answer.
I don't think I would do anything because I think that's also a moment that
encourages reflection straight after the task is accomplished as soon as he does his
die roll and realize, Oh well, I don't have anything that contributes to this task
being completed successfully.
I would probably start by asking questions within this stimulate section and maybe
sort of giving them feedback on what they've said. So I essentially repeat what
they've said and ask them to correct me if I'm wrong.
Execution of
the task
Game Master
Vs NPC
Taking on
the role of
NPC
You look like a mage or
fighter, tell me about
yourself
hey you, there you look like a mage or a a fighter. Could you tell me a little bit
about yourself, what makes you part of this team?
T2
Practicality
S.A.F.E
Method
Strength
awareness,
Address,
Feedback,
Reflection
Empowerment
Asking
about using
strengths,
Student
Reflection,
indicate the
task
Ask student about what
it doesn’t mean
concerning talents
Its brave of the students
to jump into the carriage
and doing that together.
Letting student know
that its okay to go along
with a team sometimes
How can you use your
talents during an
adventure?
And what does it say about your talent?
You're feeling alone of course. But I think it's good that you choose to go with the
team to go on this, right?
Well, first I tried to address things but I also gave some feedback as well of course.
I notice that sometimes I go back to stimulate. And I notice that I'm also trying to,
well, going back to simulate again. That's because I want it or want to ask them
how they think about how the other is responding.
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36
Strength
Awareness
Strength
awareness,
choice
Asking
about using
strengths,
talents,
player
choice
How can you use your
talents during an
adventure?
Even if students know
each other longer they
might still be unaware of
the talents of others
And what does it say about your talent?
So because I think in the end that could be. Yeah. Students who already know each
other for a long time so. But then still you can, you can ask each student what they
think about each other's talent. Even if they’ve known each other for a long time.
They still have can have not noticed this before.
after we've had done this, where should we go next?
Collaboration
Student
communication
&
Collaboration,
The Team
Asking
student-
focussed
questions,
Ask student what is
going to happen
Can student number 2
help student number 1
with their talents?
Can you elaborate?
What do you think is going to happen during this trip? We already discovered that
discussed about that we have to buy things or stuff, but.
Usability
Experience
Educational
professional
support, TTRPG
Elements,
Educational
professional
talents, group
setup
Wondering,
Interest,
Characters,
Scenario,
Making
Sure,
Questioning,
Can I talk like this?
Am I supposed to think
they are a team already?
I want to make sure
things are clear for me
I am unsure
I’m wondering how to do this
Yes, to jump in, yes, yes, yes to make sure it's really clear.
And it also it I learned from this that it is interesting to use fantasy. To approach
working in groups or helping students working together or helping them to find
their good at. I haven't thought about this before, so it's really interesting I think.
So I'm not sure if you. Yeah, yeah. So I'm not sure if this. Of course, that's an
assumption
But I guess I'm I'm I'm a bit more, not stuck, but I'm I'm just with the addressing
and feedback.
Execution of
the task
Game Master
Vs NPC
Taking on
the role of
NPC
I choose an NPC to play
that resembled me
I think I would have gotten more out of it. Using other perspectives, but for now it,
I was like only focusing on one character”. I choose the major because I think it’s
closest to me.
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T3
Practicality
S.A.F.E
Method
Stimulate,
Address,
Feedback,
Reflection
Empowerment
NPC's,
jumping in
the method,
Reflection
I did not want to let
them reflect on a meta-
level
Use the NPC to get to
know the players in the
game
I could use the questions
from the S.A.F.E Method
during gameplay
I guess naturally the feedback section, since it's specifically, ask them to look back
on. How they think things went, but I'm trying to figure out if there's an interesting
way to do this without immediately going out of the game and discussing
something as the gamemaster instead of in a situation.
Finding a different path so this sort of stimulate and at the same time empower
them as well with actually being able to take the initiative where the dwarf is
almost like a tutorial for them to get to know these characters.
If, for example, one of the characters asks me as the gamemaster like hey what's
going on? I could for example use the address. Why do you think this is happening
question? See if they sort of remember the reason some kind of ritual was
mentioned ritual in this case hints at some kind of magic or some kind of Thing
these people do. And following that, I think I would just do. How would you help
these people? Or how would you quiet down these people?
Strength
Awareness
Strength
awareness,
chocie
Talents,
asking about
strengths,
player
choice
Use your nature ability
combined with their
perception ability.
