Annotated Literature Review

Problem of Practice: How does gamification in the classroom impact the development of grit?

Banfield, J., & Wilkerson, B. (2014). Increasing Student Intrinsic Motivation And Self-Efficacy Through Gamification Pedagogy . Contemporary Issues In Education Research , 291-298.

This study was designed to evaluate the impact of gamification in the form of experiential learning theory in the context of teaching system engineering and information assurance to undergraduate level university systems administration courses. Specifically, the study aimed to measure increases in motivation and student’s belief in his/her own ability. The qualitative methods entailed mainly student interviews following introduction of the new approach. The study concluded that the use of gamification pedagogy resulted in increased motivation, comprehension, and self-confidence in the students surveyed.

The methodology seems solid. Of primary concern is that the definition of gamification appears to be different from what is generally accepted. A major focus of this study was measuring the impact of experiential learning strategies. In the context of computer science and data security, the results clearly show that using experiential learning techniques does yield better engagement and increased learning. It is not clear if the experiential learning was presented in the form of a game. The study did suggest a further line of research, namely whether gamification is more effective in some disciplines than in others.

Bonfiglio, R. A. (2017). Grit is Not Enough. About Campus, 29-31.

This article discusses the results of paying too much attention to the development of “grit.” He contends that there are other qualities that contribute to success and that focusing on grit changes a person’s mindset in possibly negative ways. He indicates that the overreliance on resilience deemphasizes relationship building and fails to recognize the value of other characteristics such as empathy and forgiveness. He suggests that if “determination, drive, and persistence…were the sole qualities of success, toddlers would rule the world.” Finally, he challenges educators to define what the end goal is in education, namely to build gritty, resilient isolationists or to build interconnected, mutually reliant individuals.

This piece is more of a op ed rather than a solid piece of research. The author does have credibility and the article is interesting but the content of the piece is a little off target. The research question is not whether grit is valuable or important. It is a question that should receive more attention but is not part of the scope of this project.

Chou, Y.-K. (2014, February 10). Gamification to Improve Our World: Yu-Kai Chou. Retrieved from TedxLausanne:

In this Ted Talk, Yu-kai Chou describes his theory of core motivation drivers. He discusses the prevalence of gaming and the composition of gamers. He moves on to define gamification as more than points, badges, and leaderboards, and discusses the elements that make a game fun. The bulk of the talk centers around his analysis of the core drivers of motivation called “Octalysis.” This system sets up eight core motivators in a basic octagonal shape. The motivators are epic meaning and calling, development and accomplishment, empowerment of creativity and feedback, ownership and possession, social influence and relatedness, unpredictability and curiosity, and loss and avoidance. Within the octagon, the left side describes more extrinsic or external motivators while the right side describes intrinsic or internal motivators. In addition, the top of the octagon includes positive motivators and the bottom negative motivators. Any good, engaging game will include a balance of the four quadrants. Chou concludes that gamification design is a complex process that can never include a one size fits all solution.

The explication of gamer motivations was well considered. He reiterated the theme of gamification as being complicated and more than just game elements but went further in identifying what successful gamification could look like. He provided games as examples of the primary drivers to clarify his definitions. It would have been interesting and helpful if he had provided some example of games that used multiple core motivators to see what that could look like. Also, the talk lacked a foundation of basic research to support his theories, which would have provided additional legitimacy to his system.

Chujitarom, W., & Piriyasurawong, P. (2018). STEAM-GAAR Field Learning Model to Enhance Grit . International Education Studies, 23-33.

This article focused on the development and evaluation of a system combining gamification, animation, and augmented reality to teach STEAM, science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, with the goal of enhancing grit. The authors located ten specialists, two in each relevant field – instructional design, STEAM educators, animation, and augmented reality – to evaluate the model. The specialists reviewed the model, specifically looking to determine its effectiveness in helping students develop grit and then completed an evaluation form. The ten specialists agreed that the integrated system was viable.

This study was well-designed although the results are of limited use. The authors did not apply their researched process on test subjects to determine the validity of their process, although that may be the next step. The results defined in this paper are limited to the opinions of their expert analysts. They assume that gamification will in fact stimulate interest and enhance the factors the lead to developing grit based on expert opinion. The approach is novel and logically should produce the desired results but that does not always happen. The authors will be publishing a second paper in February that may contain the results of a study. If the second paper is indeed the results of the study, this article would be of greater relevance.

Crede, M. (2018). What Shall We Do About Grit? A Critical Review of What We Know and What We Don’t Know. Educational Researcher, 606-611.

