Decision Making & Problem Solving in Game ON

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

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Game ON was specifically designed to enhance children’s problem-solving skills and decision making through a modified version and set up of the Gibbs reflective cycle using storytelling. Game ON mimics the problem, solution, consequences and reflection technique, using the characters in a common scenario. In Game ON, the scene is set up so that friends have the intention to play together in a team. However, given the dominance and competitive nature of Alex, the team situation is quickly diminished. Alex demonstrates some low resilience behavioural strategies that result in a grand display of reactive emotions through anger, which results in Alex making a poor decision, having to play a team sport by himself. Alex gets a chance to reflect on the consequences of his decisions (by playing on his own) but, unfortunately, Alex’s emotions of frustration and anger get the better of him as he can see the same situation that caused the original outburst (Bella scoring a goal) is unfolding once again. Instead of using a cognitive, solution-focused approach to manage his anger, Alex uses his highly fuelled emotions and poor temperament to battle through the situation to no avail. The second display of anger presented by Alex throwing his second tantrum validated that Alex was unable to learn through the consequence of the first scenario. At this time, Dusty, his friend, offers a solution-focused approach for Alex to manage his anger and curb his initial reaction to any situation by taking some time out to review the situation and breathe. The descriptor ‘clearing your mind’ is an often-suggested approach to avoid making ‘foolish’ decisions. It is the expectation that clearing your mind will reduce the likely recent information or experience (even if irrelevant) and may bias thinking. Reflection and breathing has beneficial physiological and psychological effects in promoting relaxation and enhancing cognition, which promotes clarity for important decision making. At this point, Alex is able to calm himself down and use the skills of reflection to see how his current approach is having a negative impact on his mental, physical and emotional reactions, which also impacts upon his social environment.

Using reflection, Alex takes responsibility for his actions (leadership) and thinks through some different strategies that he could apply if he gets angry in the future. Alex learns that his decision making requires the assistance of his cognitive mind, the executive functions which may help him make better choices by assessing potential consequences through a clear perspective. Alex knows that his behaviour may not change overnight, so recruits his peers by asking them to help him if they see him turning bright red again.

Relatability & Belonging in Game ON

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

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The characters in Game ON were designed to relate to the children, the different aspects of their personality and the actions that unfold throughout story time. It should be noted that the concept of relatability is not so much a character of resilience, however more a process that helps the children to connect with the book which in turns facilitates learning. 

Piloting of this program revealed that children could relate to more than one character in the story. Engaging with, and connecting to the characters allows children to identify with the context of the story and the behaviour associated with the characters, which, in turn, facilitates learning. As indicated by the pilot study, most children reading Game ON identify with Dusty and Alex, the main characters in the book, regardless of their gender. However, other children were also able to relate to Bella, Reina, Macca and Wagner. The dialogue that children exhibit as part of the connection through the characters can provide a powerful insight into the lives of children, which enables adults to gain insight into how children may be affected in situations of conflict and aggression. When children can talk about why and how they relate to a specific character, it can open up a very important dialogue with peers and mentors, which can then assist with solving a problem if required. From a learning and protective perspective, it is just as important to understand the needs of those children who feel suppressed, isolated and scared in tense situations as it is to understand the aggressor. Game ON provides this ability to gain a broad-spectrum view of the different scenarios unfolding for each character when conversing with Alex. This aspect provides value for all the characters and their experiences from a learning perspective within this story. Game ON, through relatability and belongingness, was designed to enable children to relate, engage and learn.

Self-Efficacy in Game ON

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

Learn about self-efficacy in Game ON below

Game ON provides children with an opportunity to observe a common scenario unfold, which is fuelled with challenging situations. By watching Alex make mistakes and isolate his friends, the children have the opportunity to witness what can happen when you make a choice or act out of anger. Alex frequently blames his friends for his emotional reactions and his own mistakes or poor choices. If children are led to believe that external factors are to blame for their failings or achievements, they risk having low self-efficacy and low self-esteem, consequently maintaining very little ability to take control of managing the outcomes. Children with low self-efficacy and low self-confidence feel disempowered to change the situation. Providing this role-playing opportunity enables children to learn through the trial and error in a simulated environment.

