Academic journal article Teaching Science

A Science Classroom That's More Than a Game

Academic journal article Teaching Science

A Science Classroom That's More Than a Game

Article excerpt

'Blended' and 'flipped' pedagogies are becoming more common features of classrooms as the technological revolution continues. While the appropriate use of technology in the learning environment can serve to motivate some students, significant problems surrounding student motivation and engagement remain. As such, the gamification, or the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, levelling-up), to the learning process is increasing. In an attempt to motivate adolescent Year 9 students to undertake extension work in a course, we gamified Year 9 science. As a result of the gamification, 17% of students completed some extension material and two students completed significant amounts of extra work to achieve the highest level possible in the game. The accumulation of game points, or stars, throughout the course also enabled an analysis of student work output compared to traditional test and exam results. This analysis showed a strong positive correlation.


The video game industry is a leader in entertainment. Australia's video and computer games industry had a very strong year in 2014, hitting $2.46 billion in revenue, an increase of 20% over 2013 (Curry, 2015). In fact, in 2014, video games (2.452bn[pounds sterling]) were once again the biggest entertainment industry in the United Kingdom, eclipsing the earnings of both music (1,03bn [pounds sterling]) and movies (2.18bn [pounds sterling]) (Dring, 2015).

Games are also seen as a component of family entertainment. The majority, or 56%, of parents, say video games are a positive part of their child's life. Sixty-eight percent of families with children under 18 at home believe game play provides mental stimulation or education, and more than 50% believe games help them to spend time together. Fifty-eight percent of parents whose children are gamers play games with their kids at least monthly, and among parents who play with their children, 88% believe video games are fun for the entire family (Curry, 2014).

While the main emphasis of these game-related statistics is entertainment, people are finding that game functions can be applicable in everyday life. Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. Although games have long been considered a source of entertainment, through the lens of gamification, they can now be seen as a means of engaging students to acquire and develop a deeper understanding of academic subjects.

Just as Lee and Hammer (2011) suggest, schools already have several game-like elements. For example, 'badges' are an intrinsic component of our classrooms. Teachers award points for completing assignments; over the course of the semester these points add up and get converted into 'badges' (commonly referred to as grades); at the end of the academic year students who collected the right 'badges' get to level-up. By awarding these points, educators are extrinsically motivating students to perform whether they like it or not. In fact, students can be observed 'gaming the system' regularly to increase their points scored with questions such as: "Is this going to be on the test?"

If we consider that our education system is already a game, to a degree, then why not try to amplify the motivational aspects of the game by increasing the amount of gamified elements? As the gaming industry and the gamification of other aspects of life (shopping reward cards, personal fitness badges, etc.) continues to grow, perhaps educators will need to gamify their instruction to engage and motivate the next generation of students.


The aim of this action-research-based case study was to see if it was possible to have some Year 9 students complete voluntary extension tasks in addition to their regular curriculum content using the motivational elements of games. …

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