|What is the use and application of ‘Gamification’
in Educational practice?
A literature review for R&C Assignment 1
Joanne Jenkins and Helen Ramsdale (November Intake, 2015).
The literature review will investigate research literature on the topic of gamification, how gamification is being used in education, and why it is being used. For the purpose of this review the following questions were formed; what is gamification (for definition purposes)? What does current literature say about the use and usefulness of gamification in education? What does the literature say about the considerations around implementation and use of gamification in education? Gaps in existing literature will be identified, alongside the limitations around the use of gamification. The scope of this review will include studies that explore the concept of gamification, literature reviews of studies of gamification, its principles, and applications relating to education, and researched backed articles, blogs and reviews on whether or not gamification has the potential to lead to improved learning outcomes for students. Intentional exclusions of this review were literature focused on game development, specific classroom settings, non-learning games, and the availability of games for use in education. Specific games and the application of these games were also excluded, with one exception; in the case where one specific application was used as the focus of an article, the reviewers addressed the concepts around the use of it, not the app itself. Aspects of community engagement and Kaupapa Maori were investigated around the use of gamification. Although the literature explores gamification in a variety of contexts, this review will primarily focus on its use and application in education.
Gamification itself is not a new idea, but the term ‘gamification’ was first introduced in 2003 by Nick Pelling (Jakubowski, 2014). According to Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham (2011) in ‘Gamification by Design,’ gamification is the process of game-thinking and game mechanics to engage users and solve problems. Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke (2011), refer to the application of game elements (mechanics and dynamics), in non-game contexts to engage stakeholders in pre-determined tasks. It provides a means of engaging and motivating, and potentially assessing a variety of skills in a fun, interactive and self-correcting manner. Dr Nigel Martin in the Axios Systems publication, ‘Gamification in Service Management Guide The Foundations of Gamification,’ (2013) asserts that ‘game mechanics’ are the term given to mechanisms used by game developers to motivate and engage; these mechanics are the rules, tools, techniques and currencies of gamification, such as missions or challenges, levels, points, trophies and leader-boards. Game dynamics are the fundamental reason why game mechanics work. The dynamics use knowledge of intrinsic human needs. Effective use of game mechanics are ‘tasks’ and outcomes that appeal to these needs. These dynamics include rewards, achievements, competition, status, self-expression, and even altruism (Martin. Dr N., 2013.)
Review of Research Literature on Gamification:
The review of research literature completed bySimone de Sousa Borges, Vinicius H. S. Durelli, Helena Macedo Reis, Seiji Isotani (2014) “A Systematic Mapping on Gamification Applied to Education,” comprehensively reviewed 48 papers (from a body of 357 papers) on the topic of gamification applied to education. At the time of the review there were no studies available that covered and classified the types of published research on this topic. The researchers selected 26 studies that were relevant to motivating students, improving the skills of the students, and maximizing learning opportunities. These papers focused on the applications and implications in education, of gamification. Through this review, de Sousa Borges et al. (2014), asserted that most researchers investigated the use of gamification to motivate students, improve and build skills. This review has relevance in determining the current status of gamification in education.
Hamari, Koivisto, & Sarsa (2014), in “Does Gamification Work? — A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification,” also examined the literature around gamification and created a framework to examine gamification and its effects, by unpacking definitions and discussing the motivational affordances of it. The reviewers’ 2014 paper, also examined the current state of research on gamification and identified similar gaps in existing literature. Hamari et al. (2014), concluded that gamification is able to provide positive effects, but stated that these effects are largely dependent on the application of the game elements, the user’s implementation, and the context.
In “Does Gamification Work? — A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification,” Hamari, Koivisto, & Sarsa (2014), searched educational and scientific databases, including ACM Digital library, Google Scholar, Scopus, EBSCOHost, and ScienceDirect. To select appropriate studies, a search was carried out using the term gamification and abbreviations in all of the databases. All result types and fields were included (abstract, full text, title, and keywords). Non-scientific publications were also included. Focused searches were then refined according to set criterion, beginning with full papers published internationally and those peer-reviewed. Empirical studies were included, as were papers which had clearly explicated research methods, identifiable motivational attributes and the topics on gamification as opposed to games.
