Thoughts on Games for Motivation

Games can improve motivation when you add competition and collaboration. Research from an NYU article showed it increased motivation, which then created the driving factor for learning. Two kinds of motivation were discussed. One is the mastery goal and the other is performance goal.  In mastery goal, students focus on learning, improving, and developing their abilities. In performance goal, students focused on proving their abilities and to not look incompetent to others. Researchers said that the second was less conducive to learning. A key difference between the two were perception of mistakes. The first viewed mistakes as a natural part of the learning process while the other looked at them as a deficiency in ability. The researchers recommended creating a learning environment that emphasized mastery goal and that adding competition and collaboration would help to achieve this.

Schools have competition and collaboration but there seems to be something missing to keep students engaged. Schools place emphasis on performance such as using exam scores, class ranking, and GPA and so this should stimulate a lot of competition.  A missing link could be that competition is not obvious or deliberately made known. For example during the first week of this course, the syllabus explained that the course would be structured as a game with rules explaining how to win. Students knew they would be competing on a personal level but also against other classmates.  With that said, the solution may require restructuring the course as a game rather than having games and collaboration activities to supplement the topics covered in a traditional textbook.  Unfortunately the article didn’t mention much on how the concept of mastery goal was designed.  But it is worth further investigating.  Our course was designed for graduate students and so creating this mindset would be relatively easy compared to a classroom for middle school students.  Perhaps it’s easier than expected, simply give students the ability to win or maybe there are indeed other factors that need to be considered.


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