#Dispatches: Refining Aspects of Frugal Education

An Exercise in Essentialism, distinguishing the vital few from the trivial many.

The ACES project is now in full swing and over the coming months our teams across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam will be identifying a series of research case studies. Through these case studies we aim to can gain an insight into the development of 21st century skills, competencies, and resilience in students through playful and frugal education practice.

As part of the design and delivery of the case studies, we aim to evaluate frugal education readiness within the learning activities created by our project partners. Insights from the case studies will inform the design and re-designing of new and pre-existing practice, towards delivering more practical, resilient, and sustainable education.

To help identify the various aspects we wish to evaluate, myself and Professor Sylvester Arnab have been developing a collection of playful and frugal aspects respectively, that can be used as indicators of playful and frugal readiness. This process has allowed me to focus on the existing frugal principles, and their respective considerations, to further rationalise, refine, and consolidate them down from a busy five principles and fifteen considerations, down to a much more concise three principles and nine aspects. All without using anything along the way.

This has been a valuable exercise in taking my own advice. I used the same principles and considerations I had designed for others and essentially reflected them back on themselves. I simplified the overall message of each, removed any obvious – and not-so-obvious – duplication, and stripped the various considerations back to their most essential aspects.

In doing so, I identified a host of valuable practices and processes that I hadn’t clearly or explicitly identified, but had subconsciously included within the considerations themselves. This was the end result of an exploration of past projects, reliving the design, development, and delivery of each one, to tease out what had worked and what hadn’t, and using those valuable insights to further distill the frugal considerations down to their most essential aspects.

This process of reflection and refinement helped me identify the most essential aspects, and in turn, enabled me to further focus my research. Something that I was struggling with, as I think many researchers have a tendency to do. I guess it comes with the territory. 😊

This exercise has also been valuable to the wider project, influencing the direction of our playful aspect design and informing a suite of research instruments we are designing to evaluate playful and frugal readiness within our partner case studies. We have developed a new approach for the mapping of learning, playful, and frugal aspects for developing 21st century competencies and resilience (a collaboration between myself, Sylvester Arnab Dominic Mahon, and Luca Morini) that we are applying to educational activities designed within the ACES project. We’re writing up a paper on the subject for the European Conference on Games Based Learning 2021.

This has been a challenging but rewarding experience, one I wanted to reflect on for future reference, as I’m sure I’ll find myself navigating these water again in the future!