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Professional Inquiry Project Report

Brian Kim
Coalhurst High School
SS 8 & ELA 7

How can tabletop role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, or
Pathfinder apply to ELA and Social Studies outcomes? What other aspects
of student lives can tabletop games enhance, enrich?

Considerations and Conclusions:

I began this inquiry project knowing that I wanted to pursue something that I was
truly interested in, in addition to having practical applications to the field of education.
Prior to beginning the project, I knew that there have already been cases of tabletop
role playing games integrated into classrooms, and into schools as after school
programs. I had been playing dungeons dragons for a short while now and I was
eager to see for myself what the educational purposes of it might be.

I began the process by creating the dungeons and dragons club at Coalhurst High
School, and held open sessions to help students understand the basic rules, and
character creation. Even at these first few stages of the project, I found that there
were very clear and direct relationships between various ELA outcomes with the text
heavy, character creation process. Students who were often disengaged with
reading in class were eagerly coming back during lunch period to help clarify the
things that they had read at home. Once the students had their characters made, I
split the group into two separate sessions and we began playing dungeons and

An article that I found to be useful in the early stages of my project was entitled,
Dungeons and Dragons and literacy: The role tabletop role-playing games can play
in developing teenagers' literacy skills and reading interests ​(2017), by Stefanie L. B.
Kaylor. It stated that:

While many variables and techniques have been shown to improve

students’ reading skills, common factors include the amount of time spent
reading (National Endowment for the Arts [NEA], 2007) regardless of text
quality (Krashen & Ujiie, 2005), access to high-interest reading material
(Gallagher, 2003), and the intrinsic motivation to read (Wigfield,
Gladstone, & Turci, 2016)... In recent years, researchers have explored
using alternative texts, such as graphic novels, to interest students with
much success (Snowball, 2005). The alternative texts and oral storytelling
forms found in tabletop role-playing games (TRPGs) can also be used to
develop the reading interests of and teach literacy skills to otherwise
struggling or reluctant readers (3).

As I continued to play Dungeons and Dragons with the students, I began to recognize
that there were only a small handful of items in the ELA program of studies that the
game did not touch on. Outcomes ranging from “create oral, print and other media
texts that are unified by point of view, carefully developed plot and endings consistent
with previous events(2.4.3)” to “take responsibility for assuming a variety of roles in a
group, depending on changing contexts and needs(5.2.2)” Students were actively
meeting a large number of outcomes during each of the gameplay sessions.

With further research I found that there were deeper educational applications of
Dungeons and Dragons in classrooms. According to W.A. Hawkes ​Robinson’s article:
Role​playing Games Used as Educational and Therapeutic Tools for Youth and
Adults​, because role-playing “sans the gaming aspect, can be a very powerful
therapeutic tool”(2) it can often serve as a way for youth to work out personal issues
on various levels. While the narrative that the group has set out on is not teeming
with interpersonal conflict and self-reflection, I have found that various students’
character background narratives reflected some of their real-life counterpart
backgrounds. It is important to note however, some student’s character backgrounds
were goofy and unrelated to any interpersonal background.

While the possible academic, and therapeutic uses of Tabletop Role Playing Games
like Dungeons and Dragons are exciting, I found that the club simply provided a
space for students who typically did not interact with one another to come together
for a common activity. Or provide a space for students who were not typically
involved in athletics or other extra curricular activities to come to after school in order
to become part of a larger community.