Christopher Chacon, School of Humanities
In this short review, I will consider the role student motivation plays in the effectiveness of gamification as well as the role gamification plays in enhancing student participation and knowledge retention. I will also consider the impact of gamification on student success in the classroom. For this review, I define gamification as the translation of an interactive activity not necessarily designed for education into an opportunity or device for a specific learning objective (Buckley and Doyle, 2016).
As the post-pandemic world continues to embrace the move to the virtual, games continue to provide classrooms with a fun and engaging alternative to conventional strategies for learning. Rather than employing passive techniques, such as traditional lecture hall instruction and comprehensive, high-risk exam assessment, gamification in the classroom provide students with an opportunity to actively take part in the pedagogical experience. Students can immediately test their own assumptions by performing simple and complex reasoning exercises that reinforce learning objectives and transfer more easily to long term memory retention (Buckley and Doyle, 2016).
In terms of publications, literature on gamification began in the early 2000s and expanded considerably in the previous decade (Buckley and Doyle, 2016). As technology improved to the point that virtual game implementation in the classroom became viable, educators and designers set out to test the belief that interactive games increased student motivation. Certainly, it helps that with every passing generation, the intertwining of interactive technology and childhood experiences means the youth of today are applying gamification to every aspect of their lives. This reality inevitably applies to intrinsic motivations as discussed by Buckley and Doyle (2016).
Looking beyond the effectiveness of gamification in student motivation, the types of games implemented in the classroom also deserves some consideration. Chapman and Rich (2018) differentiate between educational gamification and learning games in which the former is a subset of the latter. Furthermore, gamification itself does not educate. Rather, gamification serves as an intermediary motivator and/ or platform between the instructor and the student. Together they create a virtual work where the student performs the learning objective rather than merely memorizing data (Chapman and Rich, 2018). By buying into the game, students retain information more intensely as accomplishments, rewards, and advancement make learning more relatable to a variety of different students.
The quantification of gamification effectiveness, as calculated by Yıldırım and Şen (2019), suggests that gamification in the classroom only produces moderately positive results. Furthermore, gamification produces close to similar results as educational learning games (Yıldırım and Şen, 2019). Despite these modest results, Yıldırım and Şen (2019) would not argue that gamification has no place in the classroom. Rather, gamification – alongside other educational strategies – offers an additional avenue for educators to motivate students to learn as well as provide a generation hardwired into interactive technology with the means to incorporate their virtual world with their education.
Jared R. Chapman & Peter J. Rich (2018) Does educational gamification improve students’ motivation? If so, which game elements work best?, Journal of Education for Business, 93:7, 315-322, DOI: 10.1080/08832323.2018.1490687
İbrahim Yıldırım & Sedat Şen (2019): The effects of gamification on students’ academic achievement: a meta-analysis study, Interactive Learning Environments, DOI: 10.1080/10494820.2019.1636089
Patrick Buckley & Elaine Doyle (2016) Gamification and student motivation, Interactive Learning Environments, 24:6, 1162-1175, DOI: 10.1080/10494820.2014.964263