Can Published RPGs Work In a Classroom Setting?

By contributor Maryanne Cullinan

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in an ILA X Wizards of the Coast panel on using DnD for Writing. More than 900 people signed up for the Zoom broadcast, which shows the increasing interest in using RPGs in the classroom. Teachers and counselors know that we need to use the innate connection many students have to RPGs to help them learn academic, social emotional and executive functioning skills.
But, can a published ttrpg, like Dungeons and Dragons, ever really be an effective tool for learning exactly as written? I would argue no. Because DnD, Monster of the Week, etc. Are specifically designed to be recreational activities, they do not have the focus on skill building that a classroom RPG will need.
That's not to say that they are not useful and that there isn't value in a wide variety of systems. If Dungeons and Dragons gets kids through the door, impacts engagement and sparks imagination, that's an amazing thing, and not to be discounted.
However, like most lessons and pedagogy, personalization for the age of students, setting, content area and teacher experience are all factors that cannot be built into a recreational activity. That's where the art of education, and not just the science, comes in. It's up to the teacher to homebrew the system to better fit the needs. There are many aspects of RPGs such as  Arium, The Quiet Year, For the Queen, Wander home, MAZES and yes, DnD, that can be used strategically to grow and practice the skill sets of students.
Wizards of the Coast has published a teacher's guide, and once I get a chance to check that out, I'll write up some thoughts here. In the meantime, here is a VOD of the panel. I'd love to hear what you think about RPGs in the classroom!
VOD : Educator Resources: :