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In this article, we will put a focus on the valuable role of learning by playing games. These may be elaborate simulations or scenarios of the kind that we have written about before.

Game-based Learning

Since the inception of video games, people have been using game technology to test their intellect. Educational games are by no means a recent innovation. Some of the earliest games were text and strategy-based. Today, we use games to teach everything from math and science to languages and history.

Game-based learning is a growing movement among educators to integrate educational games into the classroom. Oftentimes, the results are extreme. Researchers are discovering that educational applications of video games might be even more powerful than we ever anticipated.

Smiling African student using game-based learning

Games work well as ways of starting a topic. Using a television quiz show format can be an engaging way of helping learners embed necessary factual knowledge. They can work well in the early stages of establishing a rapport with and within a group, as an approach to team-building and a better understanding of learners’ wider interests. Futurelab19 (1) has undertaken a comprehensive literature review of games in education, which is useful stimulus material for the creation of vocational pedagogy.

As with all the methods we have focused on, playing games need to be linked to other approaches – for example, personal reflection, when learners might debrief after a game to see how what they have experienced could be applied in the workplace.

A particular benefit of playing games is that they make light of making mistakes: ‘They can act as a safe introduction to various vocational careers – failure is not an issue, in fact, it is expected, when learning a game’(2).

Why Game-based Learning?

Futurelab helpfully summarises the pedagogical considerations of selecting appropriate games in education. They suggest that the game should have (1):

A learning curve – easy to learn at the start and increasing. Relevant educational content – including having:

  • Clear objectives;
  • Clear progression;
  • Appropriate feedback;
  • Opportunities for collaboration and group work;
  • Assessment and follow-up;
  • Opportunities for creativity;
  • A help section.

This list, of course, could equally apply to most of the methods we looked at in the overview article and is, therefore, a good place to move on to the practical pedagogy.

Studies on Game-based Learning.

Studies on game-based learning show positive effects, but insights into the relationship between students’ game activities and the outcomes of these activities are still lacking. However, we can find studies that are pointing in the direction that game-based learning shows positive effects.

A study from 2019 concludes that the learning motivation of students had a significant impact on their academic achievement, and the academic achievement of students using game-based learning as an instructional strategy was better than those learning through the traditional approach (3).

An article about adaptive game-based learning in multi-agent educational settings focus on learning activities on autonomous devices. The article summarizes the findings;

The traditional educational paradigm has been nowadays transformed to tech-aided personalised learning, tailored to individual learning styles and needs, applicable in any environment. Such an educational framework should provide capabilities for adaptive, affective and interactive learning, taking advantage of technological means to recognize the learners’ performance, behaviour and progress over the learning process. A novel methodology is proposed to model an educational framework able to represent and optimally foster these needs, along with a methodology for non-linearly adapting networked learning objectives. In addition, the framework is supported by an ontology that enables personalised and contextualised decision-making over learning activities on autonomous devices, enabling their dynamic modularisation during the learning process.

Part of the text in the article is from the report “How to teach vocational education: A theory of vocational pedagogy” by Bill Lucas, Ellen Spencer and Guy Claxton, The City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development (December 2012)


  1. Ulicsak, M. & Wright, M. (2010). Games in Education: Serious Games – a Futurelab literature review. Bristol: Futurelab.
  2. Squire, K. (2005). Changing the Game: What happens when video games enter the classroom. [Online]. Retrieved on Sep. 24, 2012, from http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=82 Squire, 2005
  3. Sumarie Roodt et al. Using Digital Game-Based Learning to Improve the Academic Efficiency of Vocational Education students, igi-global 2019.
  4. Dorothea Tsatsou, Nicholas Vretos, and Petros Daras: Adaptive game-based learning in multi-agent educational settings, Journal of Computers in Education, June 2019, Volume 6

Lucubrate Magazine November 2019

The picture on the top of the article by Gorodenkoff (Adobe Stock)

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Lucubrate Magazine

Lucubrate Magazine highlights trends in education and development. Development in this context can be technological, educational, individual, social or global, and everything related to education.
Lucubrate Magazine is a global based on the web magazine with the main office in Norway.

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