Game-Based Learning For STEM Education

With demands for professionals with science, engineering, mathematics, and technology qualifications, there’s been a big push to get more young people excited about STEM subjects. In modern education, this has taken many forms. Robot building competitions, experiments with simple machines, and classroom code-breaking are just a few examples of activities that are designed to inspire students and get them interested in the practical utilization of STEM skills.


Incorporating more activities and experiments into the classroom can be very effective for fostering interest in creative problem-solving and an understanding of how math, science, engineering, and technology can be put to work in practical applications. Game-based learning and gamification in the classroom can be an extension of this approach. These methods rely on the utilization of game mechanics that are applied to lessons and teaching principles. By introducing incentives, competition, and incremental problem-solving as part of an overall lesson, game-based education elements can be more engaging and impactful for students, especially when compared to more conventional teach-study-test methods.

What Is Gamification In The Classroom?

Gamification in the classroom is the application of game mechanics to lessons and course material. The concept can be applied to many different aspects of teaching and student engagement. Gamification examples can be as simple as developing a point system, leaderboard, or badges that track academic and participation achievements. This can be enhanced with incentives and rewards that are catered to the individual lesson, student, and class. Gamification can involve the introduction of playful barriers or obstacles into a conventional lesson, which then encourages students to evaluate challenges and engage through the addition of problem-solving elements. Gamification can include the assignment of roles that are relevant to the lesson.

Credit: Oregon Department of Transportation

This is similar to a mock trial, in which individual students act as jurors, judge, defense, and prosecutor to reach a verdict on an educational topic. In STEM, students may take turns being a quality inspector, lab director, or safety manager as their class completes various science experiments or builds engineering projects. Gamification may involve competitive or non-competitive elements that can have the class playing against the teacher, time limits, or imagined adversary rather than one another. To ensure that this approach amounts to a productive and positive learning experience, teachers may benefit from programs that offer gamification training in a range of subjects, which target specific student levels and needs. Gamification of lessons does require more planning and creativity than simply incorporating educational games and game-based learning tools, but these two different methods can work in tandem.

Game-Based Learning Vs. Gamification

Game-based learning and gamification have a lot of elements in common, but they are two different approaches to teaching and student engagement. Game-based learning is the utilization of games and challenges for learning and skill development with the goal to reach a winning outcome. Game-based learning can be completed through various software and video games. These game-based learning platforms are developed to teach players lesson material by translating it into a game environment. Game-based learning is also incorporated into board games, classroom challenges, and other in-class student activities. Gamification is usually more abstract. Rather than merging lessons and skill-building into the context of a game, gamification is the incorporation of game mechanics into a teaching exercise.

Gamification can also be used to introduce incentives, obstacles, and rewards into academic activities. There is a lot of overlap in these two educational elements, and they can each be applied to a variety of STEM subjects, as well as the arts and humanities. Overall, the goals of game-based learning and lesson gamification are to encourage students to engage, to view the learning material in a more dynamic and practical context, and to help them develop skills that foster understanding, problem-solving, and the practical application of their knowledge. Additionally, game-based learning and gamification can be very effective for students who may not thrive through a conventional study and test approach.

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