This article discusses the recent surge of interest in the impact of grit on success. The author explains that the basic tenets of grit as defined by Angela Duckworth have little basis in research and that grit appears to be a repackaging of what is commonly known as conscientiousness. Further, there appears to be no strong correlation between grit and success with other predictors of performance more closely tied to success. In addition, there is some question as to whether interventions to enhance grit are effective or even desirable. Throughout the article further research possibilities are identified.

This article answers the question of whether grit is important or not in an unexpected way. The idea that grit is simply a rebranding of other personality traits is interesting though not a surprise. The contention that interventions to increase passion or perseverance have been undertaken and are not effective is both surprising and important in this research. The question of whether trying to cultivate passion is even desirable adds another layer of uncertainty to the core question.

Dicheva, D., Dichev, C., Agre, G., & Angelova, G. (2015). Gamification in Education: A Systematic Mapping Study . Educational Technology & Society, 75-88.

This article provides an analysis of the existing empirical research on the use of gamification in education. The papers reviewed are limited to specific categories, including design principles, mechanics, context of application, implementation, and evaluation. The article discusses future directions for gamification as well as obstacles, including technological support and a need for research on the impact of gamification. The authors found that the most popular design principles were individual and group challenges where competition created social engagement. It was noted that most of the gamification of education and reported research was conducted in science, engineering, information and computer technology at the college level/

In spite of continued issues with finding common definitions, this article provides good working definitions and solid psychological reasons for using games in teaching and learning. In addition, the identification and evaluation of a body of current research in the field could be very helpful. The main limitation of this article is that it does not deal specifically with the development of grit characteristics and is relevant mostly to classes in higher education.

Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York: Scribner.

This book states that the secret to achievement is effort rather than talent. It is through a mix of passion and perseverance that the author labels “grit” that exceptional people excel. Examples of grit in action come from West Point, teachers, National Spelling Bee finalists, JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, and Pete Carroll. Key messages from the book are the facts that effort counts twice towards any goal, that grit can be learned, regardless of circumstance, that lifelong interest is the result of cultivation, and that doing hard things prepares a person to do more hard things.

This book is the main source for information on what grit is and how it is developed and is a foundational source to answer the research question. One question that surfaces in reviewing this book is whether the focus on developing grit can be over-emphasized. Another question is whether grit is a new concept or an old concept wrapped in new terminology. Finally, the research to date on this topic is somewhat limited.

Emel’yanenkoa, V. D., Vetoshkoa, A. N., Malinnikova, S. G., Malashenkoa, I. V., & Vetoshkob, L. I. (2016). Man’s Values and Ideologies as a Basis of Gamification . International Journal of Environmental & Science Education , 12576-12592.

This article investigates the impact of values and ideology in the application of gamification through an analysis of the literature available. The authors contend that the consequences for using games for learning have not been adequately studied. In addition, the authors claim that the success of gamification is based on the level of a person’s character development and motivation to learn. Theories and understandings of gamification and its value are presented along with the problems presented by using gamification.

This article could be useful however the consistent use of “in our opinion” is troubling. The authors present a well balanced view of positive and negative impressions of gamification. They appear to be trying to convey that individual motivation is more important in the learning process than whether games are used to teach. They conclude that gamification is most useful in improving motivation for already motivated students which implies that gamification is not an effective strategy for engaging unmotivated students. The primary issue with this article is that it relies on a literature review for its conclusions. If the authors were to undertake a study, the results would be stronger.

Eser, C., & Ozdamh, F. (2017). What “Gamification” is and what it’s not. European Journal of Contemporary Education, 221-228.

This article defines the meanings of terms like games, gamification, and game based learning. The author establishes that the terms are not consistently used to describe the same things and that such confusion is problematic when attempting to account for differences in results in various disciplines, especially when use of gamification is increasing. The article includes a literature review, a survey of gamification applications currently available, and general applications of gamification, both now and in the future.

This article is useful in terms of establishing basic definitions. The discussion of different gamification apps is interesting while the evaluation of gamification’s efficacy now and potential applications for the future was fairly well balanced if a bit limited. The conclusions were suitable for a survey article but lacked depth. The author claims that clarifying terminology is necessary in order to make research about gamification meaningful, which may be true but is only useful if the definitions provided are universally adopted.

Gerber, H. R. (2017). How Gamification Misses the Mark: Playing through Failure. Soft(a)ware in the English Classroom, 88-90.

