Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Art of Teaching: How to Inspire Participation and Motivation through Gamification (Part 1)

Many teachers, when learning teaching techniques, encounter their first obstacle: "It's useless! They don't participate in the teaching activities I design!" "Whenever I ask the students anything, they don't move and just silently watch me." "Group discussions? They don't even discuss! Many are just chatting, presenting something random on stage, and then quickly stepping down." I believe this is a major challenge faced by many teachers and lecturers!

Let me first clarify that even for professional trainers whose participants come from large corporations, the attitude before the class is quite similar. Over 80% take a neutral or defensive attitude towards the upcoming course. We have already briefly described this in a previous article. If you don't believe it, the most common pre-class scenes I've encountered during my past ten years of experience include:

"I've been busy lately; I want to finish my work first." (Status: computer open)

"Who's the teacher? What class is this?" (Status: flipping through the lecture notes)

"Why am I assigned to this class? Do I have any problems?" (Status: visibly unhappy)

"I'll find a better seat later, so the teacher won't call on me." (Status: sitting further back)

"Don't bother me; I'm in a bad mood!" (Status: not even looking at the teacher)

Not to mention that in many high-tech companies, engineers tend to have a cold demeanor (calm? cold-hearted? XD). The initial "intimidating" and "silent" atmosphere can send chills down the spines of lecturers on stage. In other words, encountering unresponsive students at the beginning of a class is a daily routine for corporate trainers! (Note: Participants in public classes are generally more enthusiastic since they paid for the course themselves. Teaching public classes feels like a vacation for professional trainers XD)

If you still can't imagine, let me put it more bluntly: "If your audience consists of directors and managers from listed companies, managing hundreds of people and responsible for billions in revenue, do you think... they have the willingness or motivation to listen to you or participate in your teaching activities?" (What weapons do you have at hand? Deducting points? Failing them? You don't even have the advantage of being the landlord!)

I'm not trying to scare anyone, but simply to present the real challenges that corporate trainers face in their daily teaching environments. These challenges differ from those encountered in schools, but both settings have their unique difficulties. Neither is more difficult or easier than the other.

However, true experts can quickly transform the classroom environment into a conducive learning space through simple arrangements. This technique can be called "gamification of teaching!" Through the gamification process, the above difficult scenarios turn into the following:

When I ask, "Which group wants to go first?" hands shoot up, and everyone is eager to take the stage!

When I ask, "What's your opinion?" in a lecture with 350 people, many hands are raised.

When I say, "Please be ready to present in 10 minutes," the room goes quiet as everyone frantically prepares.

When I announce the rules, the executives tell their teammates, "You must get first place!" (putting pressure on the participants XD)

These transformations are seen in teaching environments after implementing course gamification!

"Gamification" refers to the application of core game elements in non-gaming fields to enhance participation motivation and improve user performance. Gamification is not equivalent to games, computer software, or simulation games. "Gamification of teaching" applies these elements to the teaching environment. Common gamification elements include Points, Badges, and Leaderboards (PBL).  Since we're not delving into an academic discussion, I'll only briefly mention the background of gamification (I've read a lot about it while writing my thesis) without going into the theoretical foundations.

Gamification, in fact, originates from practical applications! Starting with FourSquare in 2010, it gained much attention and sparked numerous discussions, leading to the development of theoretical frameworks and research. However, our application of gamification in teaching began over ten years ago! It just so happens that we can use gamification as a simple way to explain the motivational techniques we employ in our teaching. That's why it's called "gamification of teaching."

How is gamification implemented?  I'll save that for the next article :). Many things seem simple, but doing them well is far from easy! For now, try guessing: What are the most important core elements in the gamification of teaching? (For example, the scoring mechanism? Or something else?) Or, from another perspective, which aspects, if neglected, might cause course gamification to fail?

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