It might be a sure way to up the fun in your classroom, but there are surprising benefits of classroom gamification that go beyond simply keeping students engaged.
Because behind all the laughter and shouts of “can we do that again?”, there’s evidence to suggest that students actually learn better and feel more motivated when game elements are used in the classroom.
Gamification lessens students’ fear of failure
Failure is an integral part of the learning process, but in the classroom it tends to be a source of shame and embarrassment.
However, if you’ve ever seen a twelve year old constantly replaying a video game despite countless ‘game over’ screens, you’ll know games change this dynamic. They don’t just make failure OK – they also make it part of the fun.
Gamification in the classroom has the same benefit. In a 2013 report, Huang, Hsin-Yuan, and Soman found that gamification encourages students to fail and reattempt learning tasks without embarrassment. This in turn gives our students:
- A safer learning environment
- The persistence they need to progress
- The resilience they need to cope with challenge.
Gamification makes learning visible
Whether it’s a progress bar at the top of the screen or levels yet to be completed, it’s never difficult for a student to orient themselves in a game.
But in classroom learning – amidst different subjects, activities, and lessons – our students often lose track of exactly where they sit in the learning journey.
Gamified learning solves this problem by making progress visible via:
- points earned
- progress bars
- an overview or ‘map’ of the learning content
- personalized goal-setting mechanisms (e.g. electing to complete x number of activities per day).
This takes the ambiguity out of learning and gives students a clear overview of their progress they can access at any time.
It also points to another powerful benefit…
Gamification gives students instant feedback
In a conventional classroom, feedback takes time. We have to touch base with each student after they’ve completed a learning activity, or take home a stack of papers that might take a week to grade.
But game based learning can give students instant feedback while the task is still fresh in their memory.
If your students use a gamified learning program, correct answers will be rewarded with instant points or a ticket to the next level. If they get something incorrect, they’ll automatically be asked to try again.
That means students spend less time waiting to receive your tick of approval and more time on the activities that make learning happen.
Gamification increases motivation
The same students who can barely be bothered picking up a pen in class often stop at nothing to succeed when they’re playing on the computer or the sports field.
That’s because games drive high levels of motivation. In particular, a 2006 study of video gaming identified three motivational factors that lead players to try and try again:
Achievement: players want to excel and demonstrate mastery over the challenges of the game.
Social factors: players are motivated by the relationships and team building involved in games.
Immersion: players are motivated to discover new aspects of the game and create personal experiences through role-play and exploration.
Gamification in the classroom uses these factors to motivate students with learning, so they’re pushed to keep striving for progress even when the going gets tough.
Gamification provides a familiar structure for learning
If the very structure of learning mirrored something our students already know and love, learning itself would become second nature.
Game based learning offers exactly this kind of familiarity. For students who have grown up with video and card games, it’s 100% intuitive.
This means every student can walk into the classroom and understand why they are there and what they need to accomplish.
And it makes things easier for teachers too. Instead of exhausting ourselves teaching students how to learn, we can enjoy more of the lightbulb moments.
Gamification assists cognitive development
According to a 2013 study by Blumberg & Fisch, games that invite critical thinking and problem-solving can improve students’ processing and information retention abilities. Gamified learning experiences certainly fit this category.
As it becomes increasingly digital, gamified learning can leverage the cognitive benefits of video games, too. These include:
- improved spatial awareness
- faster and more accurate attention allocation
- improved mental rotation abilities (the ability to mentally visualize an object from multiple points of view).
A 2014 study from the American Psychological Association found that these skills derived from video games are lasting and transferable to success in other domains, such as STEM subjects.
Gamification can make learning a personal experience
In the video gaming world, players willingly spend hundreds of dollars on custom outfits, tools, and weapons for their in-game characters.
Why spend real money on a tiger suit for a video game character?
Because doing so makes the game uniquely theirs. It gives a sense of pride, ownership, and identity.
That’s why games can be the ticket to the personalized learning teachers have been talking about for years. We can use the same principles in our classrooms by:
- letting students set the rules of a learning game
- giving them a character or avatar to control in a gamified learning program
- helping them create systems to track their own progress.
Making learning personal through gamification boosts engagement, and it also shows students that the learning journey belongs to them.
You’ll notice this change when they start taking extra initiatives – like asking if you’ve got any more activities they can do to practice, or chasing high scores at home even when you haven’t set homework.
Time to put gamification into practice
Looking to get the benefits of gamification in your classroom? We’ve got you covered.
Check out 10 Ways to Gamify Your Classroom or explore our range of gamified learning programs covering mathematics, literacy, and science. They’ll give your students:
- engaging virtual worlds and challenges
- personal avatars
- curriculum-aligned learning levels they can work through at their own pace
- student-friendly progress tracking via points and scoreboards.
Rewarding literacy programs covering phonics, reading, and spelling in a meaningful and engaging way.
Captivating mathematics programs covering everything from number sense to algebra and geometry.
“We’ve done this before, remember?” Cue thirty brows furrowing in confused silence. Learning can evaporate over the holidays, weekend, or even in the transition from
There are multiple steps to follow, and new numbers being generated while others are crossed out – what’s going on? Teaching the concept of regrouping
The Benefits of Playing Video Games – Radboud University
Brain Games – Do They Really Work? – Scientific American
Guide to Gamification in Education – University of Toronto
Gamification in Education – Learning Theories