Students as educational board game designers: Learning opportunities and design dilemmas


  • Thorkild Hanghøj Aalborg Universitet



board games, learning game design, primary school, design thinking


Even though there is a long tradition for letting students play and design board games in the classroom, there exist relatively few studies, which conceptualise how students can learn through designing educational board games. In this paper, I present a theoretical model, which can be used to understand and inform how students work with board game design activities, and how this may require them to address specific dilemmas and complexities in their design processes. The presented GEC model (Games as Educational Challenge) builds on earlier studies, but is presented here in an adapted version, which focuses specifically on students’ game design processes. The GEC model is exemplified with empirical data from the large-scale intervention project GBL21: Game-Based Learning in the 21st Century (2017-2022), where Danish students (grades 5-8, age 11-14) across 19 schools worked with a design thinking approach to designing game tools that address specific challenges within the school subjects mathematics, Danish and science. The current study focuses specifically on a teaching unit with a 5th grade class, who had to design a board game that addressed challenges with toxicity in online communication. By using the GEC model as a framework for the analysis, the current study highlights three analytical themes concerning: 1) the students’ ownership of their presented game design challenges, 2) balancing of game elements versus subject-specific aims, and 3) the legitimacy of creating board games within the context of specific school subjects. By stressing both design dilemmas and learning opportunities, the paper contributes to creating a more nuanced understanding of how students address and deal with different complexities, when creating educational board games.