Gaming with Learning Design – The Next Level

In the last post I continued my look into gamification and its affect on goals and motivation on learners, this post I move more into motivation and its impact on learner retention in informal learning, linking back to my reading on gamification, more to follow on that later this week.


Previously the activity of role playing and simulation was addressed in it’s impact in gamification and on motivation for informal learners. When considering the concept of the learning design of informal learning journeys, previous studies involving goal setting were considered. This is due to the hypothesis that if a learner were to undertake an informal learning journey that they may possibly have a learning goal in mind.

Research by Kozlowski and Bell (2006) suggests that goals enhance self-regulation by affecting motivation, self-efficacy, and learning. With the addition that self-regulated learners are capable of being presented with, and selecting from, a range of learning strategies in accordance to their goals and subsequent learning environment. This is then builds on by the findings of Vollmeyer and Burns (2002) in which it was found that learners with pre-defined goals focused on the task they were presented with, instead of the learning objective.

The question that I wish to understand from this research is whether the learner felt that, due to their pre-defined goals, they did not need to focus on the learning objective as it was already set via their goals. Does this mean that from linking the two research papers together that if a learner is clear in their goal setting at the start of their journey that they are able to select the appropriate learning strategy in line with their goals and then able to concentrate solely on the learning tasks? Would this allow them to stay more motivated to completion?

Previous studies have shown (Azevedo & Hadwin, 2005) that the presence of scaffolding improves the learning achievements by stimulating metacognition and cognitive activities, leading to established learning motives and outcomes.  Azevedo, Cromley, and Seibert (2004) state that the provision of scaffolding at an appropriate time can improve self motivated and regulated learning by allowing the learner to facilitate their own personal learning strategies such as goal-setting, strategic planning, selection, and implementation and the monitoring of such activity and outcomes. The use of scaffolding can also have the impact through helping learners to achieve problem-solving tasks whilst developing additional skills to use in future learning activities (Sharma and Hannafin, 2007).

The use of scaffolding must be considered in the relation to informal learning design and whether it would have an impact on the early stages of goal setting. Would it be possible in an informal learning environment to have multiple scaffolds from which the learner could be able to select from dependent upon their goals and therefore potentially increase their self motivation. As goals would help to focus the learners to select the strategy or structure that is appropriate to them to monitor their progress by (Schunk, 2001), strong consideration must be given to the reflection on the link between early goal setting and motivation amongst learners as it helps the learner to gauge their progress (Schunk, 1990).

Controversially, the findings by Sweller and Levine (1982) suggest that learners can perform better if they are not presented with a specific goal to achieve. This research is not in isolation with subsequent studies by Vollmeyer and Burns (2002), Vollmeyer et al (2000), and Wirth et al (2009) all supporting this initial statement.

It could be possible that by not having a specific learning goal that a learner is potentially left with what could be considered an ‘open task’ allowing them to move freely between content until they have sought enough knowledge to satisfy them, or spark enough of an interest to progress their learning within a particular field or discipline and therefore move to the status of a ‘closed task’ (Vollmeyer and Burns, 2002).

Interestingly, a learner may not have a specific learning goal as they are not able to develop self regulation behaviours by themselves, and therefore may require guidance in the early stages of the scaffolding to acquire such skills (Feng and Chen, 2014).  Such learners if devoid of skills in the early stages of learning may not be able to adjust their learning strategies and behaviour in line with emerging developments, this could cause them to become demotivated in the task that they had originally set themselves. Both Pintrich (2000) and Azevedo et al (2004) emphasize that self regulated and selected strategies can be difficult to develop without scaffolding, and guidance and support in how to navigate it. This coincidences with Reiser’s (2004) findings that by providing a structure that is clear in its design and direction that learners are able to view the task as less complex and therefore easier to handle and achieve.

The concept of clear directional scaffolds has an impact on Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975) concept of ‘flow’. It is perceived that a higher level of flow is positively correlated to the undertaking of higher exploratory learning strategies (Trevino and Webster , 1992), such learning strategies could include learning-by-example and analytical reasoning (Liu, Cheng, and Huang, 2011). Therefore consideration must be given to the flow of a learning journey to ensure that it remains constant and achievable with an increase in skill and knowledge acquisition as the journey progresses as Garris et al (2002) found that game-based learning is more effective when it it deemed interesting and motivating suggesting that flow is achieved by the learner when the game is of interest to them. This research addresses the issue of the balance that is to be sought between perceived challenge and skill which is essential to maintain to ensure optimal flow  (Csikszentmihalyi 1975). As skills increase the challenge must also, thus the learning journey must be able to progress the learner into more difficult and engaging learning, otherwise the maintaining of the same level throughout the journey whilst skills increase would lead to the ‘absence of flow’ (Massimini and Carli, 1988; Novak and Hoffman, 1997). So balance in flow is crucial for learners to maintain intrinsic motivation that could lead to a display of exploratory behaviours within learning (Trevino and Webster 1992)  which is fundamental for a learner to stay motivated to the completion of their learning journey.


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Azevedo, R. & Hadwin, A.F. (2005). Scaffolding self-regulated learning and metacognition – implications for the design of computer-based scaffolds. Instructional Science, 33, 5-6, 367-379.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975). Beyond boredom and anxiety. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass

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