Escape rooms as tools for learning through failure

Nicola Whitton, Rachelle O'Brien*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The increasingly neoliberal course of Higher Education is linked to rises in student anxiety around assessment and increased fear of the consequences of failure. Making mistakes is an inevitable part of any learning process (and of life generally) and managing failure in a productive and positive way is crucial for success and wellbeing beyond university. In this article, we argue that academia does not adequately prepare learners for managing mistake-making progressively and that escape rooms can provide a way to facilitate learning through failure. We first present an original model of failure-based learning that explores why being able to make mistakes safely is important for students and why the use of escape rooms in Higher Education presents an excellent opportunity for the application of this model. We then show the relevance of this model by using it to analyse two case studies that explore different ways in which educational escape rooms can be used in Higher Education: either designed to facilitate learning by playing a game; or supporting learning through designing a game. Our model of failure-based learning has three stages, emphasising the importance of preparation, an iterative play cycle of testing, failing, reflecting, and revising, and finishing with a presentation phase. The article concludes by considering the limitations of educational escape rooms in this context and highlighting some practical considerations for the use of these approaches.
Original languageEnglish
JournalElectronic Journal of e-Learning
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Feb 2024

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