How can your talents
compliment each other?
hey, you could use your nature ability while you use your perception ability in
conjunction with each other and that could help out as well. To show that it's OK
to work together that you're basically a team.
How could your talents benefit you in this situation?
Maybe this simply calls for a gamemaster theme where it's like hey, can everyone
look at their talents or skills and what do you think your character would like to
do?
Collaboration
Student
communication
&
Collaboration,
The Team
Directing
working
together,
asking
student
focussed
questions
Can someone else help
you?
I can point out the
talents of the players
and hint at working
together by using those
Do you think one of the other players has something that could help out?
Seeing as this is probably their first time playing, sometimes it's OK as the game
asks it also. Have the example like hey, you could use your nature ability while you
use your perception ability in conjunction with each other and that could help out
as well. To show that it's OK to work together that you're a team.
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Usability
Experience
Educational
professional
Experience,
Educational
professional
talents,
Confidence,
I did not prepare the
S.A.F.E. Method
Perhaps I could take a
moment to enhance
reflection afterwards
I don’t want to take the
players out of the game
I feel comfortable
enhancing certain game
rules to increase the
impact
OK, so I've read through these a Day or so ago, so I'll have to use this as I go along
You don't want this to just become like a reflective session, where constantly sort
of out of character going into hey, what did you think of this and that? I think for
them, especially if they're like 18 years old, they really just want to have fun an
unbeknownst to them actually learn about themselves, or learn to open up, and I
think, I think Characters or these situations in game can do that really well.
Or I could do, I guess in this case is all the way at the end of the session. Maybe
have a sort of review moment?
I'm not sure how much else I should be doing without taking away their agency,
but in terms of once they are working together, I could maybe introduce new rules
like suddenly your dice double or something simply because you're working
together so this Helping each other action is really strong, or combining talents or
actions is really strong.
Execution of
the task
Game Master
Vs NPC
Taking on
the role of
NPC
I use the elements of the
game to create a
connection
I try to use some kind of story to connect him like hey, an actual character is asking
about you, so you probably want to somehow answer to them as well.
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10.6 APPENDIX F: QUOTES CONNECTED TO THE THEMES DEFINED DURING TRIANGULATION
Execution of the task
T1: I would most likely try to take on the role of Hordohr and then use the stimulate method by asking maybe one of them
and say hey you, there you look like a mage or a a fighter. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, what what makes you
part of this team?
T2. Well, I know there's a somebody like a game master and role play.
T2: But I think the first scenario also was by far most easy for me. We speak there only about the narrative, but I think it
gives a lot of options too. Indeed, also as a gamemaster or as a feature to create a scenario or to expand on the scenario.
T2: And it also it I learned from this that it is interesting to use fantasy. To approach working in groups or helping students
working together or helping them to find what their good at. I haven't thought about this before, so it's really interesting I
think.
T3: I think that's about Six years for both of them right now as basically, though I played a few before it was basically when
5th Edition D&D came out when I really started getting into it and I was the sort of the go to Dungeon Master as well, so.
T3: Sort of use the in game method by having a character instead of me as a gamemaster, telling them like oh now describe
your characters. I try to use some kind of story to connect him like hey, an actual character is asking about you, so you
probably want to somehow answer to them as well.
T3: In my experience it usually gets players out of your shell like hey, there's an actual person asking about you so people
have the natural inclination to also try and reply.
Experience
T1: Yeah, it's tricky. Shy people are always the ones that are very tough to take care of. Because you can't force them, but
you want to make them feel like you're there in a safe space. So I would say that the less you address them individually,
probably the better. And I'm just using address as a general term and not necessarily going to safe method.
T1: Yeah, what would I do? But is that ask if there's if there's something he might be confused by. If there's something that
he maybe didn't realize that he had to be very vocal about his own character and say that that's also fine.
T1: I think it's one of those cases where you either have to you have to make a decision as a educational professional, or you
let them solve it by means that are sort of within the game. Maybe ask them. OK, well, since it's a tie, maybe you want to try
to flip a coin. Or maybe you, maybe you just roll a dice and see whoever rolls highest, and then we'll do it that way.
