school game

Gamification in Education

Werbach and Hunter (2012) differentiate between three types of gamification, namely internal, external and behaviour-change gamification. Internal gamification targets employees, external gamification aims to engage customers, while the purpose of behaviour-change gamification is habit formation. Educational gamification systems fall into the third category.

Several authors have suggested applying gamification to learning. Lee (2011) emphasized the cognitive, emotional and social benefits of game-based techniques in education. Based on previous literature, Stott and Neustaedter (2013) identified four game dynamics which had proven to be more successful in an educational context, namely freedom to fail, rapid feedback, progression and storytelling. Beside game elements discussed in 2.5, Erenli (2013) proposed the use of geolocation services for gamifying learning. Muntean (2011) suggested designing rewards to be obtained for proper behaviour in a gamified classroom.

Recent years have seen numerous projects for gamifying education, and a number of researchers have investigated how the educational process might benefit from gamification.

Firstly, Quest to Learn, a 6-12-grade school in New York City established in 2009 gamified their whole curricula. At Quest to Learn, teachers and designers work together to create feedback-rich challenges for students to improve their systems thinking, reasoning and problem-solving skills (Sheldon, 2011; DeBurr, 2013; McGonigal, 2011; Lee & Hammer, 2011; Renaud & Wagoner, 2011).

The same year, Sheldon (2011) gamified his classroom by basing his grading procedure on XP, by implementing avatars, quests, boss fights, by dividing his class into guilds, i.e. player communities, and by requiring them to defeat mobs, that is, non-player character (NPC) monsters. By doing so, Sheldon managed to improve both grades and attendance.

DeBurr (2013) names a number of e-learning projects which embraced gamification, e.g. Khan Academy, Monopoly Academy and Spongelab.

In a longitudinal study based on the flow theory, team competition as an element of gamification was found to be rather effective at enhancing student engagement, even despite low levels of competence (Sepehr & Head, 2013). The same research proved that “by lowering the focus on the outcomes of the competition”, the negative impact of losing might be minimised (p. 8).

Barata, Gama, Jorge and Gonçalves (2013) carried out a five-year-long study comparing gamified processes with non-gamified ones in a blended learning environment. They found significant differences in the number of reply posts students made and in the number of support material downloads. Barata, Gama, Fonseca and Gonçalves (2013) found that gamification can also be effectively used to facilitate student autonomy and creativity.

Watson, Hancock and Mandryk (2013) showed that non-intrinsically motivating self-study activities can be turned into engaging experiences by introducing gamification. The researchers rewarded students with virtual currency, which they could invest into planting flowers and trees. After a certain period, the flowers and fruits could be harvested, which was accompanied by a visually rewarding explosion of stars. The gamification system also employed content unlocking, a complex point system, forgiving gameplay, a vast number of choices and social mechanisms such as watering other students’ gardens. Thus the system successfully addressed the three player needs described in the self-determination theory (see 2.6.2), i.e. competence, autonomy and relatedness.


  • Barata, G., Gama, S., Fonseca, M. J.., & Gonçalves, D. (2013). Improving Student Creativity with Gamification and Virtual Worlds. In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Gameful Design, Research, and Applications. (pp. 95-98). New York: ACM. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2583023&CFID=477989972&CFTOKEN=46314949
  • Barata, G., Gama, S., Jorge, J., & Gonçalves, D. (2013). Improving Participation and Learning with Gamification. In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Gameful Design, Research, and Applications. (pp. 10-17). New York: ACM. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2583010&CFID=477989972&CFTOKEN=46314949
  • DeBurr, D. (2013). Build Gamified Websites with PHP and jQuery. Birmingham: Packt Publishing Ltd.
  • Erenli, K. (2013). The Impact of Gamification - Recommending Education Scenarios. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET), 8(2013), 15-21. Kassel, Germany: Kassel University Press GmbH. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from http://calica.com.mx/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/The-Impact-of-Gamification.pdf
  • Kapp, K. M. (2012). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.
  • Lee, J. J. & Hammer, J. (2011). Gamification in Education: What, How, Why Bother? Academic Exchange Quarterly, 15(2). Retreived, March 1, 2015, from http://www.academia.edu/570970/Gamification_in_Education_What_How_Why_Bother
  • McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: The Penguin Press.
  • Muntean, C. I. (2011). Raising Engagement in E-Learning Through Gamification. In Proc. 6th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL (pp. 323-329). Retrieved, March 1, 2015, from http://icvl.eu/2011/disc/icvl/documente/pdf/met/ICVL_ModelsAndMethodologies_paper42.pdf
  • Renaud, C., & Wagoner, B. (2011). The Gamification of Learning. Principal Leadership, 12(1), 56-59.
  • Sepehr, S., & Head, M. (2013). Competition as an Element of Gamification for Learning: an Exploratory Longitudinal Investigation. In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Gameful Design, Research, and Applications. (pp. 2-9). New York: ACM. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2583009&CFID=477989972&CFTOKEN=46314949
  • Sheldon, L. (2011). The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game. Course Technology PTR.
  • Stott, A. & Neustaedter, C. (2013). Analysis of Gamification in Education, Technical Report 2013-0422-01, Connections Lab, Simon Fraser University, Surrey, BC, Canada, April. Retrieved, 1 March, 2015, from http://clab.iat.sfu.ca/pubs/Stott-Gamification.pdf
  • Watson, D., Hancock, M., & Madryk, R. L. (2013). Gamifying Behaviour that Leads to Learning. In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Gameful Design, Research, and Applications. (pp. 87-90). New York: ACM. Retrieved January 30, 2015, from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2583021&CFID=477989972&CFTOKEN=46314949
  • Werbach, K., & Hunter, D. (2012). For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. Philadelphia: Wharton Digital Press.

Referencing this article (APA)

Németh, T. (2015). English Knight: Gamifying the EFL Classroom (Unpublished master’s thesis). Pázmány Péter Katolikus Egyetem Bölcsészet- és Társadalomtudományi Kar, Piliscsaba, Hungary. Retrieved from https://ludus.hu/gamification/