This article focuses on why gamers play through failure. The author contends that gamification trends currently do not consider this. Failure is central to well-designed video games and encourages experimentation, reflection, and adaptation. Players are encouraged to consider why a strategy did not work and adjust to compensate. When those principles are applied to education, it means rethinking how we ask students to manage incorrect answers. The current approach is to ask students to redo the work until it is correct or simply accepting that the answer is wrong. That approach needs to be reframed so that a student considers how the answer was incorrect and how a correct answer could be formulated. In other words, failure needs to be converted to experimentation in planning, instruction, and assessment.

The most compelling part of this article is the focus on reframing failure. Are students are less engaged in school because the content is uninteresting, because they are unengaged because they are afraid to fail, or is this the result of a combination of the issues? Student relationship to failure seems to be critically important and raises the question of whether gamification can be applied in a way that addresses both issues? If the aspect of gaming that promotes a willingness to fail could be transferred to the classroom, gamification would be an excellent technique to use in transforming education. No such technique as been identified and the research has not been done but the idea is intriguing.

Hung, A. C. (2017). A Critique and Defense of Gamification. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 57-72.

This article addresses the main criticisms of gamification and discusses ways of implementing meaningful gamification to enhance student performance, engagement, and motivation. Game-based leaning is discussed along with serious games, learning by design, and general gamification. Proponents of gamification focus mostly on game elements or the building blocks of games with no intent to create a full-fledged game. The mechanics alone are seen as sufficient to achieve the desired goals. The author claims that the term gamification is too broad to be useful and that it is difficult to identify what aspect of gamification contributed most to any achievements. Opponents of gamification claim that it is no more than exploitationware that attempts to replace real incentives with artificial ones and damages the development of social relationships.  Examples are provided of classrooms utilizing gamification in effective ways and in marginally effective ways. The article concludes with specific suggestions on how to incorporate gamification in an approachable manner along with questions for future research.

This article was well balanced in its presentation of both sides of the debate as well as addressing the limitations and difficulties of implementing gamification. Of greatest interest was the statement that while gamification increased engagement, motivation, and interest, it did not appear to improve grades. That fact alone does not make gamification irrelevant but it does raise the question of what impact it does have. If the result of gamification is not content acquisition, what is it promoting? The information in this article could be extremely relevant to the research question however, it is not based on a specific study. It does reference a number of studies which could provide leads to other sources.

Hung, A. C. (2018). Gamification as Design Thinking. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 549-559.

This article focuses on the application of gamification to a particular class, specifically how the professor designed the parameters and evaluated the results. The purpose of the exercise was to more deeply engage learners in a blended philosophy of technology class that had proven to be confusing for students. The professor framed the problem using design thinking, focusing on the people at the center of the issue, and then applied selected elements of gamification to his existing class by using existing tools and layering the gamified elements over existing curriculum. He determined that the process was successful in terms of engaging his students and in making him a more reflective practitioner.  

The process of adding gamified elements to the classroom was of particular interesting. Because of the way the author structured the gamified elements, it was possible to see how his system could easily be implemented in any classroom. Specific activities that contribute to the development of grit could be emphasized or incentivized. The usefulness of this article to the current research would be less about proving that game elements support the development of grit and more about how individual characteristics could be targeted for improvement. The article was written in a fairly anecdotal style. The methodology seemed solid and well described but the results were framed more as a reflection on his teaching journey.

Jauregi, K. (2016). Telecollaborative games for youngsters: impact on motivation. CALL communities and culture – short papers from EUROCALL 2016 (pp. 201-207).

This study involved a group of Dutch and British secondary students learning German. They were asked to collaborate in a game setting in a virtual environment. There were five rooms set up in the game with different challenges that required the students to work together to solve the puzzles. The students scored well in the game environment, expressed enjoyment with the activity, and were open to the concept of playing to learn. In particular the students were particularly interested in the cross-cultural aspect of the activity. The researchers were confused and troubled by the initial attitudes of the respective groups, namely that the Dutch students were enthusiastic from the beginning of the exercise while the British students were cautious but quickly became engaged. They were unable to explain the shift in competence from Dutch to British and mentioned the result several times.

This study details a specific case and relates to the effectiveness of gamification on learning and motivation. The drawback of the study is that it was relatively small and the activity only took place once. It would be more compelling if the researchers had investigated this with more students using more modules over a period of time. One result from the study that was interesting and not explained was the role of culture in the effectiveness of the gamification. Specifically that the Dutch students embraced the new approach immediately and had great success while the British students took additional time to accept the strategy but then surpassed the Dutch students in terms of learning. It was an unexpected result that troubled the researchers and one they were unable to even begin to explain. That seems to point to a weakness in their ability to creatively analyze their results.  

