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Utilizing Game Based Learning

In the previous post, game-based learning (GBL) was highlighted as an instructional technique, and this instructional style will take time to develop and refine. When creating a game-based lesson, you must include three components: mechanics, aesthetics, and game thinking.

In this blog, each GBL component will be discussed to learn how each can be used to create a learning experience for our students.


Game mechanics are the rules for both players and the system. A basic game mechanic is movement on a board game. Rolling a pair of dice could be the rule that determines the number of spaces a player advances. GBL uses mechanics to guide and scaffold students toward a desired learning outcome. Students may roleplay as forensic scientists during a chemistry lesson. Students are given specific action points they can use during their turn to solve the case. Halfway through the lesson, new evidence is found that causes conflict. Finally, students are racing to solve the crime. Using the game mechanics role play, action points, turns, and conflict provides guidance, scaffolding, and feedback loops to guide students to mastery. 


Aesthetics naturally immerse the player into the game. Additionally, game-based aesthetics will engage students in the learning experience. Aesthetics is a vital element in telling the story. Consider the forensic scientist game mentioned earlier. What if, for the day, students were required to wear an oversized white t-shirt cut down the front (lab coat), safety goggles, mask, or gloves while looking for clues and analyzing the evidence to answer the question, “who and what caused the fire at a local museum?” Aesthetics, big or small, creates a story and raises engagement. 

Game thinking

Game thinking is another way of saying problem-solving. Games include a series of problems scaffolding to mastery. A traditional lesson would follow the model I Do, We Do, You Do. Take the same framework and make it a game: Tutorial, Challenge 1, Challenge 2, Boss Battle. With the Forensic Scientist Case File simulation game, you provide a tutorial on how to handle chemicals and conduct experiments. Then, present students with two challenges: Latent Fingerprinting, and Test/Sort elements found at the scene. To do this effectively, students must assess all the evidence to conclude who caused the fire and how it was created. 

When creating a GBL lesson, remember to include game mechanics, aesthetics, and thinking. As a teacher, provide a little time each day to learn and create a game-based lessons that will be taught two weeks from now. Repeat learning, creating, and teaching GBL for three months to help it “stick” with students. Before you know it, game-based learning will feel natural, and games will begin to appear in every standard that is taught. 

And, as Teachers Deserve Better, here is a link to a FREE RESOURCE that will help you get started using GBL in your classroom!

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