Developing a growth mindset? Game-based learning could be key

How teachers can encourage learning persistence in the classroom

Teaching children the positive side of failure is a crucial step on the path to learning. Resilience experts say our biggest mistakes probably taught us more courage, strength and wisdom than any win, and yet equally, these setbacks can lead to a lack of motivation and disengagement with learning. A growth mindset allows us to believe in what we can achieve and overcome these setbacks when they come our way. The question is, how do we achieve this mindset and create a resilience that will develop students’ mentality?

What is a growth mindset and gamified learning?

Growth mindset goes further than just saying ‘nice try!’ when a student fails to answer a problem correctly; it’s about encouraging students to break down problems and persevere, perhaps with a different approach, and continue trying until they accomplish the task at hand.

Gamified learning is an educational approach which integrates video games and game elements into the learning environment. It aims to motivate students by creating a resilience and willingness to want to try and overcome a problem, without having any negative impact on them. Not getting something right the first time, or repeatedly having difficulty with a topic, is a frustrating feeling for everyone – particularly students who can feel their motivation being tested. Game-based learning is focused on addressing this and helps students remain engaged and motivated, despite setbacks they may face.

How does gamified learning and a growth mindset fit together?

Most well-designed games give us pleasure and make us want more. Alternating failure with success is the core concept at the heart of many video games, which is why a growth mindset pedagogy and game-based learning go hand in hand.

Gamified learning maintains students’ interest and improves their engagement by keeping the activities fun and incentivising them with positive results. A student may not achieve their final goal straight away, but they can see their progress, which leads them to believe that it’s possible to succeed and therefore, they’re willing to try again.

Implementing gamified learning

It’s crucial though, that when integrating gamified learning into the classroom, that the games are designed and implemented correctly, otherwise they will not have the desired impact. For example, a game can include maths, but not actually be educational. Truly educational games should be games applied to mathematical challenges, rather than the other way around, and we, as educators, must ensure that the right gaming concepts are mixed with foundational education approaches and well-structured mathematics.

Educators should also set expectations for healthy competition. Game-based learning is, for the most part, centred around students competing with themselves. However, class or school leader boards can provide added incentives to persevere with their challenges.

“Gamified learning maintains students’ interest and improves their engagement by keeping the activities fun and incentivising them with positive results”

To ensure gamified learning has the desired impacts in the classroom, it’s important that the games are simple and easy to follow. Game-based learning should support the teaching and learning process, not further complicate it. This will ensure students’ time is used as efficiently as possible.

Additionally, teachers should trial the games and be involved in the purchasing decisions. They will provide the best insight into the suitability of learning resources for their class, and also predict how their students will respond to learning material.

When correctly implemented, game-based learning can create higher levels of student engagement and increase their motivation whilst developing them as individuals. The psychology of games means that failure at a level does not have the same negative connotations as the failure of a maths test in the classroom. Games instil a feeling of belief that the challenge can be accomplished, and when it finally is, this feeling outweighs any negative thoughts.

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