Kingsley, T. L., & Grabner-Hagen, M. M. (2015). Gamification Questing to Integrate Content, Knowledge, Literacy, and 21st Century Learning. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 51-61.

This article discusses the application of gamification to an elementary science class. The teacher converted his entire curriculum to 3D Gamelab, which allowed his students to cover different units at their own pace. Students choose from an array of project options. Once a project was completed, they were provided the opportunity to move to the next level of the unit and make additional choices. The assignments encouraged the development of interdisciplinary and 21st century skills. Overall the students performed at a higher level and were generally more engaged. The author concluded that gamification supports new literacies as well as improving instruction.

The major strength of this article is that the target audience is at the elementary level. There are not many studies for this age range. The major weakness is the lack of crossover with the development of grit. Higher levels of engagement speak indirectly to increased motivation but not to the impact long-term. Simply raising engagement or increasing motivation for a single task does not answer the question about grit. It is a nice graphic example, however. Another weakness of this approach is the conversion of the entire curriculum to an electronic platform. It is a dramatic, all-encompassing action that is only repeatable in a science class with a technically capable teacher.

Lynch, M. (2018, February 1). Gamification is a Key to Motivating Students. Retrieved from Education Week:

This article focuses on the value of gamification in the classroom. The author makes a distinction between game-based teaching and game-informed teaching, arguing that the most useful application for games is in increasing motivation. Gamification allows teachers to divide lessons up into stages and to provide some reward for the completion of each stage. Breaking down assignments into more manageable pieces makes the task seem more achievable and affords opportunities for incremental rewards. In addition, gamifying the classroom allows students to leverage the trial and error approach used while gaming rather than being paralyzed by a fear of failure. In gaming, failing is expect and is not a reason to stop playing. By applying this attitude in an educational environment, students have the opportunity to change their relationship with failure to see it as a part of learning in school. Finally, gamification also provides teachers the chance to individualize lessons to meet the needs of different students.

This article brought a unique perspective to light, namely the relationship between students and failure in a gaming environment versus an educational environment. That one benefit alone appears to make gamifying a classroom worth the effort. It also provides solid reasoning for why gamification could be so powerful in helping students to develop grit. Gamification is frequently used to enhance engagement and motivation but it could be used to help students develop a healthy relationship with failure in education. The other reasons for using gamification were also interesting and seemed solid. Again, the main weakness was that there were no sources to ground the article in research. Everything stated makes sense and seems reasonable but does not list sources. It would be helpful to know where the claims originate. In terms of this research, this article could be extremely beneficial. While grit is not specifically mentioned in the article, the argument could be made that changing the student’s relationship to failure could change everything and create the expectation of perseverance in everyday activities.

Nordby, A., Øygardslia, K., Sverdrup, U., & Sverdrup, H. (2016). The art of Gamification; Teaching Sustainability and System Thinking by Pervasive Game Development. The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 152-168.

This article relates the details of a project from Hedmark University College that involved the creation of a pervasive game. Computer science students from the college learned the principles of system thinking, pervasive game design, and sustainability in order to develop a computer game for elementary students. The game was play tested by a class of fifth grade students. Both the college students and the elementary students demonstrated significant engagement and content comprehension.

This article describes an intricate and well developed concept for gamification of a unit of study. Having college students design a game for elementary students leverages the learning process by allowing the unit to serve double duty. The article does not include comprehensive data analysis, which the authors state is not the purpose of the narrative. However, the observations that are included indicate gamification in this small scale example is effective at engaging students and promoting learning. The primary weakness of this study is the small size of the sample. Another possible issue is that the use of problem based learning makes determining what approach had the greatest impact difficult.

Osborne, S. (2017, August 16). Gamification is Actually About Motivation, Not Badges. Retrieved from Udemy for Business:

This article provides a brief foundation of gamification and discusses the dangers of implementing gamified elements without a solid understanding of the complex, psychological foundation of what makes games fun and effective. The authors discuss the unique effectiveness of games in the learning environment. Games draw on emotions, either because of cooperative and social elements or from the environment itself, which leads to the production of powerful long-term memories and an increase in knowledge recall. In addition, games produce dopamine and endorphins, impacting motivation and creating a sense of pleasure and well-being. In short, the authors emphasize that successful games are not based on game mechanics but on motivational drivers. The article introduces author Yu-kai Chou’s “Octalysis framework” including eight core motivation game drivers and explains how successful games and gamification rely on a balance of positive and negative motivation drivers. Finally, the authors conclude that gamification should be used judiciously and that not everything should be gamified.

