How Staged Learning Benefits from the Motivation of Gamification

by EdCircuit Staff

by Jim Britt

Staged learning is a strategy that breaks the learning task into discrete steps, or stages, that are mastered sequentially leading to the demonstration of understanding of more and more complex concepts as the process progresses. Rewards are embedded at each stage of the process to keep students motivated and engaged. Our new Sentence Analytics software is one example of staged learning in action: It starts with the simple subject/verb sentence form and over the course of 50 mini-lessons advances the student to being able to diagram and comprehend compound-complex sentences with a variety of subordinate clauses and different types of modifiers.

Why Is Motivation Important to Student Success?

two girls with a tabletThe process of learning something new requires a lot of effort. Just watch a baby learning to take her first steps or remember how hard it was to learn to play a musical instrument or learn a second language. Why would anyone desire to continue doing something that is so hard? The rewards that accompany success provide motivation. Without these rewards, people become discouraged and disengaged. At this point, the desire to continue learning stops, and may not rekindle without external intervention. Over the past 30 years, the gaming industry has developed many ingenious researched-based strategies that keep gamers engaged. “Game players regularly exhibit persistence, risk-taking, attention to detail and problem solving, all behaviors that ideally would be regularly demonstrated in school.” (The Education Arcade at MIT, 2012) The desire to spend the time and effort to complete another few exercises is frequently what separates students who pass from those who fail. So, what are some of these factors that spur motivation?

  • Progression: See success visualized incrementally by utilizing levels and points.
  • Investment: Feel pride in your work in the game through achievements such as public recognition for completing work, or collaborating with others.
  • Cascading Information Theory: Unlock information continuously by use of infinite play which allows learning to continue until mastery is achieved, and synthesis which allows gamers to work on challenges that require multiple skills to solve.

That such strategies are successful at motivating gamers is undeniable: over 28 million people harvest their crops on Farmville every day, over five million play an average of 45 hours a week of games, and as a planet, we spend 3 billion hours a week playing video and computer games. (The Gamification of Education, Knewton Infographics, 2017)

gaming controllerHow is motivation a strength of staged learning?

As we have mentioned, students and gamers who remain on task for extended periods of time reap rewards that those who spend less time do not receive. In the classroom, this lack of time on task can have heavy consequences that could last a lifetime. In the United States, 1.2 million students fail to graduate from high school every year. (Joey Lee and Jessica Hammer, Columbia Teachers College) Such students are at high risk of disengaging and eventually dropping out of school. This comes at a high cost to the individuals in the loss of income and opportunity and to society in the loss of more highly trained individuals prepared to tackle the compounding problems of the 21st Century.

In the staged learning model we employ, students can see their progress visually as they complete each mini-lesson. They are recognized among the learning community for their achievements as they happen and can collaborate with others to achieve goals. Additionally, with our software, the students can engage continuously until they achieve mastery of the mini-lesson. Finally, the lesson structure is based on the synthesis model that requires students to utilize prior knowledge to master the next lesson. The overarching goal is to keep students engaged until they master the material. They will then be in a better position to achieve success in school and in life.

  1. SI News – Students need motivation, and ‘gamification’ could be the key
  2. edCircuit – Longtime Educator Says U.S. Education Guilty of Majoring in the Minors
  3. Forbes – The Intersection of Learning and Fun: Gamification in Education

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