Gamification in the Classroom
A new teaching model that has recently received a lot of attention is gamification. Gamification is when mechanics of game design are used in non-gaming contexts (Groh, 2012). Research has indicated that the use of gamification increases user activity of applications and also helps to improve retention of material (Groh, 2012). Gamification can also be used to increase student motivation and raise engagement of learners by making the course curriculum more attractive (Kalinauskas, 2014).
The research questions that guide this study are as follows: 1) to determine if gamification can create an environment where the student will outperform their peers in a non-gamified class; 2) what are the perceptions of the students who participate in a gamified class? This paper will outline two different research proposals with the associated guiding epistemology, theoretical perspective, methodology, and method for each. The final portion of the paper will be used to choose the research design that would best work for this study and provide the justification for that design.
To investigate the question about outperforming students from non-gamified sections, this would need to be a quantitative study. The course for this research is EDTC 3123: Applications of Educational Technology and is a required course for all pre-service teachers in the College of Education. The epistemology for this design is objectivism and the theoretical perspective is post-positivism.
Objectivism makes observations of different groups and the relationships between them (Peikoff, 1967) which is what this study will do between two different sections of the same course. One section of the course will be set up as a gamified section and another section will be used as the control. During the semester there will be a comparison of the number of artifacts that are created by each class and the class attendance by percentage. Providing some data as to whether students in gamification will outperform the control will come from comparing the total number of artifacts. An additional piece of data that will be used are the mid-term and final grades for each individual student, and the class average of both sections. The data from the grades individually can help to determine the success of gamification and the comparison of the class averages could be used as another data point to support gamification in the classroom.
The theoretical perspective of post-positivism states that though it is possible to support a specific hypothesis with several different pieces of evidence, it is impossible to prove the hypothesis in absolute terms (Crotty, 1998). Post-positivism is appropriate in this case because it is possible that gamification could help some students or most students, but may not help all students. Some students may have a very competitive nature and thrive in this environment, seeking to do everything possible. Other students may be put off by the competition and not want to participate at all. Post-positivism allows that there may be exceptions to the rule and that gamification could work in most cases, but not all cases.
The methodology that will be used in this study will be experimental research, using one section of the course as a control and another as the experimental group. The control group will be taught as it has been for the past several semesters, utilizing the student teachers as the “lead teachers” of the class for all but four weeks of the semester. The experimental class will continue to use student teachers as the “lead teachers” but will use gamification as part of the fabric of the course. Students will be held to the same learning outcomes in both courses, with the experimental course offering several more “quests” above and beyond the normal scope and sequence traditionally offered.
The method that will be used for the empirical evidence will be the number of artifacts that are successfully completed by the students, average daily attendance by percentage of the two classes, final grade comparisons, and final grade mean of each course. The data will be taken in both courses and used to compare the impact that gamification has made and what that impact is.
This study will contribute to the growing body of knowledge of gamification in the classroom by measuring the output of the students. There has been some research into gamification in education, but there is very little that has looked as this particular aspect. Research has indicated that gamification does have a positive effect on student engagement
Logic For Methodology
Using experimental research, with a well-designed research proposal, will result in data that can be used to compare the two different groups. Using the data should allow for comparisons to be made between the two courses to determine whether the experimental model has merit and can be successfully implemented in the classroom.
The strength of this model is the empirical evidence that can be interpreted from the data. By directly comparing the number of artifacts that were created in both classes and the overall grades between the two courses, there should be evidence that will show that one class model will be a stronger learning environment. The research can then be shared with instructors about which model works best for students.
The weakness of this model is that all groups of students are unique and what works well with some individuals may not work well with others. It is also difficult to measure exactly what factors could be interfering with the data and make it hard to identify confounding variables. It is also possible that some students are turned off by some of the competitive characteristics of games and have a difficult time with the course. Other students may try and do too much for class, to the detriment of other courses, as they seek to complete as many quests as possible.
To answer the question about what students think of participating in a course that is taught with gamification, an epistemology of constructionism will be used. As with the qualitative study, a section of EDTC 3123 will be the class that will be used. Crotty defines constructionism as the knowledge that is constructed out of the interaction between people (Crotty, 1998). Students will construct the knowledge through social interactions in person and in an online discussion board, sharing what they know with each other. The instructor will guide the learning process, providing contribution to the conversation when necessary, complementing the construction of knowledge that is occurring between the students.
As in the first study, the student teachers will be the “lead teachers” for all but four weeks of the semester. This section would still include the curriculum that has been previously established, but will include alternate quests, a leaderboard for teaching teams, and individual badges that an be earned. As the students participate in this course, they will have multiple opportunities to share what they have learned with their peers through dialogue in class and online in topic focused discussion boards.
