How to make gamification work in your classroom
Over the past 39 years we’ve watched gamification take shape in our classes and lessons.
It’s a powerful teaching strategy when leveraged correctly – but how and where to start gamification can be confusing for teachers and educators.
Implement a generic strategy with no thought to student skill levels or interests is almost guaranteed to fail to capture students attention – and at that point, why gamify at all?
Successful gamification gets everyone in the room involved, and though it takes effort, seeing a whole class vying to win; learning and having fun at the same time, is beyond rewarding.
The Underlying Theory Behind Gamification
As games become a bigger part of modern culture, their potential to positively impact student learning grows.
Games operate under a unique intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) rewards system. A game gives players the chance to experience and enjoy development of skills and victory over challenges, as well as rewarding them with trophies, points, and badges.
Gamification in the classroom functions on the basis that students are engaged by gaming. When we translate that same format into an educational context we aim to facilitate more active learning.
Benefits of Gamification
1. It lessens disruptive behaviour
Research conducted by the Australian Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology discovered that gamification in the classroom can:
- Help disruptive students and/or learners suffering from ADHD.
- Improve behaviour in the classroom (especially when the games are designed to help students control their breathing and heart rate).
2. It improves classroom engagement
Scientists from the University of Ulster in the United Kingdom performed a study to measure the level of engagement students showcased when participating in gamification during school hours.
The researchers allotted points to a range of daily activities and the students were then assessed based on their points as it indicated their engagement levels. The study ultimately concluded that when students are given a game-like atmosphere they were more engaged with their learning and saw an increase in productivity.
3. It increases cognitive growth
According to the Smithsonian Science Education Center, gamification aids in cognitive development. When participating in gamification, students use the regions of their brains responsible for critical development.
When these games include questions and problem solving skills, they can improve the rate of brain processing and strengthen information retention.
Simple Ways To Trial Gamification In Your Classroom
Testing the waters with gamification doesn’t need to involve big money investments in the latest technology. As with anything, it’s important to walk before you run.
Here are a few easy templates you can use to trial the basic principles of gamification in the classroom.
Teacher vs. Class
The teacher sets a rule. The students must follow it. When students follow the rule, the class gets a point. When they don’t follow the rule, the teacher gets a point. If the class beats the teacher, they get some kind of sustainable reward. Maybe extra outdoors time or one night with no homework – whatever it is, make it something worth working for!
This is an especially good format for setting behavioural expectations as it makes understanding these parameters a fun practice.
Class-Wide Rewards Systems
Class-wide rewards systems function in the same way as a game. You do a thing, you get a thing. By using a group format you encourage students to master certain subjects as a unit. This means the competition is against the goal, not against each other.
For example, create a class chain. Everytime someone gets an 80 or above on their math exam, add a link. When the link circles the room, throw a pizza party for the class.
Educational Video Games
Individual games give learners a sense of agency. They are in control of the choices they make and they are empowered when they choose the right path. We know that students are more successful when they feel confident in their decisions,and educational games are a great way to encourage that mindset.
Where To Go From Here?
Gamification can be an extremely effective classroom management strategy when implemented correctly. Start with these applications and work your way up to more involved versions.
Remember to always be creative and respond to student interests because when students are invested, school quickly becomes a game they look forward to playing.
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Bustard, D. W., Black, M. M., Charles, T., Moore, A. A., McKinney, M. E. T., Moffett, P. (2011). GEL: A generic tool for game-enhanced learning. Unpublished research, University of Ulster, Coleraine, United Kingdom.