The Intrinsic Rewards of Gamification in Education

Gamification has exploded in so many ways including work, play, health, and education. Gamification seems to have a lot of benefit in its applications for education in particular.

What is Gamification?

The use of gamification is to apply gaming techniques to non-gaming situations. Education, work training, business development, health practices and much more falls into non-gaming situations. Gamification is used to engage a user through motivation. The desired outcome is for the user to exhibit a new behavior or encourage a new one. Although, the explanation is simple, there is much more to Gamification than just applying gaming techniques.

Gamification Psychology

“Gamification is 75 percent Psychology and 25 percent Technology.” Gabe Zichermann

The fundamental elements in gamification are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This is also called “The Motivation Trifecta.” Autonomy is the catalyst of gamification. It is the embodiment of the desire for success.  Without mastery and purpose however, autonomy will not work. Mastery is our psyche telling us that we can do something and gives us reassurance that we have the ability to do anything.  Purpose is reiterating there is some sort of advantage and reward for doing something and acts as an assistant to mastery, so that we do not aimlessly try to complete every task with no realistic aims in mind.

Fogg’s Behavior Model

Dr. BJ Fogg has summed up nicely the three essentials of gamification. He states that “three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: motivation, ability, and trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing”. (Fogg, 2011.)

Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs

In 1943, Psychologist, Abraham H. Maslow published his hypothesis: the Hierarchy of Needs. The Hierarchy of Needs represents motivation at its finest. Each level represents a portion of one’s needs in life. As a person goes up a level, more of their needs become fulfilled, and they are further motivated to achieve an even higher level of gratification.

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Andrzej Marczewski, a well-known gamification enthusiast, wrote that intrinsic motivation is a drive that comes from within, not from external (extrinsic) sources such as rewards. He also adds to the Motivational Trifecta. Marczewski adds relatedness to the Trifecta and defines it as the desire to be connected to others. This would create what he calls RAMP. In gamification it is covered by things such as social status and connections that come from communities.

GamificationThis is true, especially in education. When a person gets an education, there is no guarantee of a job, great life, money, or anything. Scholars need to have intrinsic motivation to continue doing what they love.

Education Through Gamification: Khan Academy

Khan Academy facilitates a math gamification platform. The badges focus on how well and how long you remain on the site. The stats of how you are doing are instant. Teachers are called coaches who can instantly see how a student is doing. It shows how many times a student did an assignment and the total time taken for each question. Gamification is heavily integrated into the platform and it has a unique feel. You can master all the categories.

Many people do not like math, but I believe Khan Academy is looking to change that. The autonomy is astounding in Khan Academy. Khan Academy gives meaningful feedback, choice over how to do things, and encouragement.” For example, suppose you missed something. You have options for a hint and it will point you in the right direction. The progress report, as you will see in the screen shots give pleasant feedback and we get energy points.Normally, it gives 5 questions per assignment. If you miss a few questions it will continue to give you questions to get the full points. It doesn’t mean mastery, but it means you have made progress. Because you see your progress instantly, it makes the user feel like they can do better.

Education Through Gamification: Intrinsic Rewards defines Intrinsic rewards as an outcome that gives an individual personal satisfaction such as that derived from a job well done.
How does that stand out in education?

Being encouraged by a professor can go a long way. But, it’s a two way-street, the student needs to be honest and fully attempt assignments. Checklists to allow students to monitor progress is a great tool. This is one way students can see how they are doing. Students setting goals and not emphasizing grades can be a great motivator!

But to live in a world with gamification, all these things can be done automatically with instant results. Encouragement is instantly given, and progress is instantly shown to a student, this reinforcing and motivating a student.

Gamification works and education is the one place that can grasp so many people at once! LET’S GAMIFY EDUCATION!

Suggested Reading

Images via University of Washington and Tina Gonzales

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