Gamification in the classroom: The importance of feedback

In our household, the end of summer is capped off with a visit to Science World in Vancouver, B.C.  For the kids it’s a chance to spend the day playing amongst exhibits, simulators and demonstrations.  For me it’s a chance to see how my own instructional practice stacks up against the highly engaging learning environment of this science and discovery centre.  With this most recent visit, it provided an opportunity to see how gamification is employed throughout the exhibit floor and how the concept of feedback is a critical gaming mechanism.  With that said the concept of feedback is certainly not new to educators.  However in a gamified setting feedback helps to drive engagement and ultimately encourages the participant to “try it again”.

[box] “The feedback system tells the player how close they are to achieving the goal. It can take the form of points, levels, a score, or a progress bar. Or, in its most basic form, the feedback system can be as simple as the players’ knowledge of an objective outcome: “The game is over when…” Real-time feedback serves as a promise to the players that goal is definitely achievable, and it provides motivation to keep playing.” – Jane McGonigal (Reality is Broken)[/box]

So what did I learn about the power of feedback in the gamified setting of Science World?  And in our exploration of gamification in the classroom, how can we use feedback and assessment to drive learning and engagement?

Feedback was…

Using competition as a way to illustrate proper rowing drive
In order to illustrate how to maximize the power of a rowing stroke, participants engage in a rowing race with the a screen providing instant feedback as to who was winning the race. Ultimately, participants figured out that it was critical to use the legs as the initial driving force for the stroke.

Quick and instant

What helps to make the hands-on exhibits so engaging is the fact that the participant does not have to wait long to see the result or outcome of their attempt and effort. In many instances the feedback was instantaneous, allowing the participant to try again almost immediately.

Brief and easy to understand

Similarly, feedback was brief and easy to understand. Many times the feedback was presented in different ways through graphics, video and even sound. Ultimately if the feedback was to be of any use to the participant it was important that the information was brief yet easy to interpret.

Making feedback social
By keeping feedback brief, relevant and easy to understand, simply allowing others to see and share in the feedback created a very social atmosphere where other participants could learn from each other. In many exhibits, feedback was merely diplayed on a larger screen so others could view it as well.

Relevant and detailed

If feedback is to be brief in length then it needs to be concise and relevant to the task or activity at hand. The exhibits were extremely effective in staying on point and only providing feedback that was specific to the participant, their particular task and their current point of progress.

Relevant feedback also helps to inform the next attempt. Along with feedback that outlined what was done correctly or incorrectly, many of the exhibit activities also provided feedback on what participants could try differently on their next attempt. This type of feedback ultimately makes it difficult for one to simply leave an activity after just one try.


Similar to the classic leaderboard posted on the screen of our favourite arcade video game, there were many interactive exhibits that made the point of sharing the results of previous participants.  In some cases it was meant as a way to generate some friendly competition and further drive the need to improve one’s previous performance.  In other cases, it presented a fascinating perspective in recognizing the diversity in the perceptions and attitudes of other people.  It generated a type of community around the exhibit and encouraged participants to watch and learn from what others were doing.

Ideas for Technology Integration

It wouldn’t be a technology blog if there was no mention of some tech!  Whether in Science World or in a classroom, designing different mechanisms of feedback provides a compelling opportunity for the integration of technology.  In looking at the exhibits at Science World, technology was instrumental in providing instantaneous feedback that was brief, easy to understand and social.  Enhancing feedback through technology is a powerful place to start for those of us who are continually looking to find ways to effectively integrate technology in the classroom.


– K. Takahashi








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