How to Develop a Growth Mindset with Game-Based Learning
The Covid-19 outbreak led to a huge shift towards online and remote learning but the transition was fraught with challenges for both students and teachers alike.
The use of edtech increased dramatically to accommodate
the move to distance learning. However, students’ attainment throughout lockdown
has remained inconsistent with many struggling to focus in their new environment,
as well as finding it difficult to get to grips with the technology they may
not have used before. Additionally, a large number of students across the
country struggled because they were unable to access the necessary technology,
resources and equipment to be able to successfully study from home.
Providing students with access to the equipment they
require to learn remotely is key to bridging the gap between the classroom and
home learning. The next step is to ensure that when using these resources, students
remain effectively engaged.
We know that when students persistently get wrong answers
it affects their confidence. Some respond by giving up, thinking, 'This is too
hard for me,' while others accept that it is a challenge and find ways to better
their scores. Educational
researcher Carol Dweck coined the terms 'fixed mindset' and 'growth mindset'.
Now more than ever we need our students to grow and to become resilient independent
learners who will persist even when the going gets tough.
The psychology of games
is one way to make this happen. It uses technology students are familiar with
and sets tasks that will keep their focus. Time and time again, they try
different approaches until they find the winning formula that allows them to
progress to the next level where there are new and harder challenges.
In the virtual world
they are engrossed for hours, undeterred by failure. They are using logic and
problem solving skills and the main reward is a score and a sense of
accomplishment. Why is this?
games give us pleasure and make us want to return for more. To understand
this, we need to know a little about how the human brain works in terms of positive
and negative feelings.
We are programmed
to seek rewards whether that is food and shelter or praise and a sense of achievement.
Often, in order to get these positive rewards, we need to put in a lot of sustained
effort. However, the digital generation is accustomed to short-term, but
constant rewards - the type they get in video games. As soon as they experience
failure, they are rapidly moved on to the next part of the game where they can
On the flip side,
there’s the expectation of failure when it comes to gaming. When we start a
level, we know we might not succeed at the first attempt, especially as we progress
to different stages and the level of difficulty gradually increases. Games are designed for
graceful failure and to motivate players to try again.
Often in games,
especially the ones designed for children, failing a level does not have any consequences
other than having to start over again. This relieves the pressure which in turn
feeds the motivation to try again. So, it is easy to see why these motivating
gaming concepts can be applied learning.
How growth mindset connects to gaming
To start, let’s
look at what growth mindset is exactly. Growth mindset goes further than just
saying, 'Nice try!’ when a student fails to answer a problem correctly. It’s
about encouraging students to try again, perhaps with a different approach, and
continue trying until they find a way to solve the problem correctly.
Carol Dweck explains:
'The growth-mindset approach helps children feel good in the short and long
terms, by helping them thrive on challenges and setbacks on their way to
learning. When they’re stuck, teachers can appreciate their work so far, but
add: 'Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.' The focus
is on progression and trying new approaches until the student finds one that
works for them and helps them to master the topic.'
drive to try again, to persevere, could be frustrating for students which in
turn could affect their motivation. But, as we’ve seen, video games are built
on this concept. Alternating failure with success is the core concept at the
heart of many video games, which is why growth mindset and games go together so
well. It’s about being driven to try again, by maintaining the child’s interest,
by keeping the activities fun with positive results and improved scores.
A key point
to remember is that encouraging a growth mindset has a huge positive impact on
a student’s motivation and even lowers their maths anxiety levels. Researcher
Jo Boaler has undertaken
extensive research on the effects of applying a growth mindset approach in the
classroom:' Instead of giving students damaging fixed mindset messages about
their potential, teachers can take the opposite approach and offer students a growth mindset pathway [...]
of measuring each step as an end point, a final assessment, they see it as a
step on a journey and so the yare motivated to retrace their path and try different
goes on to explain: 'After teachers made the
assessment changes, students’ math anxiety,
formerly commonplace because of the testing culture, disappeared. Instead,
classrooms were filled with self-confident students, which led to higher levels
of motivation, engagement and achievement.'
Successfully introducing game-based
The following tips will hopefully provide a useful guide to ensure the
integration of game-based learning is successful:
Make sure the games are
simple and easy to follow – game-based
learning should aide the teaching and learning process, not complicate it, so
ensure instructions are easy to follow and teaching and learning objectives are
clear. This will ensure students can maximise their time most effectively.
Trial and error
– there are several gamified resources on the market. Make sure you try them
out yourself and are as involved in the purchasing decision as possible. We
know that teachers are best placed to assess the suitability of learning
resources for their class but also to predict how their students will respond
to learning materials, so this insight is invaluable. Additionally, should
students have any questions when playing the game, teachers will be able to
support them as they have experienced the game themselves.
expectations for healthy competition – Game-based learning is,
for the most part centred around students competing with themselves. However,
class leader boards can provide added incentives to keep trying to improve
performance. Make sure this fosters a culture of healthy and positive
competition so that students remain motivated and engaged in their learning.
Different levels -
Games can allow children to operate at different levels of thinking and to
learn from each other. In a group of children playing a game, one child
might be encountering a concept for the first time, another may be
developing his/her understanding of the concept, a third consolidating
previously learned concepts
children's thinking often becomes apparent through the actions and
decisions they make during a game, so the teacher has the opportunity to
carry out diagnosis and assessment of learning in a non-threatening
Home and school -
Games provide 'hands-on' interactive tasks for both school and home
Children can work independently of the teacher. The rules of the game and
the children's motivation usually keep them on task.
seems to be a no-brainer then, to add games into learning. But of course, this
is not all there is to it. A game can include maths, but not actually be
educational. It must focus on the content and teach or reinforce concepts. This
games used for educational purposes should be developed by researchers and teachers and be
based on sound pedagogical principles.
also be engaging, offer different levels of challenge and pay heed to the techniques
used by the most successful video games. This ensures that when they fail at a game or a level, students are not negatively
impacted but instead feel motivated to try again and succeed and when they do
finally succeed, the feeling of accomplishment outweighs any negative thoughts had
on the path to their success.
Game-based learning helps not only to engage students and
increase their motivation but also to develop a growth mindset too.