Author Archive: GrantMac


Looking through the attributes of a good game it is obvious that several of them are connected with motivation. Teachers know that motivation is at the core of effective learning and one of the main complaints I hear around the staff room (expressed in a number of ways) is the lack of students’ motivation.  Fishman points out that students don’t lack motivation, they are just not always motivated towards our learning goals.

A key theory of motivation is Achievement Goal Theory. AGT identifies three types of motivational orientations:

  1. Mastery Orientation. These students are motivated to achieve mastery in their learning. This is the preferred type of motivation and leads to better learning outcomes.
  2. Performance Approach Orientation. These students are motivated to look good. this may mean a student strives for an A to look good, but if in their peer group a C looks good, then that will be their goal.
  3. Performance Avoidance Orientation. These students are motivated not to look bad. They will be satisfied with any mark that doesn’t make them look dumb, or failing that they will try to hide their performance.

Research has found that the orientation is an indicator of success, with mastery orientation supporting the best learning outcomes and performance avoidance the worst. Surprisingly, it has been discovered at Michigan University that Gameful Learning design mutes the effect of performance orientations.

Students may still [have that performance orientation], but you’ve created a safe space for them to feel like they can accomplish what they want to accomplish, and not let their performance drive be … what’s really ruling their decision making.

Barry Fishman

So in summary, Gameful Learning Design overcomes motivation orientations which are limiting effective learning.

At this point in the MOOC I was starting to get very excited about Gameful Learning, as I could see that my intuitive sense that gameful design improved learning was supported by research findings and learning theory.

Next we will move on to look at motivation and ‘flow states’.

What is Gameful Learning?

I am currently working through a MOOC led by Barry Fishman and offered through EdX by University of Michigan on Gameful Learning.

I have written previously on Gamification and Game-Based Learning and while this can be effective, it concerned me that there is a danger that (for the students) the learning activity might become more about winning the game than learning. This is  true for Game-based Learning and badly designed Gamification. One of the things that attracted me to research Gameful Learning is that it seemed to be a way of keeping the positive aspects of Gamified Learning while maintaining learning as the goal for students.

In developing the principles of Gameful Learning Fishman has progressed Gamification and made connections with other learning theories such as Vigotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development and theories about motivation including Achievement Goal Theory.

School is a game

What is a game? Fishman does some analysis of games and concludes that there are  key elements that define a game.

  1. A games has rules. These may not necessarily make any sense in the real world, but they are consistent within the game.
  2. A game has goals.
  3. A game has its own context or environment.

Looking at this definition we can see that school is a game, just not a very good or well designed one.

Looking at this from the other direction, games are good teachers. It is just that what they teach is often not very useful.

The core of Fishman’s MOOC is about redesigning learning so that it is a good game rather than a bad one.

In my next post I will investigate the principles of a good game.

Why complete year 12?

There has been much discussion lately in Tasmania about student retention and attainment in the final years of secondary school.The state government have established programs such as the 11/12 extension of High Schools and a review of 9-12 education to plan for and encourage student retention and attainment. Other groups such as the Education Ambassadors and events such as The Hothouse , represent a community focus on Secondary School completion.

This policy and community activity is in response to a slowly increasing level of TCE (graduation certificate) completion, which reached a disappointing 50.8% in 2015.

In spite of this there is anecdotal evidence that a large proportion of the regional Tasmanian community still view TCE completion as a worthy secondary objective, behind gaining employment.

In response I would like to put forward some reasons why it is important for students to complete year 12 and gain their TCE, even at the expense of a couple of years in the workforce. These comments are based on a brochure produced by the Department of Education.

Increasingly, career opportunities in the future will be based on non-routine problem solving. The best preparation for this is to complete a quality general education including literacy, numeracy, ICT and  21st Century skills such as collaboration, problem solving, knowledge construction etc. Completing secondary education improves these skills.

In the past (last century) most people would enter the workforce and continue working in the same area using the same basic skills throughout their working life. This is no longer the case and most employees will change jobs and industries a number of times. Even within the same job, technology brings changes. Each change requires new learning and new skills. A solid general education provides a basis for adapting and efficiently developing new skills as they are needed.

Most employers agree that they would rather employ a person who has completed year 12. They find that year 12 graduates are more skilled and more mature that those that have left school at the end of grade 10.

Completing grade 12 opens up more employment opportunities and choices. It also opens up more highly paid and interesting jobs.

With employment comes money and financial independence, so it is not difficult to understand why young people find a job offer tempting at the end of grade 10. On the other hand, however, staying at school will provide better opportunities and a better lifestyle into the future.