Gamification, The benefits of gameful design | Best Schools in Spain

In the early stages of education, many teachers succeed at motivating learners and making content attractive and accesible, however, as they move on from infants and primary to upper grades, our ability to keep learners interested and engaged fades away. Thus, instructors feel sometimes powerless, wondering about how to connect with the teenage brain, how to tailor our own teaching practices to match the learners’ expectations without leaving behind the transmission of content.

But … what if we reconsidered our practice towards a student-centred approach? What if … our main goal was shifting from teacher to learner control? What if … the learner became the real protagonist of the learning process? If it is THEM who should be learning, why do traditional, teacher-centred methodologies based on content transmission still persevere?

Let’s look back at our school years, those subjects, those teachers that got us involved. What happened? Why did they motivate us? Or yet, what about all those times when we thought we’d learned something and just forgot all about it as soon as we left the classroom or finished the compulsory exam? Did we feel any interest in the things we were told to learn? Were we, the learners then, involved in anything at all?

I firmly believe that learning through play actually involves students in their learning process, in a way that shifts the balance between teachers and learners, because the learner becomes the protagonist and the teacher takes the role of mere facilitator of the learning process.


GAMIFICATION: what, why and how?

What is gamification?

Gamification or gameful design are terms normally used to refer to the incorporation of ludic elements into educational settings. However, the inclusion of game elements into a classroom does not necessarily imply improved learning or engagement. It will, as long as it is carefully designed and in line with the goals, tasks and assessment procedures (Biggs, 2003).


Why resort to gamma-making for learning?

Many studies have reiterated the benefits of gamified learning environments. These are just a few of the many affordances resulting from this practice: interactivity, learner agency, immediate feedback, autonomy, motivation, placing value into failure, persistence and positive feelings.

The interactivity of games automatically changes the learners’ role from passive consumers to active producers  (Gee, 2005), because they have to make decisions and every single act matters, as there is a consequence to it. Many times, such an act is followed by a response from the game whereas in a usual classroom setting , sometimes it takes days for the student to receive some sort of reply after taking action. In digital games, for instance, the provision of immediate, informative feedback in response to mistakes may bring about improved autonomy and motivation (Ryan, Rigby and  Przybylski, 2006).

Traditional educational systems usually punish students for making mistakes. Games, conversely, provide a new conceptualization of falilure. That is, repetition and defeat are not only a way to master the game but they also constitute a means to an end: achieving the final goal.  This new conceptualization of failure usually results in greater persistence, which might be associated to greater effort, and even deal to feelings of curiosity, joy and pride.

How to include gamification in the learning process?

The incorporation of game elements into the classroom could be done with the aims of reinforcing previously learned contents, providing further practice on given topics or skills, offering opportunities for learners to improve their grades or fostering involvement in the learning process. In order to achieve the aforesaid aims, activities should become missions that include game features like goals, rules and feedback (McGonigal, 2011).

Goals: learners need to perceive a sense of purpose in the game and, in educational settings, this means a great opportunity to connect games and course contents.

 Gamification goals

Rules: rules constitute the means to achieve goals. If students are invited to negotiate the rules, greater engagement should be expected in the learning process.

Feedback: to facilitate engagement, the teacher and classmates should respond to contributions in a timely manner before moving on to the next level and even use congratulating phrases on completion of a challenge.

Gamification points Gamification missions

Many games recreate real life experiences, which are, in fact, imaginary, but the experience is felt by the players as happening in real life. In educational settings, hypothetical activities could be designed to make learners take an imaginary journey beyond the classroom walls.

Sample missions:wishful thinking   what would you do if…? CONCLUSION:

A gamified learning environment could be designed as a roadmap to accomplish motivation and engagement through student agency, personal progress, trying out new challenges, and a new outlook on error correction, where students become the protagonists and co-creators of their own learning. If playfulness equals enjoyment and gamification is a way to achieve it, shifting the instructor’s practices towards more enjoyable learning experiences should become a truly rewarding journey for both learners and instructors.


Biggs J., 2003.  Aligning teaching for constructing learning. The Higher Education Academy. 

Gee, J., 2005.  Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines. E-Learning and Digital Media, 2 (1), p. 1-30.

McGonigal, J., 2011. What exactly is a game? In: Reality is broken. Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York, NY: Penguin press. pp. 19-34.

Nicol, D., MacFarlane-Dick, D. (2006) Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), pp. 199-218.

Ryan, R. Rigby, S., Prybylski, A., 2006. The motivational pull of video games: A self-determination theory approach. Motivation and Emotion, 30 (4), pp. 344-360.


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