Gamification in education: how does it work?


Education is evolving. Traditional teaching methods are being replaced by new ways of teaching. Digital material is also used more often, because children grow up digitally. Gamification in education is also becoming increasingly important. Gamification, the application of game elements in education, helps to increase the involvement and motivation of pupils.

Gamification in education

What is gamification?

The term ‘gamification’ has become more popular since 2010. However, it is still relatively new and the meaning is not always clear. And then there is also often talk about ‘serious games’ and ‘applied games’. Now, once and for all, let’s clarify it:

The biggest difference is that gamification is not a game. It is a method used in processes to steer human behavior in a positive way, or to transfer knowledge. In education, the curriculum, lessons and teaching materials are also a method of doing this. The difference is that gamification uses game elements.

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

Want to know more about all terms and 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 students motivated has been a challenge for education. This explains the increasing popularity of gamification in the school environment.

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

1. Motivation and involvement

By using game elements, students become more involved in education. A student who is very involved will have an intrinsic motivation to engage with the curriculum. The result is that there is a better transfer of knowledge.

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2. Social interaction

Gamification provides entertainment and competition. It is fun for students to work with others on the curriculum when it is challenging and fun. This ensures social interaction, which is good for the personal development of the child.

A good example for increasing engagement and social interaction is a leaderboard. This is a list of the top scores per player. The student with the best score is number 1 in the ranking and will be motivated to keep that place. The students in places 2 to 5 will try better next time to beat number 1.

3. Direct feedback

In 2017 Gesa van den Broek did research on ‘over hearing’. When hearing about it, a student receives instant feedback and can repeat the question 1, 2 or even 100 times. Until he knows the right answer. The research shows that you don’t really train your memory until you’re overheard – and therefore know immediately if your answer is right or wrong.

A game or game element works the same way. Players must complete challenges and get to see immediately how well they are doing. Is it wrong? Then you can try the challenge again. As with hearing, you get instant feedback and eventually you will understand what is right.

Examples of gamification in education

Applying gamification in education need not be difficult at all. Many programs have already been developed that you can use in class.


Teachers can easily create a quiz via Kahoot. Students then sign in to their phone or laptop and can answer the questions. The game can be played with the whole class at the same time and gives an instant points score.

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


DuoLingo is a form of gamification in which students are challenged to learn languages. The game can be used in an interactive way in the classroom. The student receives immediate feedback and remains motivated by the rewards. Teachers can also track all results per pupil.

Rewards and points systems

Even without external tools, gamification can be applied in the classroom. Subconsciously, this is already being done. Think of giving stickers when primary school children have completed their weekly task.

The same goes for a leaderboard (points system) that can be used very easily when a student has completed a task. What makes gamification so much fun is that it’s quick and easy to integrate.

Gamification or serious games?

Gamification and education can strengthen each other well. Game elements increase engagement and motivation. Games also provide more social interaction and give students instant feedback. This combination ensures a strong knowledge transfer and better personal development of students.

Gamification and serious games both aim to stimulate behavioural change or transfer knowledge. The advantage of gamification is that it is quick and easy to enter into the curriculum.

With more complex objectives, or challenges on a large scale, serious games work better again. A serious game can be completely tailored and offers the player an immersive experience. Developing a serious game is a bit more complex.


Are you curious how you can use gamification or serious games for your school or teaching materials? Contact Tim Laning for a non-committal conversation:

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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