In recent years, gamification, the process of adding games or game-like elements to encourage participation, has become an effective way for teachers to engage their students. For STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, this type of pedagogy is uniquely suited to create an environment that subverts the traditional classroom setting, transforming it into a space that encourages interaction and exploration.
Read below for a few reasons why using gamification to teach STEM topics is an effective way to inspire kids to innovate into adulthood!
What makes games fun is their ability to provide a sense of gratification when we work toward and eventually complete an objective. Providing some kind of tangible reward (points, stickers, badges etc.) in exchange for completing a particular task triggers our brain reward pathway. This circuit controls the flow of dopamine, a chemical that causes us to feel pleasure in response to a given action. While this chemical is essential in regulating actions like eating and drinking, it is also released in response to completing goals. Games can simulate this very same process and tap into this powerful evolutionary reward system. Attaching lessons and learning outcomes in response to this well-researched phenomenon is an effective way to inject a great deal of excitement into your lessons.
According to famed educator and psychologist Carol Dweck, one of the keys to creating successful learning outcomes is to help cultivate a growth mindset – the belief that intelligence and ability can be developed. As opposed to a fixed mindset which promotes the idea that one’s abilities are static, students who have a growth mindset develop a desire to continuously learn and improve. Because games encourage players to compete both against each other and against themselves, the incentive to improve is always present. In this context, students who might typically be uninterested in STEM subjects can develop an attachment to the game played in the service of teaching these themes.
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