Game ON was designed to empower children to take responsibility for their actions, with the notion of autonomously being able to change the outcome. Whilst Alex demonstrates low resilience attributes, children are also invited to view possible solutions to the situation through Dusty. Children can be promoted to think of a time when they too may have been in trouble when acting out of anger, making a poor choice or blaming others. Through this process, they are provided with the opportunity to view potential solutions available to them, which may inform a more-desirable outcome in future if they feel angry or upset. When children can use cognition as part of a solution-focused approach to problem solving and decision making, they are exhibiting positive signs of self-efficacy and self-mastery. They also maintain the ability to build self-confidence in managing difficult tasks and working with unknown information through uncertainty.

Self-Regulation in Game ON

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

Learn about self-regulation in Game ON below

Self-regulation and temperament control are large predictors of resilience and have been embedded as learning opportunities throughout Game ON. Within the story, Alex is encouraged several times to slow down, stop and reflect on his behaviour, in regard to his poor outcomes from emotional reactivity. From a role-model stance, Alex was designed to demonstrate low resilience and low emotional reactivity traits. Alex demonstrates this by displaying poor conflict resolution and anger management skills, which is exhibited by throwing tantrums, yelling and blaming others for his shortcomings, which are poor resilience behavioural traits. Through this behaviour, Alex reveals an inability to regulate his emotions and temperament. These shortcomings cause Alex to isolate his friends and hurt their feelings, while also demonstrating that Alex is unable to take responsibility for his actions. Such behaviours compromise interpersonal resilience. It is not until Alex is able to calm himself down using a breathing technique, as suggested by Dusty, that he can see (through a new perspective) how his behaviour has impacted his friends and he is able to operate through adaptive coping mechanisms. The strategies suggested by Dusty, such as breathing and walking away, enable a proactive, cognitive approach which promotes solution-focused outcomes and clear thoughts. There are several approaches children can adopt to help regulate emotions and temperament. Dusty provides one option in Game ON to help guide children to understand the importance of being calm when making choices and decisions to provoke better outcomes with a clearer perspective.

Autonomy in Game ON

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

Learn about autonomy in Game ON below

Within Game ON, children are encouraged through positive role modelling to become autonomous problem solvers and thinkers. The characters role-play the problem, solutions and consequences, which provides children with insight into conflict resolution strategies. Children’s capability to learn is facilitated through their connection or ability to relate to content and experiences. Therefore, using the characters in this way enables children to independently adopt the strategies within the book, or find other solutions to manage anger and resolve conflicts. This optimises the chance for children to self-author behaviour and come up with their own strategies to resolve conflict, which, in turn, promotes self-efficacy.

Role Modelling in Game ON

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

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In Game ON, the characters act as either poor or positive role models for children. This has been a measured approach with the book. Children have many people who influence their lives, and not all behaviour is seen as optimal from a role-model perspective. Therefore, for these children, distinguishing appropriate behaviour may be challenging. A considerable risk factor that reduces personal resilience for children is socialising with persons who are considered to be poor role models. Role modelling is a key factor influencing children’s ability to refine and form their own behavioural strategies of coping, decision making and problem solving. Dusty  was created to exhibit positive behavioural traits with managing temperament, maintaining a solution-focused approach and prompting Alex (the red character) to review how his behaviour affects himself physical and others socially. This promotes self- and social awareness and boosts empathy. Dusty takes the time to assist Alex with a process that can help him make informed and calm choices. Dusty is supported by his peers in suggesting strategies for Alex to regulate his emotions and temperament, so as to change Alex’s perspective and his response.

An Introduction to the Game ON Characters

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

Learn about the characters in Game ON below

Game ON contains six characters that mimic the attributes of children. The relatability of the characters is an important attribute to enhance the connection and engagement. The personalities of the characters are as described below.

  • Alex: Big, strong and athletic. Alex is exceptionally good at sports and being a leader, however, sometimes Alex uses his strength and size to dominate his friends and situations. 
  • Dusty: Sensitive, caring and kind. Dusty tries to always approach each situation with a solution and considers how the choices he makes can have either positive or challenging consequences. 
  • Reina: A quiet, empathic and sensitive character who is very clever and loves to do her schoolwork. Reina can be very emotional and finds it difficult to deal with loud and confronting people or places. 
  • Macca: A very clever, creative artist. Macca loves to spend his time daydreaming and thinking about new art projects. Macca is very intuitive, calm and easy going. 
  • Wagner: A very intelligent, methodical character who loves to complete projects and tasks slowly. Wagner can sometimes be a little bit lazy and uses his clever abilities to get other people to do things for him.  
  • Bella: Very sporty, fit and active. Her friends think she is very pretty. Bella can be very confident and caring, but sometimes can worry about what others think, which can change the way she acts toward her friends. 

