Center of Educational Technologies

Role Games as a Method of Moral and Cultural Education of Children and Teenagers

Т. E. Basilian,
Co-leader of the Club Attached to Initiative of “Good Deeds Organization”
L. S. Nikolaeva,
Director, “Initiative of Good Deeds”, Regional Voluntary Charity Organization

Any specialist working with children and teenagers is facing problems arising from children’s difficulty in social adaptation, aggression, low level of culture, and lack of interest in learning. Weill try to show opportunities of role modeling in solving the problems of educating children and teenagers in the spirit of humanism, conveying to them moral, ethical and cultural experience accumulated by humanity.

Role games are understood as any completed action that has a role element as its main content. A participant of the game is offered various conditions for action. If the condition is set (“imagine that you are under such and such conditions”), the role element is available. The player in the role game is at the same time an actor, a director, a scriptwriter and more. A role game (modeling) has specific mechanisms, which allow managing the dynamics of the events and directing them in the way suitable for the organizers.

We start playing role games in the early childhood. All of us played such games as Daughters and Mothers, Cossacks and Highwaymen, in early childhood. Thanks to them, we were learning to understand the world of the adults with its complicated relations and rigid setting of social roles. Teaching foreign languages by active methods, military maneuvers and strategic planning in military higher institutions, courses for young mothers can be called role games as well. But we’ll narrow this wide range to the games that produce social, moral and cultural influence on the younger generation.

History of role modeling as an independent method in pedagogy, psychology and leisure activities accounts for several decades. Before the Great Patriotic war military and headquarters, games were used for training young officers in the USSR, and several generations of Soviet schoolchildren played role game “Zamitsa”.

At the end of the 80s role modeling gradually developed in a special type of cultural and educational activities. Moscow clubs 'System of role modeling’, 'City of craftsmen* played a vital role in working out both the theoretical base and methods. These clubs became real schools for specialists on role modeling. Similar clubs and associations spring up in different cities of the country, interacting with the clubs of fantasy and military — historical centers. Each such club is working out its own directions in using role games. For this purpose, games of different types are used, like historical-educational (Orgenshtern, Kazan), social-legal (Erebor, Kaluga), historical-social with elements of fantasy and tourism skills (Camelof), military-patriotic and technical (Enclave) and others.

Beginning with 1990 annual all-union (now international) role games ‘Hobbits Games’, have been conducted. They actually have turned into the festival of role games in Russia and CIS countries.

Nowadays every year tens thousands participants on the territories of the former USSR and foreign countries take part in hundreds of field games with a number of participants ranging from 60-70 to 1500 (1700 people participated in Hobbits Games of 2000a).

Attitude to role games can be different. As any voluntary movement, it has its advantages and disadvantages. But we shouldn’t forget that role game is one of the most universal forms of work with people. A great number and a composition of participants show that representatives of various social and age groups are interested in the game and, as a consequence, it is possible to use them for solving the tasks of educating the younger generation among others.

With all its methodical and technical means it is possible to create various models of human relations, starting with modeling social-political structures of the past and the present (the system of government in Ancient Rome, in the Republic of Novgorod, meeting of the board of directors of the bank) and finishing with family conflicts or situations of school life. The created models won’t look like a rigid lifeless scheme, but they will live and develop according to their models thanks to efforts of their participants, which will follow dynamics of the process. The fact that the role game is restricted in time, and its actions are compressed, allows the participants to see the results of their actions, analyze the mistakes, and correct the position, which is often impossible in real life. A form of modeling with the help of a game allows considering the actions that are taking place, in some distance ('we are playing and not dividing the cow1), which helps to avoid psychological traumas in case of conflict situations. In such a way, a child or a teenager participating in the role game, learns to solve life situations, acquires communication skills and develops communicative abilities.

Social and historical games play a special part in educating moral and cultural values. Participation in social games allows a young citizen to learn to understand the processes that are happening in society, work out an appropriate social position, develops elementary political literacy, and teaches to love the motherland. It is more difficult to involve people who have been to such school, in a dishonest political game, to provoke them to aggression on political grounds, to make a fool by ideological slogans, involve in chauvinistic propaganda.

Historic role games not only give a chance to learn more about history of different countries and peoples. Conditions of modeling introduce to everyday life, culture, mentality of the country or the ethnic group, which is the subject of the game. As a result, children develop understanding and respect for cultural traditions and way of life of other peoples. Besides, having an example of modeled historical events, the participants of the role game come to an inevitable conclusion that racial, religious and national conflicts are provoked and don’t meet needs and aspirations of the groups which participate in the conflict.

A game “Children’s Crusade” can serve as an example. The situation is based on historic material, when desire for power and wealth is hidden behind externally noble spiritual motives.

For solving the tasks of working out social and cultural tolerance it is possible to create role models based on the principle of 'Desert Island3, where the players with different cultural traditions, religious believes and racial origin have to solve a common task together. Not a single group can solve this problem can’t be solved by one group or by the group which is not completely unified.

Mutual role games unite the children and teenagers, increase motivation of learning, solve communication problems thanks to extensive activity, and remove the syndrome of teenager’s aggression. For example, the role game 'Hour of the Unicorn3 gave a chance to unite the children and teenagers and win the evil and cruel queens of the Dark by doing good deeds, which is cleaning the Bitsa Park.

In many countries, including Russia, role games have proved successful in different fields, especially in education and psychological services. But they could be used 011 a much wider scale to help us cope with problems of cultural and moral education in general.


Source: Молодежь России перед лицом глобальных вызовов на рубеже веков (Как противостоять агрессивному экстремизму, ксенофобии и насилию среди молодежи) : Материалы Международной конференции, 18–19 ноября 2000 г., Москва, Россия / под научной и общей редакцией И. М. Ильинского. Перевод на англ. яз. М., 2001. С. 272–275. ISBN 5-85085-643-9.