This was an informative article that dealt with gamification in a slightly different fashion. Several articles have discussion motivation as a part of gamification but this is the first article that explicated the ideas in a systematic fashion. The discussion about the Octalysis framework was revealing and provided a different way to look at games and gamification. There was a thread of caution woven through the article aimed at the “bandwagoners” who are anxious to gamify everything without understanding the complexity involved. There are good and powerful reasons to leverage gamification, according to the article, but the design must be thoughtful and is not a magic solution. The main weakness of this article for scholarly research is that it was written for business. There were few statistics and no citations to show a foundation in research for the claims. For the purposes of this research, it provides a elements to to consider in designing gamification for study in a classroom, namely in terms of motivation.

Papp, T. A. (2017). Gamification Effects on Motivation and Learning: Application to Primary. International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education, 3193-3201.

This article contends that while the use of gaming to teach is often overlooked and stigmatized, it has the potential to transform uninteresting content. Gamification is legitimized by evidence-based research on learning principles and the use of play as a learning technique is supported by theories, principles, and research. The study in the article was developed to determine the influences of gamification on students and learning. The researchers presented gamification in two classrooms, one college-level business class and one fourth grade math class. Students completed a likert survey at the end of the class to provide feedback on the impact of gamification on motivation, learning outcomes, an enjoyment. Gamification in the business class was implemented as an overlay to existing curriculum. Students were divided into guilds and assigned quests to be completed as a group. Attendance was one area assigned experience points and guilds earned bonus points if the entire guild attended. The surveys indicated that social engagement among students in the class increased and that the majority of students enjoyed the gamified elements. Gamification in the fourth grade class was implemented by the researcher entering the class as a “game master” who taught students magic math tricks to improve comprehension of multiplication facts. The class realized 50-100% increases in learning outcomes with disengaged students showing the most improvement. Students reported enjoying the interaction and competition and did not view the “game master” as a teacher.

The most interesting part of this article was the section dealing with the support of research on play as learning. The common perception is that games are a waste of time and that gamers are lazy. The research supports the use of games and play as a critical element in education. The study undertaken to examine the impact of gamification on two very different classes was also interesting. The researcher acknowledged that there were limitations in the study, namely attendance with respect to the fourth grade class and the small sample size and a delay in administration of the survey for the business class. The results achieved by the “game master” and the magic math tricks were incredible. Moving from a 0% mastery of certain multiplication facts to upwards of 50% is an amazing accomplishment and reinforces the initial assessment that games can make any content interesting. A more important finding in terms of this research project is that the least engaged students improved the most and indicated both an interest and willingness to work harder to do better. Knowing that their progress would be charted on a leader board made some of the student put in more effort. It does not, however, show if that increased effort would be applied in later, non-gamified activities.

Plass, J. L., Homer, B. D., & Kinzer, C. K. (2015). Foundations of Game-Based Learning. Educational Psychologist, 258-283.

This article provides comprehensive definitions of game based learning and gamification as well as theoretical models connecting learning with play. The authors intent is to clarify that using games for learning is complex and requires a flexible, multi-perspective view. They review game design elements that aid learning through engaging in the subject matter cognitively, behaviorally, affectively, and socio-culturally and conclude that a complex combination of factors is required to fully capitalize on the benefits offered by recreational game design.

This article provides a fantastic base for understanding gamification and game based learning. It also reinforces the importance of play in learning. As most other articles, it does not explicitly connect the development of grit via gamification but connections to grit do surface within discussion of game design and learning theory.

Schell, J. (2010, February). DICE 2010: Design Outside the Box. Retrieved from Games for Change:

This video presentation from the DICE convention in 2010 details a number of gaming innovations that took the gaming world by surprise. Jesse Schell contends that the key to the success of these games is various psychological tricks and adds that the next great innovation will likely rely on something similar. He paints the picture of the world as a completely gamified entity, with technology embedded in everything we touch and every action we take assigned points, redeemable as virtual currency.

This source is not particularly scholarly but does provide a glimpse of a possible gamified future. It is peripherally related to the research topic because the underlying premise is that the world outside of school will not be gamified. If it, in fact, is gamified, then gamifying the classroom is a form of training rather than an attempt to make doing difficult things more palatable. It is technically outside the scope of the research question but does provide an avenue for relevant questions that could extend the research. That said, his premise, that people are highly motivated by extrinsic factors like points may not be universally accepted or supported by the research. His claims are backed by the amount of money made by games which owe their success to psychological hooks like extrinsic motivation.