The theoretical perspective is interpretivism, having the students share their experiences from participating in a class that has been gamified. Crotty identifies interpretivism as the “culturally derived and historically situated interpretations of the social life-world” (Crotty, 1998, p. 67). The students will share some common culture in that they are all pre-service teachers taking a required course. They will share a common history for at least one semester and the nature of the course requires them to work together both inside and outside the classroom. As they share what they have learned with each other, they will develop a large body of knowledge that they can use in their classrooms in the future. Adding gamification to this course will model for these future teachers a learning design that they could use when they become full time teachers.
The methodology that would be used for this study is action research. Action research in education requires the instructor to specifically identify research questions, collect data, analyze that data, report the findings, then take action based on the findings (Sagor, 2000). This methodology would give guidance to educators in the future, should they want to understand how the gamification classroom model impacted student learning and how the student felt about the learning process.
The method will be a case study, which examine specific cases of single individuals or groups and the experiences that they are having. Using a case study will let the students share what they are doing, what they are experiencing and how they perceive gamification as a classroom teaching model. By examining a single case – a specific section of a required course – there is the opportunity to fully understand what works with the students, what doesn’t work, and what changes need to be made in the teaching model.
This research would use qualitative design and methods to determine the impact that gamifying a class has on the students. There is limited research at this point of gamification in the classroom and this would contribute to that body of knowledge. As this study is qualitative in nature, it could provide a framework that could be reproduced and modified to be used in a quantitative study in the future. The questions that come out of this study could lead to research that would be more generalizable to educators.
Logic For Methodology
Using action research as the methodology will allow the research to happen as the course is being taught. A well-designed action research plan should result in identifiable changes that should be made in practice or demonstrate teaching practices that are effective. Once changes are made, then the action research process can be repeated as necessary to help clarify any lingering questions that have resulted from the interpretation of the data.
The strength of this methodology is the opportunity to understand the student perceptions of gamification as a learning model. Using action research for this study will give the instructor data that can be used to improve the learning design and classroom-teaching model in future courses. This methodology will also give those participating in the study to share what aspects of the instructional model that were beneficial and those characteristics that detracted from the learning experience.
The weakness of this methodology is that it can only be applied to a specific course and a specific instructor. The data would be based on a singular case with the unique students and class climate. The results from this study would not be easy to use for generalizability of gamification as a universal teaching model that could make a positive impact on the education process in classrooms at all levels of learning.
Mixed Methods Study
When I first started my graduate course work, I knew that I wanted to do what I learned to be a post-positivist study, comparing the numbers between two different sections of the same course, taught be the same instructor, with one being experimental and one being the control.
Over the past few months of learning about the many different aspects of qualitative research I saw so many things that could work inside of my research interests. I did not know about constructionism or what it meant as an epistemology – I find myself firmly set in this type of knowledge construction. As a math person, I also find myself wanting to see the numbers, to make a comparison between experimental and control groups.
After looking at the strengths and weaknesses of both a completely quantitative and completely qualitative research design, I feel that a mixed methods approach is the most appropriate for this study. On the quantitative side, having the numbers to compare between the classes will give data that could be used to help other teachers improve their practice, or give them ideas that they can use in the classroom. As a person who believes that teachers should have agency in the classroom to do what they feel is best, I also want to be able to give a voice to students as well, which they would be able to do through a qualitative study.
Qualitative research design will give students the opportunity to share what they thought about the class, what they learned, how they learned, etc. This data could be used to take the different aspects of gamification that students enjoyed and create a framework that includes those key characteristics. Using that same data would show what aspects of gamification students did not enjoy and will give me the opportunity to redesign some of those items.
This paper examined two separate types of research design: one that was quantitative and one that was qualitative. Epistemologies of both designs were discussed, as were the theoretical perspectives, methodologies, and methods for each design. The knowledge that each study would contribute to the literature was discussed. The logic for the particular methodology was shared and analyzed. The research design that is best suited for this study is mixed methods, and the reasons for choosing this design were listed.
Crotty, M. (1998). The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research process: Sage.
Groh, F. (2012). Gamification: State of the art definition and utilization. Institute of Media Informatics Ulm University, 39.
Kalinauskas, M. (2014). Gamification in Fostering Creativity. Socialines Technologijos, 4(1). Retrieved from http://argo.library.okstate.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1628896571?accountid=4117
Peikoff, L. (1967). The analytic-synthetic dichotomy: The Objectivist.
Sagor, R. (2000). Guiding school improvement with action research: Ascd.