When is Gamification in Education Not a Good Idea?

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Gamification is an increasingly popular strategy for education.

Students in the modern digital world are used to playing all kinds of games on their smartphones, consoles, and computers.

By leveraging some of the fun associated with games in the classroom, teachers can activate various parts of the brain, motivate students, and increase engagement.

In the right circumstances, a gamification strategy can make an otherwise “boring” topic feel more interesting.

Teachers can also use games to improve teamwork in the classroom and create deeper connections between students.

However, there are times when gamification might not be the right option.

If you’re wondering whether it’s appropriate to add games into your lesson, here are some examples of when it may not be a good idea.

When Teaching About Sensitive Issues

Some topics are more complicated and harder to address than others in the classroom.

Issues that tend to spark a lot of confusion and anxiety, like racial issues, inequality, and human rights are difficult and often even awkward to tackle.

Adding gamification elements to these lessons can seem like an excellent way to achieve some much-needed emotional relief.

However, gamification is about creating light-hearted moments in class.

Some topics deserve a certain level of seriousness, and in these cases, gamification would indicate a lack of respect.

When discussing sensitive issues, gamification can appear to trivialize the topic or make it out to be less important, sparking outrage from parents and communities.

If you think that the topic in question is likely to be sensitive, avoid anything that would trivialize it.

If You Don’t Have a Good Understanding of Your Students

As all teachers know, there are many kinds of students out there.

Some will respond well to the playful competition that gamification delivers. Others will find the concept of “competing” in the classroom to be uncomfortable and distracting.

Before you introduce any kind of new learning strategy into your classroom, from AR and VR to games, make sure you know your students enough to assess whether it will suit them.

Consider the kind of learners you’re appealing to, their social skills, and their ability to compete in a comfortable and friendly way.

Eventually, you may even decide that your current students are too young to benefit from a specific type of gamification or too mature to take the games you choose seriously.

Try experimenting with small amounts of gamification in your lessons before you invest in a larger strategy.

When You Don’t Have a Solid Learning Goal

If the right foundations aren’t in place for a positive learning experience, no amount of fun, gamification, or novel tools and approaches will make your lessons successful.

Gamification still won’t give your students the moments of enlightenment they need if you lack the initial vision or plan in place to guide them on their educational journey.

If you’ve noticed that students are struggling to grasp the lessons you’re trying to teach, it might be time to go back to the drawing board and ask yourself what the goals of the lessons are.

If you discover that the desired outcomes of the lessons aren’t clearly defined, update your strategy accordingly before you begin exploring gamification.

You need to know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish before you can determine whether gamification will help.

If Winning Is More Important than Learning

A little friendly competition can sometimes be a wonderful thing in the learning environment. Playing games where students are separated into teams teaches people how to work together.

It’s also an opportunity to motivate your students and help them take ownership of their learning experiences.

However, the gamification element of your lessons should only be one part of the overall experience.

If your students are more invested in winning than they are learning, there’s a problem.

As soon as you think that your students might not be taking the right things away from your lessons, ask them to tell you what they think the goal of the learning experience is.

Do your students’ impressions of what matters match yours? If not, it might be time to change the gamification strategy, or explore a different avenue.

Gamification in learning should strengthen the educational experience, not replace the quest for enlightenment with a desire to win.

Your Games Require the Use of Inaccessible Tools

There are a lot of fantastic ways to bring technology into the classroom these days.

In a gamification strategy, you could use interactive apps as a way for students to answer questions and collect points as part of a team.

Educators with the right amount of budget can experiment with virtual reality and immerse students in new worlds.

Advanced technology can definitely take the gamification experience to the next level, but it will only work if all of your students have access to the same tools.

If a handful of students can get involved with your lessons through a VR environment and headset, but the rest just have to watch videos of what happened, the experience isn’t going to be the same for everyone.

Make sure that the apps, technology, and other solutions you’re going to use within your lessons are available to every student.

If everyone doesn’t have the same tools, can you distribute the right tech to the people who need it to get involved?

Gamification Only to Boost Engagement

Games are a fun way to engage your students. Yet, making the class fun isn’t the only thing that educators need to strive for.

As an educator, you need to ensure these games are tied to a larger strategy or leading to a particular learning outcome.

Motivation and positive reinforcement are the driving forces behind the success of gamification. Even businesses and organizations nowadays use apps and gamification strategies to engage their customers.

However, this engagement serves a broader purpose – it is utilized to motivate the user to perform a particular goal, such as making a purchasing decision.

Similarly, in a class environment, the games you introduce should prompt your students to acquire new skills, solve particular problems, or create a positive attitude toward a particular topic.

This will get learners to be more involved in their learning experience, and it may even make certain messages and lessons more memorable, which in turn makes achieving the overall learning objectives much easier for you.


Gamification is a powerful strategy that can yield fantastic results for your students.

However, if bringing games and competition into your curriculum doesn’t work with the rest of your learning strategy, then it’s best to avoid these ideas.

Ultimately, gamification will only be a good idea when it supplements your existing learning strategies and empowers your students to get more out of their education.

If you’re just experimenting with gamification because it’s trendy, then you’re not going to see the right results.

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