A systematic approach was also used by de Sousa Borges et al., in “A Systematic Mapping on Gamification Applied to Education” (2014). The reviewers applied a five-fold mapping process, outlined by Petersen, K., Feldt, R., Mujtaba, S. and Mattsson, M. (2008), which entailed defining the research question, searching primary studies of relevance, screening papers, using abstracts identified by keywords, and extracting data. The preliminary focus of this review was also to determine the aspects of educationally applied gamification that have been addressed by researchers, through a study of existing empirical research, and as such, contribute to the overall understanding of gamification. Inclusions such as selecting only the most recent paper (if multiple papers reported the same studies) and papers in other languages were used. In addition to this, technical reports, secondary studies and presentations were utilised. Much of these studies used qualitative data. Limitations identified by Hamari et al. (2014), include the understanding that gamification is a new area for academic study and as such there are few discourses or theoretical frameworks upon which studies can be based. Both of these studies suggest there is a growing interest and body of research in gamification, and its applications, effectiveness, and the emerging implications in education.
Gamification Dynamics in Education:
According to research conducted by Stott and Neustaedter (2013), outlined in their paper “Analysis of Gamification in Education,” games are engaging and readily utilized in current pedagogical practices, but these reviewers also claimed that varying degrees of successful implementation were experienced by educators. Stott and Neustaedter (2013) present a review, using existing literature, and several case studies on different applications of gamification in higher education, with a view to providing best practice guidelines and identifying key aspects. The case studies were accessed through journal submissions, online articles, course web pages, and examples from student work, and in one example, discussions took place with the course instructor and included a review of previous courses. Four game dynamics were intentionally studied to determine consistently successful aspects. While the use of similar concepts were noted, the concepts essentially fell under these four predetermined game dynamics: safe risk-taking (termed “freedom to fail”), instant/rapid feedback, level progressions, and narrative/storytelling. Through the case studies, Stott and Neustaedter (2013) found certain dynamics of game design were more successful than others in increasing learner engagement. Other gaming dynamics are acknowledged in this study, but not enlarged upon. A noticeable omission in the case studies involved however, was undergraduate level classroom programmes. A common conclusion of the literature reviewed by Stott and Neustaedter (2013), was that gamification (although sometimes dismissed or deemed superficial), has the potential to motivate students and improve achievement if guidelines can be clearly established. Accordingly the researchers conclude gamification has applications across various sectors of education.
Use and Considerations of Gamification in Education:
Stott and Neustaedter (2013) cite the research of Jill Laster (2010), who in turn reviewed Lee Sheldon’s 2010 study (later published in 2012) which gamifying aspects of the classroom were claimed to improve grade levels to the extent that a year level ‘jump’ was affected. Sheldon, an assistant professor at Indiana University conducted experimental research in classroom practice, renaming tasks by using engaging names, and celebrating right answers in opposition to punishing wrong ones. Contrary to this, Elizabeth Lawley (2012), also cited by Stott and Neustaedter, (2013), cautions against reducing game design to merely surface characteristics. If this is avoided, she states that "gamification can help enrich educational experiences in a way that students will recognize and respond to." Lawley (2013), gathered data through a workshop “Designing Gamification: Creating Gameful and Playful Experiences” with researchers and gaming and design industry practitioners. The purpose of the workshop was to identify current practices, open research questions around the design of gaming systems, and identify key challenges. Stott and Neustaedter’s (2013) review of additional literature also supported the assertion that surface elements, such as earning points and badges, can limit the potential of gamification. Stott and Neustaedter (2013) concluded that gamified assessment that focuses on learning processes rather than end results is paramount and allows students to self-assess and self-monitor. Accordingly, this results in the ability of teachers to formatively assess, illustrate points, and directly inform teaching. The researchers also allude to opportunities for assessment to be carried out without the student being formally aware of such assessment.
