Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Gamification and Behavioural Change


Part 4 of a Blog Series

  1. Gamification of Life.
  2. Behavioural Economics and Education.
  3. Gamification in Education.
  4. Gamification and Behavioural Change.

In a previous blog on behavioural economics, I stated that students aren’t rationale. Specifically, they need to be nudged into making decisions that might best suit their long-term goals.

Can gamification can help nudge students (and teachers) in the right direction. And what is that direction? A good starting point would be:

Motivating students and raising attainment
Preparing students for a changing world
Improving the quality of teaching

Motivating students and raising attainment 
Games based learning can have a direct impact on performance in terms of subject understanding. I have seen this directly with games-ED products and I have blogged about the “proof of pudding” on a couple of occasions – Proof of the Pudding and Proof of the Pudding Part 2.

Currency (a la reward cards) could focus students on short-term. Why not take a leaf out of retailers’ books? Students could earn reward points for attendance, extra-curricular activities, helping others (students and pupils) and so on. These reward points could be traded in for goodies such as tickets for the cinema – the rewards could be sponsored from local businesses.

Preparing students for a Changing World
Games like The Sims allow individuals to see the life journey of a computer generated character. How about developing a simulation that could function as a game of life / career choice game? Maybe such a game could nudge students to make long-term choices rather than being herded along by their peers and recent events.

Games based learning and more generally gamification can go beyond improving specific subject attainment to improving personal learning and thinking skills. Simulation games allow students to explore the issue of cause & effect. And, if the games are collaborative, students work with others to see the big picture and make connections. In this way, games based learning can improve collaboration plus creative and critical thinking skills. Gamification improves personal, learning and thinking skills and can also be used to tackle specific behaviours.

Improving the quality of teaching
Games as continual professional development (CPD) for teachers – I have delivered over 400 workshops using learning simulations with pixelfountain (read games based learning). I can testify that adults enjoy playing games in workshops. Also, long-term feedback from these workshops confirms that the approach accelerates the development of skills and knowledge and changes behaviours. In addition to offering CPD, data could be saved from teachers’ in-game decision to form the basis of research.

Conclusion
In this series of blogs, I have looked at some of the issues affecting education and aligned these to the move towards gamification and the ideas presented by behavioural economics and B J Fogg’s behavioural model. They have been presented as food for thought and as always I would welcome your comments.

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Further Reading
New Economics Foundation – Behavioural Economics
Dan Ariely (2008), Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions,
Dan Ariely (2010), The Upside of Irrationality
B J Fogg, Behaviour Model
Jack Schofield, PC-PRO (2011) - The Gamification of Life
Richard H. Thaler and Sendhil Mullainathan, Library of Economics and Liberty, Behavioural Economics
Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein (2008),  Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

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