Fostering an open mind and open attitude in higher education using games and art-based educational activities 

Fostering an open mind and open attitude in higher education using games and art-based educational activities is a current ongoing research project at the Utrecht University. The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences (FSBS), the Faculty of Medicine (UMCU), The Faculty of Humanities, and the Utrecht University (UU). Spearheaded by Gönül Dilaver en Leoniek Wijngaards, the Open Mind project was granted funding from the Comenius Leadership Fellow in June 2023, and has been projected to run until August of 2026. During this project the aim is to enable and encourage discussions of complicated and often polarizing topics, such as climate change, the “woke” movement, vaccines, LGBTQ+ identities, and more. 

With the use of art and media tools such as dialogical art, game play, and game development, this project aims to foster a space wherein it is possible to discuss complex topics, and for students with diverging opinions to be able to civilly discuss while learning from one another and developing a greater understanding of those whose opinions may differ from their own. 

Learn more about this project from information shared by the UU, and the relevant post shared to the website of NWO (Dutch).

The project includes 6 work packages(WP) (pictured above), 3 to be executed at the student level, 1 to be executed at the level of teachers, 1 to be implemented at the institutional level, and a final WP intended to observe and evaluate the other 5 WPs. These projects include integrating both playing and designing computer games as a strategy for introducing students to varying perspectives on a topic, as well as using art as a starting point for dialogue. Additionally the WP at the teaching level helps those leading the classrooms to feel confident and comfortable in directing and managing such complex, sensitive, and nuanced class room discussions.

In working to facilitate and encourage the discussions of complex and polarizing topics the research project helps work towards the Utrecht University’s goals to “[work] together to create a better world” by helping students develop the necessary skills to “critically evaluate insights and look beyond [disciplinary] borders” (Utrecht University, 2020, p. 36).

Dilavers and Wijngaards are being supported in their endeavor by a number of other members of the UU and UMCU faculties. Anne-Roos Verbree, Remco Veltkamp, Jasper van Vught, Sigrid Merx, Sicco de Knecht, Renske de Kleijn, Bruce Mutsvairo, and Bjorn Wansink. Additionally their work is being supported by various outside partner organizations and groups, who will help structure and facilitate the program.