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“Game-based Learning”, “Gamification”, and Other Game-based Terminology

“Game-based learning”, “games-based teaching”, “gamification” and other game-based terms are pervasive in the marketing of CIE products and services. The underlying premise often seems to be to establish a general association between games and education in order to justify their inclusion in a school setting.  However research on the subject of games and learning is much more nuanced.

This game jargon can be confusing to the casual reader of game research. Dr. Katrin Becker provides a chart to bring clarity about the confusing language surrounding games and game-based learning. This can be a helpful reference in sorting through the hype and science surrounding game use in education.

Distinctions between types of teaching and learning using games

Game-based Learning

Definition: Game-based Learning

Game-based learning is a type of game play with defined learning outcomes. Often it is assumed that the game is a digital game, but this is not always the case. While digital games have their niche in Chess in Education (CIE), more commonly game-based learning comes into play in teaching teachers the best practices for using CIE to teach their students.  For example, see the SMART Method.

The design process of for game-based learning involves balancing the need to cover the subject matter with the desire to prioritize game play (Plass, Perlin, & Nordlinger, 2010). This corollary points to the distinction of game-based learning and gamification. What exactly is meant by gamification varies widely, but one of its defining qualities is that it involves the use of game elements, such as incentive systems, to motivate players to engage in a task they otherwise would not find attractive.

CIE Connections

Thus, a teacher using a non-digital CIE training approach like the SMART is using game-base teaching methods that are grounded in game-based learning. Digital games involving chess instruction will almost always employ some gamification elements (for example, badging, role-playing, awarding points, self-tracking systems). In non-digital chess instruction, gamification elements are of secondary importance if they are used at all.

Further Reading

Foundations of Game-Based Learning, J. Plass, B. Homer, C. Kinzer; Educational Psychologist, 50(4), 258–283 (2015)



Definition: Gamification

Gamification in an educational setting typically signifies the application of game design to non-game curriculum subjects (such as mathematics or language learning). However, in the case of a digital chess training program, gamification is often employed for the training of a game. Gamification elements may be added in an attempt to make the training more engaging than a straightforward expository approach. The goal of gamification is to improve learning outcomes by increasing student motivation and engagement. Simply put, if students are immersed in a game-type experience, they are more likely to engage with the subject matter. Methodology as well as technology are key components in creating a gamified experience for the student. Educational research continues to evaluate the impact of gamification on learning.

CIE Connections

Online chess tutorial programs often include a gaming aspect to engage students as they learn the basics of the game. Some evelopers of digital chess training software are adding CIE and increasingly sophisticated gamification elements to their products. This provides them with an important two important niches in the CIE market: 1)  teachers may use the products as a  differentiation aid within the classroom, and/or 2) parents or student may use it as independent self-learning tool to be used outside the classroom.

Further Reading

Gamifying education: what is known, what is believed and what remains uncertain: a critical review.” Dichev and Dicheva. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2017).

Gamification of education and learning: A review of empirical literature.” Majuri, Koivisto, Hamari. Proceedings of the 2nd International GamiFIN Conference (2018)

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