This paper compares indicators of student engagement across different sections of a first-year seminar taught in Fall 2017. As part of an active learning pedagogy, students in the author’s sections of the course were clustered into teams that designed and played games on refugee migration, aid, and resettlement. Students in seminar sections taught by other faculty members experienced traditional forms of instruction that did not include game design. Data from a survey administered to students in different seminar sections did not indicate an association between game design and student engagement. Further investigation revealed substantial declines in the results of student evaluations of the author’s teaching from the previous year, despite only minor differences in course content. Colleagues anecdotally reported a marked decrease in the academic orientation and performance of first-year students in 2017, suggesting that pre-existing characteristics may be a greater influence on student engagement than an active learning pedagogy involving games.
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