07 June, 2021

How does gamification improve learning? 3 simple ways

By: Omar Abdul-Hafiz
teacher-student interaction
Designed by Freepik

The 21st of April this year marked the 239th birthday of the renowned German educator and pedagogue, Friedrich Fröbel. Perhaps the most remarkable contribution made by Fröbel was the invention of the kindergarten where nowadays many of us drop off our kids on our way to work.

But what exactly do kids do at the kindergarten? Learn the alphabet? Sing? Meet new friends?

Probably a combination of those things, and more. But there’s this one main ingredient that makes the kindergarten what it is. It’s called… fun! As simple as that. According to Fröbel, “Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul.”

As such, playing games is considered to be the most effective tool for facilitating the learning process among children.

But what if we can actually take this concept further? Can playing games actually be the next step in enhancing students’ ability not only to receive, process, and memorize information, but also master the skills they learn?

Here are a few interesting points to discuss in some detail.

Creating a better sense of engagement

How does gamifying the educational process motivate the students’ learning performance? Here are 3 note-worthy aspects to consider.

A demonstration of real life

Friedrich Fröbel
(1782 – 1852)

In his widely celebrated 1897 article titled “My Pedagogic Creed”, the renowned American educational reformer John Dewey (1859-1952), put up a statement that perfectly sums up this principle. According to Dewey, “the school must represent present life - life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground.”

Along with this context, an educational game can be designed to replicate a real-life situation where there is a certain problem that the students must think about and solve correctly to win. By playing a game, students feel like they are in charge of their learning endeavor, as opposed to being passive receivers of knowledge. This is also in line with the problem-solving concept of learning presented by the renowned Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire, as opposed to the banking concept. For more information about Paulo Freire’s theories, take a look at our article on blended learning.

The seven modes of learning

Generally speaking, there are seven main modes or styles through which the learning process happens. These modes are visual, auditory, verbal (speech/writing), physical (learning by practice), logical (thinking, reasoning, solving), social, and self-learning.

Traditional education usually involves one or two of these at the same time. Through a game-like learning experience, however, you may be able to tap into several, if not all, of these modes all at once. As a result, you will have a better chance at creating a truly immersive and engaging learning environment for your students.

Utilizing multiple styles of learning may also have a couple more advantages. For one thing, it helps make the educational process more flexible to meet the many different ways students perceive and process knowledge. For example, while one student may find it easier to learn by listening, another student might have a more photographic memory, making it more convenient for them to learn the visual way, and so on. Thus, a game-like learning experience makes it possible to utilize a combination of learning styles that can better fit all your students’ specific needs and habits.

Finally, this compound style of learning enhances students’ ability to receive and process information. In gamified learning, knowledge is presented to students in a combination of ways. This creates of multi-dimensional learning experience where new information is being actively drilled into the students’ long-term memory, thus preventing it from being lost.

Motivating the reward and pleasure center in the brain

More often than not, humans are mentally inclined to do things when there’s an immediate reward after they’ve done the right thing. A game-like learning experience is an ideal way to achieve this by providing immediate celebration and reward for a correct answer. This is a surefire way of keeping your students hooked and excited to keep going.

Enhancing the teamwork spirit

One of the greatest things about the idea of games is that most of them involve a sense of teamwork. A student may be able to learn a math equation, for example, on their own. That’s true. However, a much better mode of learning where information is collectively processed by a group of students is through a game-like experience. In that experience, students may work as a team where they will think together, correct each other, encourage one another, and successfully arrive at the right solution together.

This may help enhance their learning experience, but it will greatly influence their personalities. It helps them develop a healthy team spirit where the success of the whole team depends on the success of each one of its members.

In short, games are a powerful tool

In concept, games can have opposing effects on education and learning. If utilized the wrong way, they can be a source of distraction and negative influence. However, if games as a concept are introduced into the learning endeavor in a proper and well-planned fashion, they can have a great positive impact on students’ overall social, intellectual, and academic performance. The secret, then, is in finding the perfect method of utilizing games in a way that best serves the objectives of the learning process.

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