Career Detectives

There has been a lot of conversation about gamification and serious games in education. Some people are skeptical about this, but I can see the potential for career education. However I’ve seen a lot of products that haven’t really worked as games or haven’t found their application in the classroom. I’d really like to find a way to do some more research in this area.

In this post I interview Jon and Joseph from Big Green Fox about their Career Detectives game for schools. They have been working with schools using a game for a number of years now. 

I’d be really interested to hear more (and perhaps feature a guest post) from any schools that have used either this game or anything similar.

Who are you?

We are a pioneering company, unique in our commitment to careers education starting earlier, in primary schools, and supporting educators in delivering a competency, not just content, based education which helps young people better understand why they are attending school. We don’t believe that a child’s future should be determined by a computer so our teaching resources encourage peer-supported exploration and positive discussion about life choices with friends, teachers and family. In doing so we aim to raise aspirations and attainment, broaden horizons and increase social mobility.

Big Green Fox was founded by Joseph Leech, a former careers advisor and local authority Education Officer, and Jon Maiden, formerly the director of an arts education charity and manager of a school for blind and multiple disability children in South Africa.

What is Career Detectives?

Career Detectives is a powerful tool to help teachers embed careers education within the core curriculum. The resource, which is centred around a board game, raises aspirations by making links between educational subjects and future career opportunities and broadens young people’s horizons by educating them about the wide range of opportunities in the world of work.

Career Detectives helps children understand the purpose of education and give learning context, integrates Careers with the Maths, English and Science curriculum to demonstrate the links between education and future life choices, provides a range of stimulating information about careers across all sectors, enhances and raises awareness of key skills including team work, communication, leadership, creativity and confidence and embeds other key learning outcomes including healthy eating and citizenship.

Career Detectives board

Why did you decide to present career learning as a board game?

Most of us were less than overwhelmed with our own careers education at school, and continue to be so about that offered to our own children. Computers may have much to offer but an over-reliance on databases has led to an emphasis on Careers Information to the detriment of Careers Advice and Guidance.

Moreover careers education needs to be embedded into the curriculum, not offered as an add-on. In this way pupils begin to make essential connections between what they are learning, what is on offer in the world of work, and the employability skills they need in addition to their qualifications to get where they want to be in life. However, teachers are rarely trained in careers advice and guidance and we have designed Career Detectives as a resource which can be easily used and applied by teachers, assistants, and other support workers to this end.

Playing Career Detectives

Why a board game? Aren’t kids only interested in Xbox these days?

On the contrary, our experience has shown that this is only a myth perpetuated by adults. Our feedback has shown overwhelmingly that children relish the opportunity to play a game with friends that enables them to work together collaboratively, develop new skills and communicate and work away from a computer screen on something creative and tactile.We’ve found that children themselves have loved it.

Career Detectives

Does it being in a game format trivialise it?

At Big Green Fox we feel that most careers education begins too late, when children have already made important choices, become fixed in their notions of what they are good at and less good at, and begun to limit their own horizons in accordance with their own social context. Creative careers education needs to begin at an early age to enable maximum social mobility and increase aspiration by informing all children what a wide range of career choices the world has to offer.

Games are the perfect way to begin this process. They are a powerful means to engage young people with education, encourage teamwork and collaboration, and stimulate positive discussion. In fact studies show that games can raise average test scores by as much as 90%.

Who is using it?

Career Detectives is now being used widely across the UK and abroad. It’s being used by both primary and secondary schools as well as by youth groups, colleges, universities, Education Business Partnerships (EBPs), careers services, local authorities and children’s services, and businesses as part of their outreach programmes.

We designed Career Detectives to be a highly flexible tool to help any educator deliver careers education but have been amazed by just how far and wide the resource is now being used.

How is it going down?

Career Detectives has been unanimously well received by pupils, teachers and careers advisors alike and has also received praise and endorsements from UK government ministers, educational tsars and prominent business leaders. In fact you can read our testimonials on our website.

There has been a lot of changes in school based careers work lately. How have these impacted on you and Career Detectives?

We’re finding that there has been a flurry of demand for Career Detectives since the government announced that careers education was to become mandatory for pupils in year 8 onwards from September 2013. Teachers and other school staff, who may have no training in careers advice and guidance, have been given the responsibility of this new provision and are now pro-actively seeking resources which will help them more effectively deliver careers education.

But overall this is not a trend confined to the new year 8 provision. As careers services are increasingly cut back but schools are still required to offer independent careers advice, we find many teachers keen to use a resource which offers an independent source of information whilst helping them frame their advice and guidance into structured, creative and enjoyable lessons.

What is next for you and the game?

We’re looking to build on the success of our first year and see Career Detectives used more extensively across the UK and beyond. To this end, we’re exploring partnerships with other organisations who share our vision for better careers education and a more competency focused education system, such as with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield.

We’re also busy developing our next two careers resources which we hope to be available later in 2013. Work It Out will be the first interactive whiteboard resource to exclusively focus on helping young people develop the key competencies needed for employment, whilst learning more about different careers and the purpose of education. And with Career Trumps, children use the playing cards to discover about a multitude of careers across all sectors in a fun manner which stimulates positive discussion about future career choices.

Exciting times ahead for Big Green Fox!


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