With a sharp rise in the rate of technological disruption, there is a need for educational processes to be updated.
Today's students are preparing for a technological era, and the skills needed to survive in this modern world should be introduced by teachers in safe learning environments such as classrooms. In recent years, serious games have emerged as a powerful tool for teaching in various fields, from humanities to STEM and everything in between. At the heart of this trend lies the concept of pedagogy in games, which explores how learning theories and game mechanics can complement each other to create practical learning experiences.
Game-based learning has emerged as a promising educational approach to engage learners and enhance their knowledge and skills. It can teach students relevant life skills such as critical thinking, pattern recognition and communication, which are all needed to survive in a technological world.
In this blog, we explore the concept of pedagogy in games, which involves integrating learning theories and game mechanics to design effective educational games. We discuss the different types of learning theories and how games can integrate into them, as well as the frameworks used in games to achieve learning outcomes. This article delves into the benefits of incorporating games into the classroom and examines success stories used in real classrooms.
What is Pedagogy in Games?
Pedagogy is a term that refers to both the art and the science behind how educators teach. In the context of game-based learning, pedagogy involves integrating the principles of effective teaching and learning with the unique features of games, such as interactive storytelling, problem-solving challenges, and immersive environments, to create engaging and compelling learning experiences.
Pedagogy in game development can provide many benefits, such as the ability to create a formal structure that allows for the design of effective learning systems. By incorporating pedagogical principles, game developers can create games that engage, entertain, and effectively teach new concepts and skills. Games also provide a unique opportunity for testing and validating the effectiveness of learning content, as players' actions and responses can be tracked and analysed to measure learning outcomes.
Game-based learning has been increasingly integrated into classrooms as a way to enhance the learning experience for students. Digital game-based learning is being used by 74% of teachers to enhance learning. Games provide an interactive and engaging way to learn, allowing students to actively participate in the learning process and retain information more effectively. With the rise of digital technology, educational games have become far more accessible, making them an attractive option for schools and educators.
How Learning Theories and Game Mechanics Complement Each Other
At the heart of game pedagogy lies the intersection of learning theories and game mechanics. Learning theories provide a framework for understanding how people learn, while game mechanics provide a framework for designing engaging and rewarding experiences.
Many different learning theories can inform the design of educational games. For example, behaviourist theories emphasise the importance of reinforcement and feedback in learning, while cognitive theories focus on how learners construct and organise knowledge. Constructivist theories, on the other hand, emphasise the importance of active learning and problem-solving. I’ll go into more detail on these below!
Game mechanics provide a framework for designing engaging and rewarding game experiences. They include challenges, feedback, exploration, and reward, designed to keep players engaged and motivated. By leveraging these game mechanics in designing educational games, we can create fun and educational experiences, helping learners stay engaged and motivated as they work towards their learning goals.
Types of Learning Theories and How Games Can Integrate Them
Many different learning theories can inform the design of educational games. Some of the most commonly used theories include:
Behaviourism is a learning theory that emphasises the role of reinforcement in shaping behaviour.
- In game-based learning, behaviourism can be integrated through reward systems, such as points, badges, or other in-game rewards, that motivate learners to engage with the learning material.
- For example, a math game rewards players with points for answering questions correctly or completing challenges within a specific time limit.
Cognitivism emphasises the role of mental processes, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving, in learning.
- Cognitivism can be integrated through games that challenge learners to think critically, solve problems, and make decisions based on information presented in the game.
- For example, a history game that challenges players to make decisions based on historical events and information and shows the consequences of their choices in the game.
This learning theory emphasises the active role of learners in constructing their understanding of the world around them.
- Constructivism can be integrated through open-ended gameplay and exploration, allowing learners to experiment with different solutions and create their understanding of the learning material.
- A science game that allows players to explore and experiment with different scientific concepts, such as biology or physics, through sandbox-style gameplay is an example of this.
Connectivism is a learning theory that emphasises the role of technology and networks in facilitating learning.
- In game-based learning, this can be integrated through multiplayer games, social features, and online communities that allow learners to connect and collaborate in learning.
- For example, a language-learning game that includes social features such as chat rooms, forums, or multiplayer challenges allows learners to practice speaking and writing with other learners.
Frameworks Used in Games to Achieve Learning Outcomes
To achieve learning outcomes through game-based learning, game designers often use a range of frameworks and approaches. Some of the most commonly used frameworks include:
Serious Games Framework
This framework is designed to help game designers create games that are not only fun but also educational. It emphasises the importance of aligning game mechanics with learning objectives and providing players opportunities to reflect on their learning. You can learn more about serious games in our other blog.
