Using a Gamified Points-Based Grading System in Technology Courses for Pre-Service Teachers



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Background: Current research in grading practices suggest that there are connections between effective grading practices and students’ motivation. Researchers have argued that traditional grading systems, such as letter grades, are not indicative of students’ real abilities and hinder authentic learning by punishing students for their work, rather than rewarding them. Alternative grading systems that are points-based, such as those used in games, have the potential to motivate students and foster higher-order thinking. Gamification is a relatively new field in education, and there have been few research studies on how educators can best use game elements in instruction. Most studies on gamification in educational settings have tested multiple game mechanics at the same time with mostly positive results. However, individual elements of game mechanics have not been adequately studied in isolation. As a result, it is difficult for educators to make informed decisions about which, if any, game elements to incorporate in their courses. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a points-based system on students’ perceptions of their motivation and their class performance and to compare those results to students in a traditional letter-graded course. Research Questions: The research questions were: 1) How does a class taught using a points-based grading system compare to a class taught using a traditional letter grading system in terms of intrinsic motivation? 2) How does a class taught using a points-based grading system compare to a class taught using a traditional letter grading system in terms of class performance? 3) How do students perceive their grade at the beginning of a course before the submission of any assignments? Methods: Four sections of an undergraduate course served as the participants. Two sections of the class were randomly assigned as the control group in which a traditional letter-grade system was used to display progress in the course, and the other two class sections formed the treatment group in which a points-based system was used. At the beginning and the end of the semester, each participant’s intrinsic motivation level was measured using the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory. Information was also collected about how familiar the participants were of games and their ultimate opinions of the points-based grading system. Lastly, the final grades of all participants were collected at the end of the semester. Results: Analysis of the students’ post-semester motivation levels were performed using a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). To compare treatment and control group differences in final grades, independent sample T-Test was used. The results indicated that participants’ motivation and class performance was largely unchanged by using the points-based system when compared to the traditional letter-grading system. Students reported that they felt mostly neutral about the points-based grading system, although most preferred it over traditional letter grading. Conclusions: There is insufficient empirical evidence to begin gamifying education. Further research is needed to identify whether or not this type of game mechanic would be useful in the classroom.



Points, Grading, Educational Gamification, Gamification, Student motivation, Games, IMI, Intrinsic motivation, Pointsification, Letter grading, Motivation