Part III: The Importance of Motivation
This is the third part of an ongoing series on the role of gamification in modern education by Andrew Proto. If you missed them, catch up with “Part I: the Unique Obstacles Teachers Face” and “Part II:Technology’s Role in a Gamified Classroom.”
Even the best teachers won’t be able to make learning fun all of the time, and they shouldn’t be expected. However, a good teacher can design lessons that keep their students motivated to learn. In this capacity, Gamification provides a framework upon which to build a more motivational classroom. It can act as a valuable starting point, allowing the teacher to employ motivational design in a comprehensive syllabus across multiple subjects.
In his 2004 work “Motivating Students to Learn,” Educational Psychologist Jere Brophy defines student motivation as a student’s expectation of success and the value they place on the work: Expectancy x Value = Motivation. In other words if we expect our students to be motivated they must find the work valuable and they must also feel like they have a reasonable chance of succeeding at it. If either of these are lacking, there can be no motivation.
So how do we increase motivation? Through his research, Brophy provides us with a list of strategies that he has found effective. Here are some of his strategies translated into how they can work inside a Gamified Classroom:
- Provide opportunities for success: A Gamified Classroom must provide ample opportunities for students to complete quests, solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and level up. If tests are the only chance students have for direct feedback, then they’ll be so worried about failure they won’t be motivated to succeed.
- Provide opportunities for choice: By allowing students to choose “special abilities” (such as more computer time, or homework passes) or decide which “quest” (their next assignment) to undertake as they progress through your class, then you’re increasing their sense of personal responsibility and the perceived value of completing assignments.
- Include a variety of novel elements: Teachers need to make their classroom a place the students enjoy spending time. By providing variety in the types of assignments and using novel elements such as games, students are more likely to be engaged.
- Provide opportunities for students to respond actively: In a Gamified Classroom, students need to be thought of as active participants. They are the “players”. Class should be structured in such a way that the teacher delivers instruction and sets goals (both long and short term) then acts as a coach as students overcome the obstacles that the teacher designed.
- Provide extrinsic rewards: Badges, tokens, stickers, pencils, candy. . . The benefits and detriments of extrinsic rewards are hotly debated. However, if you chose to use them in your class make sure you reserve them for use in activities that students don’t find pleasurable already. If you do you, you may run the risk of decreasing the activity’s intrinsic value for your class as they focus solely on the extrinsic reward.
There is one factor that I believe differentiates a Gamified Classroom from an effective non-gamified one. The difference is the element of narrative structure. In a traditional classroom, even a highly engaging one, a student’s focus is on completing assignments and getting good grades. Conversely, in a Gamified Classroom, learning has a purpose beyond earning a grade.
Whether it be defeating some insidious enemy designed by the teacher to be the class’s foil or making sure that they keep their name at the top of the leader board in an online competition, a Gamified Classroom provides a story to capture the student’s attention and imagination. This story allows us to feel connected to something greater than ourselves. Narratives are a major factor that games such as World of Warcraft, or a well run session of Dungeons & Dragons, compel us to spend so much time playing. Imagine if students felt equally compelled when learning in the classroom.
Andrew R. Proto taught middle school science for three years before going to work at Apple as a technology instructor. After teaching there for five years, he realized how much he missed his classroom. He is currently completing a Masters of Science in Early Childhood Education at Metropolitan College of New York. Follow him on Twitter @MisterProto
The Gamified Classroom by Andrew R. Proto is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License