Posted 3 years ago

With over 33 million people in the UK playing games across a range of different devices, there is no doubt that we have an appetite for gaming. Games utilise challenges and rewards to get their players hooked and independently learning the methods required to improve through the levels and gain mastery of the game. The concept of gamification in education takes these motivational aspects of gaming and applies them to the typically non-gaming environment of the classroom, engaging previously disengaged pupils in the learning process.


According to the founder of Atari games are capable of teaching students 10 times faster than traditional classroom methods, and giving those students ‘permanent memory’. While traditional learning practices can leave some pupils disinterested, gamified learning incorporates game elements in quality educational content to give learners an extra incentive to improve their skills and do better at prescribed task than their last attempt. The intention is that the game aspects of points and rewards boards which quantitatively measure their efforts will elicit the emotional responses of pride, confidence and healthy competitiveness.


Gamified UK identified 47 gamification elements that can be used in a range on contexts to increase engagement and motivation, and some of the key gaming mechanics that are used in the gamification of education are explored below.



Within a game environment progress is marked by levelling up. When a player completes a specific task or accrues a sufficient amount of points which represents growth within the game, they are able to move to the next level which is frequently more challenging than the last. Moving up in levels increases the confidence of the player and challenges them to extend their skills within an environment where real life risks and worries are removed. This mechanism, when applied to education, can increase motivation to learn by quantifying progress as well as increasing resilience and reducing fear of failure.



Everybody likes to be rewarded for good work and badges, special in-game items or unlockable characters to play as demonstrate achievement and make development tangible. Collecting badges and achievements signifies progress, while aiming for specific rewards means learners have ‘a clear picture of the path ahead of them and have fun along the way’.



Team based play is a particularly popular format in online roleplaying games in which success relies on working together. The requirement for players to work strategically as different parts of one unit can be applied effectively to the educational world, improving both social and logical skills as well as boosting the confidence of a team of pupils which they learn together.



When learning takes on the captivating aspects of a game, students often feel inspired to practice their skills beyond the classroom and scheduled homework time, fostering independent learning. Evolving from a traditionally didactic approach to learning to one which puts the learner at the centre, controlling their own gamified learning experience, grants pupils control over their own education and promotes self-learning.



Ranking via leaderboards showing individual scores or league tables showing team scores can motivate pupils to improve their knowledge. Although not all pupils will want to be ranked against their classmates, the desire to appear at the top of a leader board or move up in the ranks can drive pupils to engage more deeply with the gamified education system and practice the skills in a way which does not feel like work.


Data based on individual or team ranking has great potential to provide teachers with insights into pupil’s strengths and weaknesses. Specific areas of improvement can be identified and targeted in lessons to improve overall attainment.



Gamification in education, when applied correctly, has the ability to hugely increase engagement in learning by incentivising pupils to improve their skills, work as a team and to reconceptualise failure as a healthy part of growth. In a TEDTalk, Dr Stuart Brown of the US’s National Institute of Play, advised that ‘play is not the opposite of work’. Play is vital part of our lives at any age and, with an urge to play being at the core of gamification, playful activities and education can work in unison.


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