Gamification as Learner-Centered Instruction

There are several research-based learner-centered psychological principles that apply to gamification. These principles begin drawn upon for the discussion of gamification are derived from research conducted by the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Psychology and Education (1997). A successful learner is typically active, goal-directed, self-regulating and assumes personal responsibility for contributing to their own learning.

Gamification is learner-centered. It can be customized to accommodate student differences, can motivate students to put more effort into learning and help student increase their own responsibility for directing their own learning. Both types of gamification (structural and content) lead to learner-centered outcomes.

In structural gamification, the learner controls the pacing of the content, the learner decides what badges he or she wants to pursue and decides how competitive he or she wants to be with other students in terms of earning points or rewards to be on the leaderboard. The selection of what badges to pursue allows for a customized approach to learning the content.

In content gamification, several of the 14 principles created by the APA Task Force apply directly. One is the principle that “The learner’s creativity, higher order thinking, and natural curiosity all contribute to motivation to learn. Intrinsic motivation is stimulated by tasks of optimal novelty and difficulty, relevant to personal interests, and providing for personal choice and control.”(APA) In content gamification, it is possible to create a challenge for the learner which is presented in the context of story providing an optimal level of challenge but related to the personal interests of the learner due to the careful selection and implementation of the story in which the learning takes place as provided in the auditing example above.

Another principle related to learner-centered instruction and content gamification is the principle that states “What and how much is learned is influenced by the motivation. Motivation to learn, in turn, is influenced by the individual’s emotional states, beliefs, interests and goals, and habits of thinking.” As an example, positive emotions, such as curiosity, generally enhance motivation and facilitate learning and performance (APA, 1997) Curiosity is an element in gamification as is mystery and fantasy and all of those attributes can positively influence a learner’s emotional state.


To learn more about gamification and games for learning:

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Karl Kapp
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