Game based learning

Games have forever had an impact on education but games based learning is an environment in which game content and play develops knowledge and skills, challenging students and providing a sense of achievement (Qian & Clark, 2016). Academic literature has found that games within education have been found to have a key role in students’ engagement (Hamari, Shernoff, Roew, Coller, Asbell-Clarke & Edwards, 2016; Pernin, Mariasis, Michau, Emin, Martinez & Mandran, 2014).


As teachers it is important to recognise the features of an effective educational game, to ensure that students engage not just for enjoyment, but for learning (Mayer, 2016). Kao, Chiang and Sun (2017) note that effective features of educational games include goals, interactivity, feedback and challenges. Specifically, challenges engage and motivate students (Kao, Chiang and Sun, 2017; Perrin et al., 2014), while challenges are adaptable to students’ prior knowledge and abilities (Mayer, 2016).

When effective use is made of games based education students are able to gain many 21st century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, cooperative learning and a positive learning environment (Hamari et al.,  2016; Barzilai & Blau, 2014). By having tangible challenges students are able to maintain engagement and have a sense of achievement and self pride, which ultimately leads to positive attitudes throughout the classroom through situated learning which can allow students to take their learning beyond the classroom. 

This video highlights the features of Games based learning and how it is different to Gamification. 

Games based learning engages students creativity through use of problem solving and critical thinking skills (Barzalai & Blau, 2014), by providing students with opportunities to utilise divergent thinking in cooperative learning experiences.

An example of a useful educational game is Minecraft. Minecraft is a game that engages students in critical decision making, and divergent thinking. Minecraft created an Education Edition, which allows teachers to align the game play with curriculum objectives and learning outcomes (mayer, 2016). Minecraft allows teachers to share their own classroom experiences and lesson plans, in a range of subjects, such as Writing. An effective lesson using Minecraft may include having students write a plan for their Minecraft Narrative they will ultimately create. Students can adapt their narratives as they play, according to the challenges they face. This lesson strategy can be done in collaborative teams or individually.


When effective games-based learning is implemented there is cohesion between the curriculum and content, while allowing students to engage in challenging problem solving and creative thinking.

This video provides further insights into how Minecraft is changing the way students are learning. 



Barzilai, & Blau. (2014). Scaffolding game-based learning: Impact on learning achievements, perceived learning, and game experiences. Computers & Education, 70, 65-79.

Gamelearn (2014). What is game-based learning? Retrieved from

Hamari, Shernoff, Rowe, Coller, Asbell-Clarke, & Edwards. (2016). Challenging games help students learn: An empirical study on engagement, flow and immersion in game-based learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 170-179.

Kao, Chiang, & Sun. (2017). Customizing scaffolds for game-based learning in physics: Impacts on knowledge acquisition and game design creativity. Computers & Education, 113, 294-312.

Mayer, R. E. (2016). What Should Be the Role of Computer Games in Education?. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(1), 20-26.

Minecraft: Education Edition. (2016). Minecraft: Education Edition. Retrieved from

Pernin, J., Mariais, C., Michau, F., Emin-Martinez, V., & Mandran, N. (2014). Using game mechanisms to foster GBL designers’ cooperation and creativity. Int. J. of Learning Technology, 9(2), 139.

Qian, & Clark. (2016). Game-based Learning and 21st century skills: A review of recent research. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 50-58.


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