There are multiple examples of research suggesting that the gamification of education in the classroom can have beneficial effects for pupils – particularly those who are familiar with computer games and who have issues concentrating in class.
A 2016 study at the University of Bristol finds that computer-based games can have a beneficial effect on learning by reducing the activity of a particular brain network that is responsible for mind wandering.
“Technology has a reputation for doing bad stuff to children’s brains but it’s important that we don’t demonise it,” says study leader Professor Paul Howard-Jones. “This is evidence that computer games can be good for learning, if we are careful about how we design and develop them.”
But a separate study into the impact of gamification on motivation, carried out at the University of Haifa, in Israel, finds that, while “leaderboards, badges and levels support the need for status, recognition, prestige and also strengthen competence and mastery”, to date, there is “little empirical research on how gamiﬁcation works and whether it succeeds in promoting user motivation”.
According to another paper, “Gamifying education: what is known, what is believed and what remains – a critical review”, the process of integrating game design principles within educational experiences “appears challenging, and there are currently no practical guidelines for how to do so in a coherent and efficient manner”.
“We have identified a growing number of studies reporting empirical evidences for the effectiveness of gamification in educational context,” the authors, based at Winston-Salem State University in the US, conclude. “At the same time, it is noticeable that a growing body of reported results is backed by inconclusive and insufficient evidence for making valid claims about the efficacy of gamification in education.”
Another critical review, carried out by Marc Fabian Buck, associate professor in the Faculty for Teacher Education and Arts at Nord University in Norway, concludes that “a significant distinction has to be made between pedagogically useful applications of digital and virtual learning environments and the blind following of promising means for simplification”.
Buck adds: “That requires, however, a lot of time, research, discussion and a much more critical discourse.”