“If students are encouraged to take risks and experiment, the focus is taken away from final results and re-centered on the process of learning instead. The effectiveness of this change in focus is recognized in modern pedagogy, as shown in the increased use of formative assessment.” (Stott and Neustaedter, 2013).
This research demonstrates the need for further research on aspects of assessment, implementation and game design.
Barbara Kurshan, a Senior Fellow in Education and Executive Director of Academic Innovation, among other credentials, concurs with Stott and Neustaedter (2103), regarding the growing body of research on gamification and learning. In the 2016 article authored by Barbara Kurshan, “The Intersection of Learning and Fun: Gamification in Education,” published in the online edition of Forbes magazine, this researcher also maintains that there is a need to address the lack of pertinent guidelines around how to achieve successful implementation in the classroom. Kurshan (2016) advocates the need for a functional shift in research focus, to explore ways of effectively implementing gamification in classroom contexts. Kurshan (2016) cites the research of Klopfer, Osterweil, and Salen “Moving learning games forward: Obstacles, opportunities, and Openness” (2009), which describes many ways gamification is approached in today’s schools. This paper answers questions involving digital games, users, and learning. Also referenced in Kurshan’s 2016 research is the work of the Games and Learning Assessment Lab (GlassLab), the programming and development group of SRI International. In the 2014 report “Digital Games, Design, and Learning: A systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (Executive Summary),” GlassLab outline ways that teachers can indirectly collect and review student data in a manner that allows for personalised assessment during the process of gameplay. Kurshan’s (2016) findings raise important questions, and make pertinent points around addressing issues relevant to gamifying education.
Klopfer et al. (2009), explored commercial games market aspects, analysed the history of ‘edutainment’ and the difference between the past movement and the current resurgence. This paper also maps out the ecology of games and learning applications. It outlines principles and best practice to positively progress learning game methodologies and provides a solid foundation for participants, and barriers. These barriers are addressed under three main headings: Barriers to Adoption, Barriers to Design and Development, and Barriers to Sustainability. The barriers Klopfer et al. (2009), identified in relation to adoption, are curriculum requirements, attitudes, logistics, support for teachers, assessment, evidence, uses of games, limited view, and social and cultural structures. Barriers identified in relation to design and development are high development costs, development processes, ‘playtesting’ in schools, and limited sources of funding. Barriers to sustainability addressed are the fickle nature of gamers, the speed of change, and maintenance and support, including funding. Barriers to innovation are deemed to be data limitations, limited pedagogical paradigms, limited research, and limited ambition.
In contrast to Stott and Neustaedter (2013), Kurshan (2016) warns that game designers need to avoid focusing solely on learning objectives in educational settings. Games must still be fun to engage and motivate students and be used to enhance curriculum development, as opposed to a separatist approach, where contexts and curriculum are built around games instead of being developed with integration in mind. This assertion by Kurshan (2016) was also a finding of Zichermann and Cunningham (2011) who state that learning through games is not effective if the educational outcome is more prevalent than the fun aspect. Karl Kapp (2012), in “The gamification of learning and instruction: game-based methods and strategies for training and education,” extends these findings to conclude that gamification provides an additional layer of interest, a new way of weaving together psychology and game design elements to motivate and educate learners. Kapp’s research is both empirically solid and peer-reviewed, and uses additional research including meta-analysis studies to back up claims, assertions, and ideas.
Rowan Tulloch (2015) also supports much of the work of the previous reviewers. Concern regarding the concept of gamification is highlighted in a blog post entitled “Gamification: not a gimmick but a radical new way of teaching,” alongside the missed potential that is apparent in education. This blog post is based on reflections on research which focuses on technological and cultural logics that are embedded within practices of interactivity. A definition of gamification in relation to the processes and mechanics, is also reiterated. While Tulloch (2015) alludes to the use of gamification in other disciplines, comments regarding implementation and the focus afforded to game elements, is the main focus of this literature. Concern is raised about implementation alongside a lack of understanding of the principles and purposes of gamification mechanisms, which can also prove to be counterproductive if implemented incorrectly or too simplistically.
