This Is Not a Game: Playing Monopoly to Learn about Real-World Social Inequality
Devin T. Molina, Assistant Professor, Social Sciences Department, Bronx Community College
Active learning strategies like game playing have been shown to have many important benefits to student learning: they democratize the classroom, they connect class content with every-day practice, they can improve student performance and retention, and students report being more interested and engaged. This paper describes a modified version of the household game Monopoly that simulates unequal income and wealth distributions in the United States and how that impacts social mobility. As students “play to win” they also experience some of the barriers to forming a class consciousness that Karl Marx describes, specifically false consciousness. Combined with class discussion after the game and the assignment of an essay requiring the students to connect their game experience to sociological concepts, the game aims to help students better understand sociological concepts and their real-world implications. A summary of the experience of students from an Introduction to Sociology class (N=27) and the discussion that followed is presented to show how students connect the game to their learning and to real-world social inequality. Assessment data about which sociological concepts students connected to their game experience as well as connections made to everyday experience show whether students make connections between the activity and their learning and to real-world scenarios Selections from the essays are further analyzed to illustrate the students’ depth of understanding and application of the game to their learning. The paper is concluded by offering suggestions for using the activity in hybrid and online classes as well as ways to use the activity for other lessons in sociology and other disciplines.