Using Games to Enhance Classroom Learning

To many old-school educators, games in the classroom might sound like the first sign of the coming apocalypse. But research is proving otherwise, and many more modern-minded educators are adding their anecdotal evidence towards the movement towards games as an educational tool. The key is finding the perfect balance between engagement and education: finding a game – or gamified classroom process – that the learners find fun enough that it holds their attention, while also delivering meaningful and transformative learning experiences. So how can we do that? Let’s take a look at how educators around the world are using games to enhance their classroom learning.

Focus, Participation, and Motivation

Games may have a reputation for being distractions in the classroom, but if an activity is able to completely flip a learner’s attitude towards learning and help them participate, that seems like a win to me. One of the core reasons for this is the same reason that we play games for fun: the gameplay loop of action > reward intrinsically keys into humans’ primal reward pathways, hitting us with dopamine that tells us to play more. When educators mix course content, social interaction, and reflective processes into this loop, it provides learners with educational experiences that they may not even realise they’re internalising – and that they’re excited to come back to.

Games like Minecraft Education Edition, Werewolf, and Kahoot couldn’t be more different from each other in terms of play, but each of them give learners the opportunity to focus on something more enjoyable than rote learning, while still achieving their institution’s ideal learning outcomes.

Test, Fail, and Learn

Many games require on-the-fly thinking, a skill that needs to be taught and trained like any other. Games are also low-stakes environments, where the chance of failure may be high, but the consequences are not. This means that learners are able to quickly develop solutions to problems they’re presented with, then iterate without fear of failure until the problem is solved. Learning to fail properly is a key life skill that games are uniquely positioned to achieve.

In a similar manner, role-playing games in the classroom can help learners see the world from unique perspectives. Adopting a role, proceeding through a scenario, and reflecting on the outcomes – whether successful or not – gives learners new frameworks through which to view their agency in the world and that of the people around them, giving them a flexibility of thought that will be invaluable both in their future learning and in their day-to-day life. 

Roleplays can also be a valuable tool in moving learners along the path towards becoming a true practitioner of what they’re studying. Seeing themselves as a professional in the field gives learners the confidence to push themselves to learn even more, seek out opportunities, and create works that fit their desired path.

The Gamified Classroom

Games don’t necessarily need to be discrete experiences to be effective. Many primary education institutions utilise classic low-stakes competition to push students towards higher achievements, like leaderboards or gold star stickers. In higher education, reframing assessment briefs and feedback in slightly more gamified ways can be a great way to address dejection in the face of failure: for example, rather than telling a learner that their assignment was graded at a C- level, telling them they’re still a novice in need of experience can reframe the situation in their minds and give them a clearer, shorter-term goal. Other ways of incorporating gamification in higher education could also be framed as simply encouraging participation – small, silly awards, like “the most creative calculation error” in a maths class, or “most bugs in a functioning website” in a web design course, are a great way to help foster camaraderie and overall enjoyment in learners struggling to meet learning outcomes.

There are so many ways that games help facilitate a transformative learning environment across all ages and abilities, and this article really only scratches the surface. We’d love to hear about times when you’ve incorporated games into your teaching strategies, and what the outcomes were like for your learners! And if you’d like to learn more about how to meld games and learning in your institution or curriculum, Ardacious are the specialists to talk to. Head over to to learn more and get in touch.