T1: So it would be sort of a moment for me to ask them, but why is it the case that you want to go there? Maybe not as
blatant at that but, but at least to stimulate some kind of conversation between the players. That sort of allow them to. to
justify why they want to do a specific task but also make it clear to them that you can indeed do all three of these, but which
one do you want to start with, because I think a lot of, if that isn't clear and they only think they can do one of these tasks,
that sort of discussion is going to be a lot more hostile because it's going to feel like half of the table once they accomplish
something that the other half doesn't. When it's just a matter of In which order are you going to do these things? And having
the having the players engage, either as people or as their characters to sort of get maybe a competitive element in there
that could be interesting. Apart from that, maybe something that. Maybe even like a challenge from from ….. Yeah, how do
you stimulate conversation on that topic? That's weird. Not fully sure how I'd go about it apart from the ones I've mentioned
so far.
T2: Yeah, I'm wondering how I would, what I would do with this in the end.
T2: I really, especially when getting in scenario two or three, I really have to think about; OK, how can I not only help them,
but also Involve them.
T3: OK, so I've read through these a Day or so ago, so I'll have to use this as I go along
T3: I mean, like you said, there are new to each other and they have sort of sort of communication issues they are sort of
dealing with, So what I want to do is create some kind of, or make the situation easier for them.
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T3: You don't want this to just become like a reflective session, where constantly sort of out of character going into hey,
what did you think of this and that? I think for them, especially if they're like 18 years old, they really just want to have fun
an unbeknownst to them actually learn about themselves, or learn to open up, and I think, I think Characters or these
situations in game can do that really well.
Strength-based approach
T1: The reason I'm thinking about this so much is because it's a topic that I haven't really, with just students themselves that
I think it would be easier for me to answer, but I'm wondering if it's still the same answer here.
T1: I think if it weren't in character. It would probably be something like me asking the group in general. So what do you
want to do and then if they start discussing within themselves, I can listen to the conversation. And then wait for possibly a,
noticing that the conversation is leaning in one direction and then ask them the question, oh, so you're going to the Archers.
T2: I think I would have gotten more out of it. Using other perspectives, but for now it I was like only focusing on one
character. I choose the major because I think it’s closest to me.
T2: But I’m really curious what will happen when we use one of the hunters, for instance. What it will do with their reaction?
Because that's actually what also happens when doing sports. They do martial arts or something, or or another thing. They
also use this technique in real life.
T3: If I sort of know about their characters, I think I would start with the dwarf Hordohr or so. Sort of saying something about
a character, something he notices like. Oh hey, maybe one of the characters has like a familiar and it's a bird. It's OK, oh,
that's a nice looking bird. And then I sort of as the gamemaster asked him like hey, can you maybe describe what the what
the bird looks looks like?
T3: So yeah, I would empower them by having them sort of experience, sort of little passive things that only their character
maybe notices or knows, or or has an interaction with.
T3: but because you did this certain thing or because you maybe confronted one of your sort of personal weaknesses in
some way. Now you get this extra thing because you actually managed to overcome that weakness, so it goes beyond just
the success and it becomes this more increased thing. So yeah, I do think I would use this, especially in the context of playing
with sort of these kind of people.
T3: So this is something that they're good at in real life, and that they could apply during the game.
T3: Something that they have in real life as well that could be nice to basically get a compliment like you're the best one
suited for this job.
Collaboration
T1: I think it's one of those cases where you either have to you have to make a decision as a educational professional, or you
let them solve it by means that are sort of within the game. Maybe ask them. OK, well, since it's a tie, maybe you want to try
to flip a coin. Or maybe you, maybe you just roll a dice and see whoever rolls highest, and then we'll do it that way.
T1: [about students not working together] I don't think I would do anything because I think that's that's also a moment that
encourages reflection straight after the task is accomplished as soon as he does his die roll and realize, Oh well, I don't have
anything that contributes to this task being completed successfully.
T2: Situation one, yes, you can persuade people, but you, your fellow student, is really good at talking to people. Can you
work together? Do you think?
T2: OK, well first of all. Before we go further, I think it's really brave of you all four of you that you want to jump in 'cause
one of the one of you decide to go in an all three of you wants to participate as well, so I think that's good.
T2: Students who already know each other for a long time so. But then still you can, you can ask each student what they
think about each other's talent. Even if they’ve known each other for a long time. They still have can have not noticed this
before. I've thought about this because this situation creates a sense of urgency that they have to think about.
T3: Maybe somehow have them work together on something.
T3: Yeah, let me look at the methods again If there's anything specifically here. Oh well, maybe simply asking the players as
the gamemaster: Do you think one of the other players has something that could help out?
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T3: Like if one person says you know he does that and he does that then be like OK, do you agree as as player number three
that you're going to do that as well?