Game ON encompasses the design and pedagogy to facilitate children’s ability to relate, engage and potentially learn the constructs of resilience identified through this literature review. Below is a summary of both the processes that facilitate resilience learning (such as relatability and belonging, and plasticity) and the individual resilience attributes built into Game ON.

Pedagogy in Game ON

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

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Part of the pedagogy of Game ON was to ensure the learning addressed the target age group, as part of an early intervention and prevention approach. Game ON was designed for children aged 4–7, using role play, puppetry, storytelling and literature. Many children within this age group attend school, and it was imperative that Game ON could draw upon the resilience opportunities extracted from the GRP and the resilience skills embedded in the Australian Health and Physical Education curriculum (ACARA, 2016) and PDHPE K–6 and K–10 syllabi. One of the most effective ways for children to learn new concepts extracted from the learning syllabus is by practising the learning in the resources through revisiting the concepts.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle and Game ON

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

Learn how Gibbs Reflective Cycle has been used in Game ON below

Within Game ON, a modified version of the Gibbs reflective cycle has been integrated in the story to encourage reflection. Reflection can build autonomy and self-mastery, which is a sustainable approach to creating healthy children. To facilitate the concept of reflection, the characters designed within Game ON are challenged through a scenario involving a problem, followed by the actions, consequences and solutions to the issue presented. The Gibbs reflective cycle is demonstrated in the figure below.

However, as this model contains many steps, the author has considered a simplified version of this cycle and has constructed a modified version in accordance with the restorative practice technique. The purpose behind modifying the original version of the Gibbs reflective cycle was in consideration of the target age of the children who would be engaging with these resources. 

Before the modified version of the Gibbs reflective cycle was embedded into Game ON, the notion was piloted into two schools to see if the theory would translate to practice. School one was a public school, with the pilot group consisting of 24 Year 1 students (aged 5–6). School two was a Catholic school within the Sutherland Shire in NSW and the pilot group consisted of 24 Year 2 students (aged 7–8). Piloting this aspect of the book demonstrated that children immediately engaged with the concept and were able to demonstrate the process of reflection by drawing upon a past problem, their actions and the associated consequences. The ability of children to relate to the characters facilitates children to use the Gibbs reflective cycle to safely evaluate their behaviour and implement strategies that promote a positive outcome without blame or punishment. Game ON provides an opportunity to evaluate and discuss personal behaviour within the classroom setting and receive constructive feedback from peers about their current choices. In this learning space, children can think through other ways to solve their issues in a safe, peer-mentored environment using appropriate pedagogy. Reflection maintains strong synergy to both the Australian HPE syllabus and the PDHPE K–6 and K–10 syllabi. 

Modified version of the Gibbs (1988) reflective cycle, for child-friendly use

Development of Game ON

Game ON is a children’s book created to encourage resilience in our young ones.

Learn about the development of Game ON below

The first book in the series about Dusty and Friends, Game ON, is informed by, and designed in conjunction with, the resilience and positive psychology literature. Game ON was designed to demonstrate conflict resolution and anger management by using positive coping strategies through a strengths-based approach. Game ON aimed to achieve this through the creation of fun-loving characters that act as role models for children. The characters mimic a scenario, fuelled with conflict, which the children can relate to so as to evoke interest and engagement into the story.

Throughout Game ON, the characters demonstrate the power of staying solution focused with outcomes, the importance of regulating emotions, taking time to think through decisions with reflection rather than a reactive response and building awareness of empathy regarding how our behaviours affect our personal and social environment. Game ON aims to promote autonomy and responsibility in children through independent decision making (assessing consequences associated with actions), by teaching positive communication and establishing a process of critical thinking. Game ON provides an opportunity for children to understand what a positive, peer-mentored relationship may look like in comparison to a relationship that may reduce the individual’s level of resilience.

One of the emerging requirements in the new PDHPE K–10 syllabus, within the Health, Wellbeing and Relationships strand, Self-Management, skills (S), identifies that children must learn to communicate through stories or characters that can convey their feelings and reactions when facing challenges. Game ON provides this skill base for children. Like communication, most of the paradigms built into this resource are distinctly recognisable as resilience-building exercises, in accordance to the GRP. One of the essential and imperative components of this resource that helps to facilitate behaviour change is the process of reflection, with actions in conjunction with Kolb’s learning theory. Embedded in all three books across the Dusty and Friends series is Gibbs reflective cycle.