Game-based Learning Design Framework
This framework is designed to help game designers create practical game-based learning experiences. It emphasises the importance of aligning game mechanics with learning objectives and providing players opportunities to practice and apply new skills and knowledge.
Situated Learning Framework
This framework is designed to help game designers create games in authentic learning contexts. It emphasises the importance of providing players with opportunities to engage in authentic tasks.
This emphasises the importance of creating a state of "flow" in players, fully immersed in the game and feeling a sense of control and mastery. The "FLOW" framework emphasises the importance of creating challenges that are appropriately matched to players' abilities, providing clear feedback on progress, and creating a sense of engagement and enjoyment in the game.
In addition to these frameworks, there are many other approaches to designing learning games, such as problem-based, inquiry-based, and project-based learning. Each approach has unique strengths and can be used to create compelling games for different learning objectives and student populations.
7 Tools for Gamifying the Classroom
Games can be easily integrated into the classroom, from using educational games to supplement traditional instruction to creating fully-fledged game-based learning experiences. Here are some examples of such games and game-based learning experiences:
PlayEd is an online library of digital educational games and resources for K-6 classrooms. Teachers made it for teachers to support the growth of social, interpersonal and digital literacy. PlayEd thrives on students' inherent curiosity and gamifies modules on literacy and numeracy. It promotes healthy collaborations and competition within classrooms as well. Teachers can tailor-make games for individuals and groups, easily tracking performance and results.
We worked closely with the client, Top Teacher, to create a digital learning experience to amplify the power of play and empower educators to plan more engaging lessons. Students can play across smartphones, iPads and monitors to completely understand different digital literacy skills and make integration into various school types easier.
Classcraft takes multiplayer roleplaying games into the classroom as an immersive learning platform. The gamification and social aspects of Classcraft help students develop more than just their curriculum base. Teachers monitor all interactions and projects and get intervention data to identify which students need extra support. The immediate reward function and customisable avatars make students feel more motivated and engaged. Classcraft is an excellent example of how serious game development works.
Kahoot! Is a digital learning platform that uses quizzes, puzzles, polls, and player-paced challenges to help students learn in a more engaging and fun way. Kahoot’s primary goal is to reinforce the idea of repetition to reinforce certain concepts. The teacher curates all of the games with the help of the Kahoot platform. It also provides review documentation for teachers to see the student's responses, allowing for more content curation for individual topics. Kahoot! leverages behaviourist theories and believes immediate feedback and reinforcement are the best way to help students learn.
Minecraft is a sandbox game where players explore, craft and build in an open world. Minecraft Education is a game-based extension of this platform where students and teachers collaborate on projects. The safe in-game environment allows students to learn their curriculum in a personalised, fun and engaging way. Minecraft Education inspires inclusive learning through play, much like the constructivist theories and game-based learning design framework. More than 35 million students and teachers are currently learning through Minecraft Education.
DragonBox is an award-winning platform used in schools and at home to help children learn maths. It uses motivation-based learning to help children understand how to solve problems more deeply. DragonBox games engage children using their desire to learn with exploration and discovery styles games. While math can be a point of contention for many children, DragonBox brings math to life to promote the progression and application of lessons to real life.
Code.org is a nonprofit organisation bringing the opportunity to learn computer science to students worldwide. The platform also focused on increasing participation from underrepresented groups and students from marginalised communities that would otherwise not have access to the technology. Over 80 million students and 2 million teachers are currently using code.org. This platform and its successes enforce all the theories and frameworks for using game pedagogy well.
ChemCaper is a chemistry adventure game that makes students curious about science. It teaches the properties of different elements and their chemical reactions by providing a rich game world and many challenges based on chemistry concepts and the periodic table. ChemCaper is an excellent example of how constructivist theories and situated learning frameworks can lead to an immersive learning experience.
Why Games are Easily Integrated into the Classroom
Games are inherently engaging and motivating, which makes them an effective tool for capturing and maintaining students' attention. Digital learning-based games also provide immediate feedback and reward, which can help students to stay motivated and focused on their learning goals. Finally, games can be easily customised to suit a wide range of learning objectives and subject areas, making them flexible and adaptable for classroom learning.
Pedagogy in games is a rapidly growing field with tremendous promise for the future of education. By leveraging the unique features of games – such as interactivity, immersion, and feedback – game designers can create engaging and compelling learning experiences that help students to acquire new skills, knowledge, and attitudes in a fun and engaging way.
With the growing popularity of game-based learning platforms and tools, it is clear that games will continue to play an essential role in the future of education. If you or your organisation is looking for a way to integrate game-based learning into your classrooms, book a brainstorming session with me and let’s chat about how we can use the power of play to make learning fun!