Back in February, Dr. Sean Fitzpatrick shared his plans to "gamify" his Sports Psychology class he taught this spring. Now, he's back to share reflect on the experience and provide some tips for others thinking about this teaching strategy.
To read his original post, click here.
Earlier this year, I was asked to write a post describing the changes I was making to one of my classes. I had decided to Gamify my upper-level, elective, Sport Psychology course. In that post, I promised I’d a follow-up with an update at the end of the semester with notes on how things went and lessons for others who might be interested in implementing some of the approaches I adopted.
It seems to make sense, to begin with the obvious question: did gamifying my class work? In the tired-and-true academic fashion, I’m afraid that answering that question is not simple; I have to explore several other issues (if you’ve witness academics asking questions during a conference presentation, this should be of no surprise).
1) Did the gaming elements of the class increase students’ motivation, interest, and effort?
Motivation: maybe; interest: I think so; effort: hard to say. The many elements of gaming that were included provided more choice to students and added a sense of competition to the course. Throughout the course, there were moments, mostly during small group work, when I would observe students and think to myself “wow, they’re really interested in the topic and are having some awesome conversations.” These are the moments that bevy my confidence to continue with this approach in future semesters. The downside of this is that since these moments came mostly during group work, determining effort was impaired. I know several students were working very hard. I also know that several students in groups did minimal work on group assignments. I doubt the antidote to this is designing better gaming elements, but I don’t think it was the problem.
2) Did the approach improve student learning?
This is, of course, the only question that matters. It’s also the question that faculty and institutions have quarreled with since the inception of higher learning (here’s an unsolicited recommendation for your summer reading list, it’s written well and is surprisingly funny at times). In some ways, my students’ learning improved considerably, in others, not so much. The learning was more in-depth, but narrower than in past semesters. It was also more scattered. We covered significantly less material due to the amount of class time devoted to the case studies that were the crux of the role-playing elements of the course. What we did cover, through the critical application of the material in their case studies, students gained a better understanding. Most of the cases used dice-rolling to develop the scenarios, which means that within a unit groups were exploring slightly different topics, making the learning more scattered. My need moving forward is to develop a broad, summative assessment in the course that measures the learning outcome I am most concerned with: students’ ability to critically consider and apply sport psychology theories and skills. I’m less concerned with what skills and theories they chose to engage with—this is the privilege of an upper-level elective course. I will not have a faculty in the next sequenced course complaining that students didn’t learn X or Y in my class.
3) Do I plan on doing this again?
Absolutely. Several improvements are needed, but after three drastically different iterations of this course, I will keep the structure in place for next year. Chief among my changes is to better balance group work with individual work. The in-class case studies were done in groups, as were the mid-term and final. Students could also select to complete their more significant out of class projects in groups, though they did not have to. I’m considering adding in another assessment element that better illuminates individual learning, unit quizzes, or learning journals are among the ideas I’m evaluating.
If this approach is something you’re considering, I’ll leave you with a one other suggestion: Don’t be afraid to bring in just a few gaming elements.
Choice, chance, and competition can quickly be brought in to most courses without having to overhaul the entire structure. I was genuinely surprised at how invested students became when they had to roll dice in class. They did this weekly to put together case studies (here’s an example) and I also had them do it for their midterm and final. Each group selected one question from the exam, which was essay based. Once all groups answered their questions, I compiled the responses and sent them back to the groups. Groups could then modify the responses to other groups’ questions, as they saw fit. Groups selected which item they answered based on the roll of a dice (i.e., the highest roll chose first). There were groans and cheers aplenty during these moments. Groans and cheers do not necessarily mean increased motivation, interest, or learning, but sometimes it’s ok to have fun.
Written by Sean Fitzpatrick
Sean is an Assistant Professor in Exercise and Sport Science at Marian University in Fond du Lac, WI. His background is in Sport and Exercise Psychology and he teaches a wide variety of classes including Sociology of Sport, Research Methods, and Exercise Psychology. In one of his current DnD campaigns, he plays E.L., a head-strong half-elf ranger (E.L. as in EL Fudge Cookies; Sean thinks he’s funnier than he actually is).
Contact Sean: Sjfitzpatrick02@marianuniversity.edu