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Category: In class learning
Suitable ages: Primary and secondary
‘Gamification’ in education is about increasing student engagement and learning by including game-like elements in learning. Gamification in STEM often uses digital technology, for example gamified learning software such as Khan Academy (see case study below).
Effective games typically feature a series of goals or progressions, clear rules, elements of story, high interactivity, and continual feedback including some kind of reward. They may also incorporate social elements of teamwork and communication. Games can enhance student focus and motivation, and can provide the freedom for students to try, fail, and explore.
|Supports curiosity and experimentation||Not all learning can be gamified. Gamification should be balanced with other teaching approaches|
|Cultivates a positive attitude to failure||Can be a distraction if not well-linked with learning objectives|
|Delivers individualised learning appropriate to the level and pace of the student||May foster extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation|
|Can facilitate focus and flow|
There is evidence that this initiative type has mixed impacts on student STEM engagement or achievement.
There is mixed evidence for the impact of gamification on student outcomes. Many experimental studies have found positive impacts on engagement and learning, but others have found mixed or negative results. Most of the published intervention studies focus on university students, and many focus on computer science education. It is possible that school-aged students have different responses to gamification.
- Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes by Adrián Domínguez, Joseba Saenz-de-Navarrete, Luis de-Marcos, Luis Fernández-Sanz, Carmen Pagés and José-Javier Martínez-Herráiz. This experimental study on university students taking a basic ICT course found that computer-based gamified learning increased initial motivation and overall grade compared to a control group. However, it weakened classroom participation and performance in written exams.
- Assessing the effects of gamification in the classroom: A longitudinal study on intrinsic motivation, social comparison, satisfaction, effort, and academic performance by Michael D. Hanus and Jesse Fox. This study on university students found that gamification in the form of badges and leader boards led to lower intrinsic motivation, lower satisfaction, and lower final exam scores.
- Gamification in Education: Where Are We in 2015? by Darina Dicheva and Christo Dichev. This 2015 review of research on gamification in education found a rise in the number of studies with inconclusive or negative results.
- Gamification in Higher Education and STEM: A Systematic Review of Literature by M. Ortiz, K. Chiluiza and M. Valcke. This literature review of 30 studies of gamification in STEM in higher education found that 14 found positive impacts, 1 found negative impacts, and 15 found mixed or neutral impacts.
Many high-quality gamified educational software applications are freely available for use. However, teachers may need training and support to effectively use gamified software in classrooms. School leadership must decide how, what and when gamified software will be incorporated into student learning. Significant investment is needed if a business or school aims to develop its own gamification software or programs.
- Ensure the teacher or supervisor is familiar with the gamified software, and trained and supported as necessary.
- Approach gamified learning as a valuable complement to other forms of learning, rather than a break, distraction, or a replacement.
Developing new gamified software is beyond the scope of most small or medium-sized school-business STEM partnerships. However, partnering schools and businesses can consider introducing elements of gamification into their learning programs. For example, group STEM projects might incorporate a narrative that students move through, featuring clear goals, rules, rewards and feedback.
Businesses interested in a larger investment in STEM education might consider a scalable gamified learning program. For innovative examples of game-based learning, see the Institute of Play and associated Quest to Learn school in New York City.
Case study: Gamification in Khan Academy
Khan Academy provides free, high-quality online learning programs that cover a large amount of the school STEM curriculum. Students work at their own pace through videos and problem sets. Students have a customised experience, based on their strengths and weaknesses, as demonstrated by correct and incorrect answers. The software employs many elements of gamification, including:
- Students select an avatar to represent them.
- Points and badges are awarded for successes.
- Students work through an interactive map of learning progressions.
- Emotive icons track the length of correct answer streaks.
- Students are awarded for showing grit or ‘hustle’, that is, persisting through challenge and failure.