T3: Basically ask them that as a group, and whoever wants to speak up can speak up, but whenever they mention someone
else should be doing something, I asked that person as well.
T3: I'm not sure how much else I should be doing without taking away their agency, but in terms of once they are working
together, I could maybe introduce new rules like suddenly your dice double or something simply because you're working
together so this Helping each other action is really strong, or combining talents or actions is really strong.
S.A.F.E. Method
T1: So obviously I think once someone is done describing their character, I'd go nice. OK, cool, so you do this and maybe sort
of give them feedback on what they've said. So I essentially repeat what they've said and ask them to correct me if I'm
wrong. And then I can say, well, nice, you have the brains of the group or something like that. Give them a little sort of tap
on the shoulder and be like you're the you're the muscle of the group. You're the brain of the group.
T1: I would most likely try to take on the role of Hordohr and then use the stimulate method by asking maybe one of them
and say hey you, there you look like a mage or a a fighter. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, what makes you part
of this team?
T1: I would probably start by asking questions within this stimulate section. Probably role-playing as maybe one of the one of
the people standing in the stalls and saying you know OK, look, look at you. Come over here. Let's try your bowmanship out
or your auditory skills to try to stimulate to see if the group bites on it. Apart from that, it could be that sort of
communication with that question can be done. I think in multiple ways by pointing out there to empower them and say, oh
you look like you're a strong try to throw this haybale. I promise I. I swear I can throw it further than you can or something
like that to sort of give them a challenge and Stimulate and empower them to engage in a task. This is only about engaging
them at this point.
T1: Obviously you can address something as within role play itself, but also as a educational professional to try to make sure
that they know.
T1: Stimulate and address are really good. I like those. They're quite straightforward, they're sort of interlinked. Anyway
feedback is difficult because I think it sort of ties into, address in a way that you you are. It's the exact same thing happening,
it's just that you're reacting to whatever they have done, but address I think is more important in that sense, because you
have to engage them to begin with, and then the feedback that they'll get is either in between themselves or even like the
the roll of a dice and the dice being a good number. That's going to be a nice amount of feedback because it's happening
within the game most of the time, but… and empower is also good and probably nice .It's just the feedback one that I have a
bit of a problem with, but that's mainly because I haven't been put into this these shoes before I think, so it's difficult to give
that feedback without a turning. As I mentioned earlier, as sort of a reflective moment where you start saying Oh well, dear
diary, this happened today and this guy did well. This one didn't or. Yeah Ok.
T2: I'd probably address, let's see. It's sort of a mix in between the two. Both stimulate and address. Because I can ask, I can
ask one of the players. What they think about the place we're going to, what they, if they know of any adventures, if they
know each other.
T2: OK, well first of all. Before we go further, I think it's really brave of you all four of you that you want to jump in 'cause one
of the one of you decide to go in an all three of you wants to participate as well, so I think that's good.
T2: You're feeling alone of course. But I think it's good that you choose to go with the team to go on this, right?
T2: If you think that maybe it's something that they should think about more or that they should reflect on. I tried to, well,
not explicit, but I tried to nn the end, because we were all at the major’s, which shows how to deal with the situation with
students.
T3: OK, so so I've read through these a Day or so ago, so I'll have to use this as I go along, but what I probably want to do is
sort of stimulate, right?
T3: If, for example, one of the characters asks me as the gamemaster like hey what's going on? I could for example use the
address. Why do you think this is happening question? See if they sort of remember the reason some kind of ritual was
mentioned ritual in this case hints at some kind of magic or some kind of Thing these people do. And following that, I think I
would just do. How would you help these people? Or how would you quiet down these people?
Social Play: Implementation of a Tabletop RPG in higher education to support the development of social skills of students with Autism
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T3: Let's see what else can I? What I want to sort of do is 'cause this is about stimulate, but it was also empower. Uhm, I
think I would also have them notice things about for example the surroundings you mentioned, one of the characters having
nature [talent card) as one of their skills. What if I tell them like hey, during this conversation you look outside a bit and you
notice these things that the other players maybe don't notice that they make them feel a bit more special.
T3: So yeah, I would empower them by having them sort of experience, sort of little passive things that only their character
maybe notices or knows, or or has an interaction with.
T3: I think I a big one is too just looking at the stimulate thing here to introduce some kind of little complication. There is a
Like along a mountain road or something, a really called like a cave in or some stones rolled down and the they are now
spread across the road. And then I asked like or did dwarf then ask like hey Oh no we're stuck here what do we do? How do
we get around this? Knowing that hopefully one of the one of the characters has a talent that could maybe help. Where they
somehow can figure out a different route for the carriage to take, for example. Or maybe try and think something up that
has multiple ways of being fixed that multiple talents somehow could influence the situation.