Tulloch (2015) outlines the historical perspective of gameplay (traditional play and video gaming), and its functionality, to establish the foundation of the emergence of gamification. These two aspects of play have different processes, with video gaming often requiring more complexity in task-performance, rules, logistics, and environments (unfamiliar worlds). As a result video game designers develop inbuilt methods of instructing and training players, to teach the required skills and introduce the conceptual frameworks needed. These methods are essentially teaching mechanisms. In agreement with the research of Stott and Neustaedter (2013), Tulloch (2015) addresses the significance of these game dynamics, and the potential to give real-time feedback in an unambiguous manner. This researcher argues that current attempts to gamify learning experiences is limited by the pedagogy of teachers who lack knowledge about the fundamental use of the elements to instruct. Similarly, regarding this need for teacher support, Klopfer et al. (2009), highlighted that limitations in teacher knowledge could be addressed through providing teachers with materials, which enable the teachers to relate the games to effective learning processes…
“...we have to stop trying to fit game design elements into traditional ways of teaching and think about gaming as an entirely different way of teaching.” Tulloch (2015).
In stating this, the researcher advocates that gamification itself is already a method of teaching. The research findings conclude with the assertion that game design’s primary purpose is to engage, entertain and make learning fun, through innovative gameplay. This post, addresses the value and uniqueness of using gamification to enhance relevant learning by generating interest. Klopfer et al., (2009) states that well designed games can benefit the understanding of both students and teachers. The researchers maintain that change can be introduced incrementally, and integrated into classrooms regardless of the overall rate of reform in relation to the system as a whole.
The elements of Te Noho Kotahitanga and Gamification:
An unintentional exclusion to this literature review is the aspect of culture, and in particular Maori culture and gamification. This occurred due to an absence of research material available. There is no evidence that any of the literature reviewed applied principles relevant to Maori, with one exception. An online article “Kaitiaki iPad App is Preserving Maori Culture with Gamification” authored by Taavi Lindmaa (February 7, 2013) was accessed as part of this review. This article is based around a particular product and its implementation. The article ‘Kaitiaki’ was included in this review as it refers to education and disengagement in Maori. The author addresses the potential of gamification as a future methodology to re-engage Maori learners through apps such as the one promoted. The rationale behind the ideas of gamification in examples like the Kaitiaki app can be applied through a Māori ethical framework known as Te Noho Kotahitanga (Kawharu, H., n.d. - referenced by Pū Tai Ora, in a Tumana Research powerpoint presentation, 18 October 2006). The five principles of Te Noho Kotahitanga are, Rangatiratanga (Authority and Responsibility), Wakaritenga (Legitimacy), Kaitiakitanga (Guardianship), Nohotahi (Co-operation), and Ngākau Mahaki (Respect).
In applying the ‘Rangatiratanga’ element of Te Noho Kotahitanga, Lindmaa (2013), in the ‘Kaitiaki’ article, refers to the following research and thinking: The disadvantage (in terms of education) of Maori manifests through negative statistics such as youth unemployment, the ongoing need for social assistance, high criminal offending and ill health” (retrieved from a blog post from tangatawhenua.com, referenced by Lindmaa). Lindmaa’s (2013) article goes on to claim that the disenfranchised youth can potentially be re-engaged by bridging the cultural and educational gap through game based learning that has been specifically created with their culture and position as tangata whenua. The gamification of environmental aspects from a cultural perspective is claimed to improve students’ performance in other related areas. The attempt to address an authentic context and enhance preservation of language through Katiaki, and specifically the use of rich visual environments and Maori characters reflects the concept of Wakaritenga (Legitimacy). This, in turn demonstrates Ngākau Mahaki (respect), through integrating gamification with heritage and customary contexts to meet learners needs. This review suggests that this type of indigenous based gamification has the potential to help Maori become digital natives in both using and developing games for education, which also brings in Mahi Kotahitanga (co-operation) and the aspect of tuakana-teina, as one of gamifications foundational ideas is collaboration.
