Going Gameful: Level Up Your Learners' Motivation

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

Brief Abstract

We all want learners to be deeply engaged, to take risks and be resilient in the face of failure. To increase learner engagement we need to tap into their intrinsic motivation. Gameful pedagogy, and gameful course design in particular, is a framework for giving learners agency and supporting their intrinsic motivation inspired by game design principles. This session will explore the philosophy behind gameful pedagogy, the principles, derived from that philosophy, which can guide your course designs, and the teaching practices that can further support the intrinsic motivation of your learners. Participants will brainstorm ways they might use gameful pedagogy in their own course design, understand the difference between gameful learning and gamification, and develop a plan for giving students choices in how to demonstrate their learning.

Presenters

Rachel Niemer is the Director of Strategic Initiatives in the Office of Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan (U-M). In this role, Rachel coordinates the Product Management, Public Engagement, and Behavioral Science teams in their work as thought-partners with faculty. Rachel helps establish the vision for designing new and engaging learning environments using best practices from industry paired with findings from the learning and motivational sciences. Prior to joining the AI team, Rachel served as an Assistant Director at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at U-M, where she specialized in health sciences educational development and instructional technology. Rachel has also taught pedagogy courses at the University of Rochester, where she was an Assistant Director of Learning Assistance Services. Previously Rachel was a chemistry instructor at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota and a postdoctoral scholar in pharmacology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Evan works with faculty, staff and students to integrate gameful pedagogies into teaching and learning. Her work bridges theory to practice by bringing together pedagogy to real world teaching applications. Supporting her work is her research in teacher education, innovation adoption and understanding the role of motivation and affect in learning and learning with technologies.

Additional Authors

Barry Fishman is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Learning Technologies in the University of Michigan School of Information and School of Education. He was named the 2017 Michigan Association of State Universities “Distinguished Professor of the Year” and is a Fellow of the International Society of the Learning Sciences. He received his PhD in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University in 1996.

Extended Abstract

If you watch someone play a video game or a group of people playing a board game you get to see people who have learned (or are learning) a new language, a new set of social norms and behaviors and how to interact with a custom interface despite the challenges that accompany that kind of deep learning. When learners come into our classroom, we don’t often see such intense engagement. How might we adopt the principles that go into designing games to build learning environments that foster that level of engagement?

One key factor to understanding an individual’s engagement with an environment (how the individual interacts) is the motivation of the individual (the why of the interaction). Self-Determination Theory (SDT) (Deci and Ryan, 2000) is a model for human motivation that identifies a spectrum of loci for motivation, ranging from extrinsic to the individual, such as receiving a reward for a completing a task, to intrinsic to the individual, where the person acts because they are inherently interested in the task. The model also articulates three factors, that when present, can foster more intrinsic motivation: a sense of autonomy, a sense of competence, and a sense of belonging.

Scholars from a range of disciplines (Gee, 2003; McGonigal, 2012, Aguilar et al, 2013) have considered how game design principles can inspire and inform design in other contexts. Interestingly, well-designed games generally provide for the basic psychological needs articulated in SDT.

  • There are multiple pathways to winning a game (autonomy);
  • Players start on equal footing and build toward the final goal (competence);
  • There is an appropriate balance of cooperation & competition in multi-player games, and even in single-player games, affinity groups and communities develop to play of the game (belonging).

Traditional learning environments are often designed, at best, ignoring these needs. Gameful learning environments, though, build off our current understanding of motivation, take inspiration from games, and employ teaching practices derived from the learning sciences. A gameful course supports learners’ agency, giving them options for how to demonstrate their learning, does not ration success, i.e. does not curve the final grade and allows learners to make mistakes and recover from those mistakes, either through resubmission or providing additional assessment options.

This session will explore the philosophy behind gameful pedagogy, the principles, derived from that philosophy, which can guide your course designs, and the teaching practices that can further support the intrinsic motivation of your learners. Participants will brainstorm ways they might use gameful pedagogy in their own course design, understand the difference between gameful learning and gamification, and develop a plan for giving students choices in how to demonstrate their learning.

References:

Aguilar, S., Fishman, B., Holman, C. Leveling-Up: Evolving Game-Inspired University Course Design. Paper for Games+Learning+Society Conference 9.0. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Madison, WI, 2013.

Gee, James Paul. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Palgrave Macmillan., 2003.

McGonigal, Jane. Reality is broken: why games make us better and how they can change the world. Vintage, 2012.