T3: Seeing as this is probably their first time playing, sometimes it's OK as the game asks it also. Have the example like hey,
you could use your nature ability while you use your perception ability in conjunction with each other and that could help
out as well. To show that it's OK to work together that you're basically a team.
T3: I guess naturally the feedback section, since it's specifically, ask them to look back on how they think things went, but I'm
trying to figure out if There's an interesting way. To do this in a way without immediately going out of the game an and
discussing something as the gamemaster instead having a situation.
T3: You want to empower them as well in that case, by letting them know like. This choice you made could be used in the
future in similar situations as well. Maybe I know maybe we're being chased in the future so you could use your nature
talent to go off road again, which could lead to a positive outcome.
T3: If, for example, one of the characters asks me as the gamemaster like hey what's going on? I could for example use the
address. Why do you think this is happening question? See if they sort of remember the reason some kind of ritual was
mentioned ritual in this case hints at some kind of magic or some kind of Thing these people do. And following that, I think I
would just do. How would you help these people? Or how would you quiet down these people?
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Inquiry-based learning is gaining popularity in science curricula, international research and development projects as well as teaching. One of the underlying reasons is that its success can be significantly improved due to the recent technical developments that allow the inquiry process to be supported by electronic learning environments. Inquiry-based learning is often organized into inquiry phases that together form an inquiry cycle. However, different variations on what is called the inquiry cycle can be found throughout the literature. The current article focuses on identifying and summarizing the core features of inquiry-based learning by means of a systematic literature review and develops a synthesized inquiry cycle that combines the strengths of existing inquiry-based learning frameworks. The review was conducted using the EBSCO host Library; a total of 32 articles describing inquiry phases or whole inquiry cycles were selected based on specific search criteria. An analysis of the articles resulted in the identification of five distinct general inquiry phases: Orientation, Conceptualization, Investigation, Conclusion, and Discussion. Some of these phases are divided into sub-phases. In particular, the Conceptualization phase is divided into two (alternative) sub-phases, Questioning and Hypothesis Generation; the Investigation phase is divided into three sub-phases, Exploration or Experimentation leading to Data Interpretation; and the Discussion phase is divided into two sub-phases, Reflection and Communication. No framework bringing together all of these phases and sub-phases was found in the literature. Thus, a synthesized framework was developed to describe an inquiry cycle in which all of these phases and sub-phases would be present. In this framework, inquiry-based learning begins with Orientation and flows through Conceptualization to Investigation, where several cycles are possible. Inquiry-based learning usually ends with the Conclusion phase. The Discussion phase (which includes Communication and Reflection) is potentially present at every point during inquiry-based learning and connects to all the other phases, because it can occur at any time during (discussion in-action) or after inquiry-based learning when looking back (discussion on-action).
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Purpose To highlight the need for a pedagogical shift from "problems" to "possibilities", which will help ease the transition of students into higher education (as well as the transitions between levels of study and employment), especially those coming from under-represented and under-privileged backgrounds, known in the UK as the widening-participation category. Design/methodology/approach GSM London is the first higher education provider in the UK to implement a strengths-based approach to staff and student development. This study looks at the delivery plan for strengths-based education, especially how it can inform and reshape information literacy instruction in the library and other academic skills modules. Findings Higher education is an important environment to help learners develop their talents into strengths, which can be defined as “the ability to provide consistent and near-perfect performance in a given activity” (Buckingham & Clifton, 2005: 20). There is a perception that widening-participation students have more significant gaps or weaknesses upon entering university education. This case study confirms that not remediation, but a strengths-based approach has the strongest potential to enable students to better manage their weaknesses and become independent learners. Research limitations/implications Further research is required as not enough empirical data could not be collected after only one semester of strengths-based learning implementation at GSM. Originality/value The author attempts to re-conceptualise information literacy instruction and proposes a mapping exercise, in which library instruction is aligned to the principles of strengths-based education and the language of 34 themes in the popular strengths assessment tool from the Gallup organisation. The expectation is to build fluid transitions between levels of study as well as academic matters and extra-curricular activities that students take part in. This approach can also assist learners far beyond the library and long after they leave university, equipping students with a skillset that enables a more meaningful participation in society.
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