Gamification in education: how does it work?



Education is evolving. Traditional methods of learning are being replaced by new ways of learning. Digital tools are being used more often in the classroom because children nowadays grow up digitally. Gamification, the application of game elements in education, helps to increase the involvement and motivation of pupils. Therefore, gamification in education is becoming more important. 

Gamification in education

What is gamification?

Gamification has become more popular since 2010. Nevertheless, it is still relatively new and its meaning is not always clear. Gamification is sometimes confused with terminologies such as ‘serious games’ and ‘applied games’. So, let’s clarify it, once and for all!

The main difference is that gamification is not a game. It is a method to steer human behaviour or to transfer knowledge. In education, the curriculum, courses and books are also a method to educate and change behaviour. The difference is that gamification uses game elements.

A serious game or applied game – synonymous with each other – is also used to stimulate behavioural change or to transfer knowledge, but it is not a method. It is a learning tool in the form of a game. A good example of an educational serious game is Garfield’s Count Me In. This game helps primary school children practice their arithmetic skills.

Want to know more about all the terms and the differences? We wrote an article about it. Read it here!

Tip: gamification can also be used for remote education. Read more!

Three benefits of gamification in education

Gamification in education is a method to stimulate the motivation and involvement of pupils. For years, keeping pupils motivated has been a challenge. This explains the increasing popularity of gamification in education.

How does gamification make a difference? There are three main reasons.

1. Motivation and involvement

By using game elements, pupils become more involved in education. A pupil who is very involved will get an intrinsic motivation to keep learning. The result? More knowledge!

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2. Social interaction

Gamification provides entertainment and competition. It is fun for pupils to challenge others in a game. Gamification provides social interaction, which is good for the personal development of the child.

An example to increase involvement and social interaction is with a leaderboard. The student with the best score is ranked as number 1 on the list and will be motivated to keep that place. The students in rank 2 to 5 will do better next time to try and beat number 1.

3. Direct feedback

In 2017, Gesa van den Broek did research on ‘quizzing’. In the study, students had a quiz, with immediate feedback, where questions could be infinitely repeated. Until he knows the correct answer. The research results show that you train your memory when you are being tested.

A game works in the same way. Players have to complete challenges and are immediately shown how well they are doing. Is the answer wrong? Then you can try the challenge again. Just like when you’re doing a quiz, you’ll get immediate feedback and eventually understand what’s right.

Examples of gamification in education

Applying gamification in education does not have to be difficult at all. There are already many programs that you can use in class.


Teachers can easily compose a quiz via Kahoot. Pupils then log on to their phone or laptop and can answer the questions there. The game can be played with the whole class at the same time and gives an immediate score.

Research shows that this form of gamification has a more positive effect on receiving knowledge, compared to traditional teaching methods. In addition, the game improves the interaction between teachers and pupils, improves the atmosphere in the classroom and makes it more accessible for pupils to ask questions.


DuoLingo is a form of gamification in which pupils are challenged to learn languages. The game can be used in the classroom interactively. The student receives immediate feedback and remains motivated by receiving rewards. Teachers can also follow the progress per pupil.

Rewards and points systems

Gamification can also be applied in the classroom without external tools. Unconsciously, it is already been used. Think of giving a sticker when primary school children have completed their weekly tasks. The same concept applies to game leaderboards.

What makes gamification so good? It is quick and easy to integrate!

Gamification or serious games?

Gamification and education is a good match. Game elements increase involvement and motivation. Games also give more social interaction and students receive immediate feedback. This combination enhances knowledge transfer and improves pupils’ personal development.

Gamification and serious games both aim to stimulate behavioural change or to transfer knowledge. The advantage of gamification is that it can be introduced quickly and easily into a curriculum.

With more complex objectives or challenges, serious games are a better option. After all, a serious game can be fully customized and offers the player a compelling experience.
Developing a serious game is a bit more complex.


Are you curious about how you can use gamification or serious games for your school? Please contact Tim Laning:

Tim Laning

Business developer

Do you want to know more about the possibilities of serious games? Let’s discuss what serious games can do for you.


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