Sasha Barab is a Professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, where he co-founded and serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Games and Impact.
Dr. Barab is an internationally recognized Learning Scientist who holds the Pinnacle West Chair of Education, and who has researched, designed, and published extensively on the challenges and opportunities of using games for impact. His research has resulted in numerous grants, dozens of articles, and multiple chapters in edited books, which investigate knowing and learning in its material, social, and cultural context. Leveraging design-based and impact-based research methodologies, his work focuses the design and research of game-infused learning environments to support a more knowledgeable, compassionate, and committed citizenship.
Beyond a social change agenda, the intent of this research is to develop rigorous claims about how people learn that have significant practical, pedagogical, and theoretical implications. Central to this work has been understanding the value of transformational play. Students who play transformationally become agents-of-change who use real-world knowledge, skills, and concepts to make sense of a situation and then make choices that actually transform the play space and themselves; creating a place in which what you know is directly related to what you are able to do and, ultimately, who you become.
His current work extends the design boundaries from the bits and bytes of the game world to complex real-world ecosystems with the goal of helping all learners thrive in a complex, rapidly changing, digitally connected world. One recent project, ThriveCast, is based on an invite, enable, and release learning methodology and focused on cultivating growth and impact journeys so that more people can realize their potential. Across all work is a sensitivity to factors such as ecosystem integration, stakeholder alignment, enacted agency, and achieving sustainable and scalable outcomes. In this impact framework, games and innovation more generally shift from ‘products’ (games that one plays and finishes) to ‘services’ (game-infused communities and ubiquitous interfaces that do not end, but live as long as the developers can support on-going content and community management), whose design and implementation must integrate into community ecosystems that continually connect to players in those places and at those times where they are needed most.
Grounded in a rich history of international work and deep appreciation for the challenges of well-intentioned projects producing unintended negative consequences, Barab’s impact-based research strives for deep stakeholder engagement and a sensitivity towards ecosystem integration with a commitment towards the production of sustainable and scalable outcomes. Therefore, this recent work leverages an impact-based research (IBR) methodology. IBR is an agile research approach that aligns stakeholders around impact outcomes accomplished through clearly articulated theories of change that are continually optimized through sustained real-world implementations and shared best practices across a committed community of practice.