Is gamification the key to pupil engagement?

Three years ago, the prospect of pupils spending months learning in isolation or teachers delivering lessons remotely would have been an almost laughable scenario.

How would it work? How would schools track performance? Would pupil and staff wellbeing be adversely impacted?

Fast forward to the start of 2022 and the profession has developed at lightning speed. Virtual learning platforms are now commonplace in the classroom, with blended learning becoming increasingly popular.

While many education leaders believe gamification can help because it enhances pupils’ motivation and engagement, some feel game-based elements in education might cause undesired competition among pupils, or even addiction if we don’t pay attention.

Here, Emma Slater, head of education at Access Education, and a strong advocate of gamification in the classroom, explores how digital realities can instead act as a powerful pupil engagement tool.

Gamification isn’t a new concept 

The use of games in education is, and has always been, widespread. Before the immense digital revolution, game-based learning would involve pupils creating competitions, playing board games, number games and puzzles to collect rewards. Taking on different roles in imaginary scenarios also helped teach wider life skills. For example, from a young age students might pretend to be doctors, astronauts, or scientists, opening up new ideas and possibilities.

Game-based activities are useful educational tools, able to engage and motivate students, with point-based systems encouraging them to achieve a learning objective or answer a question. This method can also be used when it comes to non-academic skills, such as positive behaviour, supporting others or even tidying the classroom.

 While these game-based initiatives have always been around, the pandemic certainly accelerated digitisation in schools, with pupils now undertaking much more of their academic study via digital platforms. This has resulted in more creativity within the ‘online classroom’ in the form of interactive games, online quizzes and video learning.

Benefits to schools

recent ScienceDirect study on gamification in education revealed that pupils who’ve been learning in a challenge-based gamified environment increased their performance by up to 89.45 per cent compared to those who received only traditional lessons.

One of the benefits of educational technology (or EdTech) is that it can be accessed in the classroom and at home. During the pandemic, when many pupils will have experienced numerous stints of home-learning, this brought continuity and a level of familiarity. It also allowed teachers to pre record lessons so that pupils could learn in their own time.

Digital learning and online learning content, including gaming, works best when it’s built into a school’s wider e-learning strategy. Digital tools that don’t cognitively overload the student, while the option to playback, redo and revisit learning can help embed knowledge. Tools like The Access Group’s Gamebrain microlearning solution engages users and makes facts memorable while allowing users to make continuous improvements and absorb information easily.

Digital platforms also allow students and teachers to reflect on performance over time. While students are collecting points, teachers can track progress and give rewards to continually motivate the learner.  We know increased engagement leads to better outcomes for learners. Engagement doesn’t mean ‘entertainment’ – the two shouldn’t be confused!  Engagement with digital learning tools looks just like engagement in lessons. Pupils want to do more, know more and feel confident in what they’re learning and why.

 Embracing gamification

With younger generations far more comfortable using online tools and the vast majority able to access the internet from home, schools are now in a position to flexibly incorporate these tools. As the education sector continues its digital transformation, the use of game-based learning is likely to increase, promoting more exciting and engaging experiences for pupils.

Over the course of the pandemic, many sceptics realised the huge benefits of game-based learning and now is the time for schools to implement software that gives students the best possible chance of succeeding. These tools can also fuel wider ambition and career goals, which plays a huge role in developing self-confidence, creativity and proactivity – all necessary in a student’s future employment.

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