Game-Based Learning: Maximizing Engagement and Learning Outcomes with Fun
Game-Based Learning: Maximizing Engagement and Learning Outcomes with Fun

Game-Based Learning: Maximizing Engagement and Learning Outcomes with Fun

Educator tools & PD, K-12 coding and STEM
Updated: March 2024 Mar. 2024
4 minutes read
Educator tools & PD, K-12 coding and STEM

Game play is almost always synonymous with the fun and joy that forms our core memories as children, and much of our entertainment as adults. On the flipside, “learning” and “school” aren’t always considered fun. How many times have you heard a kid say, “ugh, but I don’t wanna go to school today”, or heard a parent say, “finish your homework and then you can play.” 

And yet, games involve many of the same components as learning like, repetition, trial & error, feedback, etc. In fact, as you play a game, especially one that provides an appropriate level of challenge, you are constantly evolving, learning and growing throughout the experience.  

We all know that in order to play a game, learning the rules is required (aka, arguably the LEAST fun part of a game), but it’s more than that. There is continuous learning that continues as we play a game. (And a lot of the learning is the fun stuff).  

But what is it exactly about games that are so stimulating? Why are many of us (or our children) so determined to conquer a level in a video game – even through blood, sweat, tears? But how could that same energy applied outside of a video game feel so daunting? What elements of game design are effective in the classroom? Are there aspects of pedagogical design that get overlooked when trying to incorporate game-based learning? These are all questions that excite us and keep our gears moving.  

Game-based learning is an increasingly popular educational tool that is making its way into classrooms around the world. By incorporating game-based learning into the classroom, teachers can increase student engagement, help students to better retain information, and create an enjoyable learning environment.  

But what exactly is game-based learning?  

Game-based learning (GBL) is the use of interactive tools and digital games to engage students in the learning process. It is a form of educational technology that is designed to be both fun and educational. In game-based learning, students are presented with a simulated environment in which they must use both existing knowledge and skills, while also acquiring new knowledge and skills, to complete objectives and progress.  

Many schools are catching onto the value of GBL, and for good reason. There are countless benefits that serve as a trifecta for satisfying the needs of students, teachers, and administrators.  Game-based learning provides opportunities for:  

  • Active learning 
  • Problem solving 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Creativity  
  • Immediate feedback 
  • Practicing adaptability and flexibility
  • Trial and Error
  • Immersion

Research tells us that there is considerable evidence that GBL paired with extracurricular activities produce:  

  • Positive impacts on student self-esteem 
  • Increased focus in class 
  • Increased participation, engagement, and attendance 
  • Improved academic performance 

Game-based learning provides an outlet for fun and a break from sometimes more traditional forms of learning. It engages students who are visual and kinesthetic learners. It provides opportunity to work in teams and collaborate. It even mirrors the way many tech and highly technical jobs practice a procedure or mission for many careers, using simulations to practice until perfection.  

Because many students utilize games in their personal lives, GBL also provides a form of engagement and learning that can feel more comfortable, which can help improve confidence and reception of immediate feedback, and remove feelings of imposter syndrome and confusion when learning complex concepts.  

Game-based learning is also an effective way to help students to better retain information. Studies have shown that students who engage in game-based learning are more likely to remember and understand the material they have learned than those who use traditional methods of instruction. This is because games are interactive and engaging, making it easier for students to remember the material.  

By making learning fun and engaging, students are more likely to be interested in the material and be more willing to participate in the learning process. One study found that students who used game-based learning scored an average of 20% higher on tests than those who did not.

Bringing something brand new to the classroom can feel intimidating. Afterall, students aren’t the only ones who have to learn something new when a new platform is introduced. And there are barriers to introducing game-based learning in the classroom.  

For teachers, adding another thing when they are juggling so much is a big ask. But many teachers report observing the benefits of game-based learning in their classroom. When surveyed, it was found that 81% of teachers who used game-based learning in their classrooms reported that it had a positive effect on student engagement and motivation.  

As many states begin to introduce new legislation requiring Computer Science or Digital Fluency standards in classrooms of all grade levels, game-based learning is an opportunity for not just teachers, but administrators to explore as well.  

Our Director of Pedagogy, Elizabeth Bacon, and Head of Marketing, Anna Grymes, recently hosted a webinar “The Value of Bringing Game-Based Learning to Your Classroom.” The webinar covered:  

  • Ways that games encourage behaviors that support student learning 
  • What game-based learning is and the elements of games that lead to great learning experiences 
  • How to leverage game design principles to develop engaging and effective learning experiences 

Gain access to our Game-Based Learning recorded webinar here.  

Written by:
Sierra Combelic
Written by:
Sierra Combelic

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