The research review investigated the definition and different aspects of gamification in educational use. According to the majority of the research reviewed, which included empirical case studies, quantitative assessment data, systematic mapping reviews, and literature such as articles and blog posts authored by researchers, the potential for gamification to engage and motivate learners, develop learner agency and improve outcomes is a recurring theme, and has become the subject of research. General findings of this review identify the need to understand and apply game dynamics, develop new pedagogies around implementation, and overcome limitations. The review also concludes that gamification is a relatively new area of study, and as such there are gaps in research and publications surrounding the types of studies and effectiveness of gamification, particularly in educational contexts. Other commonalities among findings include the need to understand the fundamentals of game design and dynamics, and the importance of establishing discourse and guiding principles around the use of gamification. Developing knowledge to improve educators’ use of gamification is a consideration needing further investigation. Obvious gaps also identified in current literature include community consultation and engagement practices, and application to cultural contexts. In New Zealand, the Maori ethical framework of Te Noho Kotahitanga has been adopted across a wide range of organisations as an approach to validate all Maori learners, and is potentially useful for all future discussions around gamification for indigenous peoples. The Te Noho Kotahitanga framework principles can be used to guide community consultation around gamification and the use of it in classrooms. Perceptions around the use and value of games need to be addressed to ensure community engagement. Through redefining the form and function of games in various contexts, validity of content and purpose can be established. Overall the reviewed research suggests that gamification requires a fundamental shift in thinking, both critically and creatively. Further research and investigation is required around the whole concept of gamification and the pedagogy surrounding its application to educational practice.
Clark, D., Tanner-Smith, E. Killingsworth, S. (2014). Digital Games, Design and Learning: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (Executive Summary). GlassLab: Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
de Sousa Borges, S., Durelli, V. H. S., Reis, H.M., Isotani, S. (2014). A systematic mapping on gamification applied to education. March 2014 SAC '14: Proceedings of the 29th Annual ACM Symposium on Applied Computing.
Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. E. (2011), Gamification: towards a definition. CHI, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Hamari, J., Koivisto, J, and Sarsa, H. (2014). Does Gamification Work? — A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification. School of Information Sciences, University of Tampere. 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Science, 2014.
Jakubowski, M. (2014). Gamification in Business and Education – Project of Gamified Course for University Students. Kozminski University, Page 339, Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, volume 41, 2014.
Kapp, Karl M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: game-based methods and strategies for training and education. Pfeiffer, John Wiley & Sons Inc. USA.
Klopfer, E., Osterweil, S., and Salen, K. (2009). Moving learning games forward: Obstacles, opportunities, and Openness. The Education Arcade Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Kurshan, B. (2016). The Intersection of Learning and Fun: Gamification in Education. Forbes Magazine News Article, February 11, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/barbarakurshan/2016/02/11/the-intersection-of-learning-and-fun-gamification-in-education/#6ae465691d36
Laster, Jill. (2010). A Class on Game Design Has Students Playing to Win. The Chronicle of Higher Education: Indiana University.
Lawley, E. (2012). Games as an alternate lens for design. In S. Deterding (Ed. July + August 2012), Gamification: Designing for Motivation. Interactions, 19 (4), 14-17.
Lindmaa, T. (February 7, 2013). Kaitiaki iPad App is Preserving Maori Culture with Gamification. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.gamification.co/2013/02/07/kaitiaki-ipad-app-is-preserving-maori-culture-with-gamification/
Martin, Dr. N. (2013). 5 Minute Briefing: Gamification in Service Management. Axios systems.
Sheldon, Lee. (2012). The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game. Cengage Learning: Boston, MA.
Stott, A., & Neustaedter, C. (2013). Analysis of gamification in education. School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University: Surrey, BC, Canada.
Tulloch, Rowan. (2015, February 08). Gamification: not a gimmick but a radical new way of teaching. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?p=893
Zichermann, Gabe, and Cunningham, Christopher (2011). Gamification by Design: Implementing Game Mechanics in Web and Mobile Apps. O'Reilly Media, Canada.
R&C Assignment 1 – A TEAM (Joanne Jenkins and Helen Ramsdale, MINDLAB: November Intake).