The study of gamification requires the investigation of engagement. There may be many reasons why students are engaged and the feeling may be very subjective (Fredricks, Blumenfeld & Paris, 2004). It is necessary to survey students about the changes in their perception of being engaged (Ravitch & Riggan, 2012). It is also necessary to survey faculty in their perception of class engagement. Some data on engagement may be provided by attendance and participation of classroom activities, especially if attendance in scheduled activities is not required or graded. Perhaps the most accurate metric of engagement is the participation and level of completion of activities, which are not graded, self-guided, and optional in the course. Such activities reflect the desire of a student to do more than what is required and indicate an emotional investment in the course.
Another approach to measuring motivation are Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales (Midgley et al., 2000). The instrument addresses mastery goal orientation (MGO), performance-approach orientation (PA), performance-avoidance orientation (PV), and avoiding novelty (AN).
The mastery goal orientation can be defined as “the desire to develop, attain, or demonstrate competence at an activity” (Harackiewick & Elliot, 1993, p.904). Such goal achievement can be linked to a desire to develop competence and reach mastery. This is in contrast with an attitude of settling for or pursuing a passing grade.
Performance-avoidance means the desire to avoid performing more poorly than others. A related metric is performance-approach, where the individual is trying to outperform others. Both are linked to motivation in the classroom.
Finally, avoiding novelty means a preference in students to avoid unfamiliar work. This element of motivating students in the classroom can affect participation and academic mastery. Gamification of classroom activities may generate this type of motivational block.
Students, who were exposed to engagement in video game systems are familiar with high levels of engagement (Prensky, 2010). This is one of the reasons why they tend to be bored in a classroom quickly. Intrinsic rewards, which drive engagement, are more difficult to activate and measure. One way to do so, is to ask students to perform actions and participate in activities, which will not be rewarded with grades. This would reflect the willingness to engage in class activities even if they are not rewarded extrinsically. From here, the attention to detail and the level of completion of the activity would also provide a good measurement of the overall engagement.
Organizations may have goals of student retention, degree completion, and growing academic programs with strong job market. Gamification aligns with these goals by building engagement and motivation to improve academic performance. Most importantly, it allows for excitement, attention, and building positive emotions when exploring unfamiliar content.
Elliot, A. J. and Harackiewicz, J. M. 1994. Goal setting, achievement orientation, and intrinsic motivation: A mediational analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66: 968–980
Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., and Paris, A. (2004). School engagement: potential of the concept: state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74, 59–119.
Midgley, C., Maehr, M. L., Hruda, L. Z., Anderman, E., Anderman, L., Freeman, K. E., Gheen, M., Kaplan, A., Kumar, R., Middleton, M. J., Nelson, J., Roeser, R., & Urdan, T. (2000). Manual for the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales (PALS). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.
Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: Partnering for real learning. Corwin Press.
Ravitch, S., & Riggan, M. (2012). Reason & rigor: How conceptual frameworks guide research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.