Game co-design as a pedagogical solution in teaching sustainable financial literacy

Teksti | Annemari Kuhmonen , Sini Seppä-Kortelainen , Aapo Hollanti

The themes of sustainability and responsibility are included in the curricula of different levels of education. In 2021 the business students of Laurea University of Applied Sciences (Laurea UAS) have had an opportunity to study responsible business in the Sustainable Financial Literacy Project (SFinLit). The purpose of the research, development and innovation (RDI) project is to develop sustainable financial literacy skills of students in secondary education, introducing environmental, social and good governance aspects of financial decision-making. (UNED 2021.)

stock photo.
Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash

Responsibility in business means that the company makes decisions and operates in a way that improves competitiveness and growth while protecting the planet and people. Different stakeholders, such as customers, employees and investors, expect responsibility from companies. (Tanner 2022.) Simon Thompson, Chief Executive in Chartered Banker institute states that knowledge of and ability to apply sustainable financial principles in banking, insurance and investment contexts will “increasingly become part of the mainstream of finance in the nearest future” (Kallonen & Kuhmonen 2021, 85).

“From youth to youth” model

“From youth to youth” model is a method that can be applied in agile learning where university students share their knowledge with upper secondary school students, or upper secondary school or vocational school students teach what they have learned to the lower secondary school students. The method has been successfully applied for example in the voluntary program of bourse ambassadors by the Finnish Foundation for Share Promotion. The bourse ambassadors are upper secondary school or vocational school students who visit lower secondary schools and teach about managing your own finances, saving, investing and stock exchange operations. (Pörssisäätiö 2020.)

In the spring of 2021, the assignment of the Laurea UAS’ business students was to design and implement an innovative way to teach sustainable financial literacy to upper secondary school students leveraging “from youth to youth” model. Students operated in Peer-to-Peer (P2P) learning environment with a focus on supervised work in teams and peer-to-peer learning. In P2P model, one of the applications of Laurea UAS’ Learning by Developing pedagogy, the learner is considered to have an active role in learning. The capabilities of assessing and applying knowledge, as well as integrating education into working life, are emphasised. (Dickinson 2017 & 2021; Juvonen, Marjanen & Meristö 2018).

As orientation, a team of eight students studied environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, the European Union Green Deal and National Strategies for Financial Education of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The theoretical framework of the project consisted of the following topics: green financial products and services in retail and corporate banking, insurance and fintech industry. Additionally, the students studied processes, methods and tools of service design, as well as gamification and storytelling in serious games.

The P2P project resulted in a prototype of ”The Great Sustainable Adventure” game, a storytelling game playable on the Seppo platform. In addition to comprehensive theoretical studies, the students were inspired for the game design and development by a lecture on sustainable finance, given by Aila Aho, an Executive Adviser on sustainable finance and ESG for investors, companies and policy makers with extensive leadership and management background in Nordea, and Rapporteur Technical Expert Group for Sustainable Finance at European Commission 2018-2020. The students became also acquainted with the world’s most responsible corporations and their performance indicators of sustainability (Corporate Knights 2021), as well as green and sustainable finance certifications globally.

Board game co-design workshops

In the autumn of 2021, ”The Great Sustainable Adventure” game prototype was further developed by a new business student team from Laurea UAS that organized three service design workshops for general upper secondary school students during their social studies lessons. There were five students in the project team.

During the first service design workshop, Laurea’s team measured general upper secondary school students’ knowledge about financing, investing and sustainability by using an evaluation form and played the ”The Great Sustainable Adventure” game with the students. The second service design workshop included an interactive presentation made by the students of the topics that the general upper secondary school students had found most difficult based on the first workshop. The team used a synthesis wall for the identification of the learning and tested their ideas of different game types. Based on the feedback during the second workshop, the team ended up developing a board game instead of a digital game.

A Wizard Master board game prototype with 60 theory question cards, 10 story-based question cards and instructions were tested by the general upper secondary school students in the third workshop. There are different levels of questions, which are also connected to the age group.

An example of the questions created: How many kilometers can you drive a Tesla with the energy you consume by watching Netflix for one hour? 30 kms.

The game prototype was also presented in the general online meeting of the Sustainable Financial Literacy project by Laurea’s students. The possibilities of digitizing and exploiting the board game for the final product of the SFinLit project were identified by its partners. In the spring of 2022, a new P2P student group will continue the development of the Wizard Master board game prototype in collaboration with general upper secondary school students.

Design research was conducted during the development work. The research questions were:

How does game co-design support the improvement of sustainable financial literacy skills of the higher education students and general upper secondary education students?

How does “from youth to youth” model affect learning experience?

The design research method combines development and research in a cyclical process involving both theoretical and experimental phases. The aim of the methodology is to develop teaching in real situations systematically, flexibly and iteratively. Design research may include concrete design and development of pedagogical models, teaching methods, learning materials and learning environments. (Barab 2006; Collins, Joseph & Bielaczyc, 2004.)

Findings and further steps

Preliminary findings and observations suggest that games allow application of knowledge, and thus can provide a stimulating environment to practise and rehearse sustainable financial literacy skills. Basic concepts, such as financing, investing and sustainability need to be addressed in the game due to the modest entry level of general upper secondary school students. Competitiveness makes it fun, and storytelling makes it interesting. Games coach to think about one’s own choices and their consequences. Games should enable evolving stories and roles, which is easier said than done. In the game you should also be able to test your own skills and go back to the beginning and play again and again and see how the levels and scores develop.

In game design sessions among tertiary and upper secondary level students, students gravitate towards doing and playing together. In addition to teaching sustainable financial literacy, co-design of a game supports the development of teamwork skills and other transversal competencies required by the National core curriculum for general upper secondary education.

During the two P2P projects, it has been identified that there is a need for new types of pedagogical solutions to support the development of sustainable financial literacy skills at both tertiary and upper secondary levels. Leveraging “From youth to youth” model is perceived as a motivating way to learn sustainable financial literacy when learning content is integrated into young people’s daily lives and life situations.

The results of the research and development work were presented at the Finnish Conference on Vocational and Professional Education Research in November 2021 in the session called “Best Practices for Promoting Sustainable Development in Vocational Education and Training”.



Jaa sivu