An inquiry exploring how gamification might support teacher professional learning and development.

Renee Raroa & Jackie Kirikino


This teaching as inquiry project is driven by our need, as e-Leaders, to facilitate an innovative and efficient, professional learning and development (PLD) approach. The proposed innovation is to use a gamified learning management system to support teachers as learners. This approach should allow schools PLD teams to target specific learning outcomes and establish a way of quantifying the effects of teacher PLD. This inquiry uses the current theory of gamification in education and business to identify how gamification might be used to support teacher PLD and explores current uses of gamification tools in teacher learning. The proposed innovation is then client tested by analysing feedback and responses from a range of stakeholders, including teachers, students, whānau, school leaders, professional learning providers, education specialists and other interested members of the community. The findings of this inquiry suggest that while many stakeholders may be interested in the idea of gamification of teacher PLD, some suggest that digital proficiency may limit uptake. Follow-up investigation might propose a pilot study which would teach interested users how to use a gamified learning management system to support their PLD while monitoring for increased proficiency in digital competence in these users as a result of the study.

Why gamify teacher PLD?

Hamari, Kovisto and Sarsa (2014) show that gamification of learning can have a significant impact on the attitude of learners toward their learning activities. The New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) promotes risk­taking as one of the most valued outcomes for 21st-century learners. The low­risk environment of games optimises learning potential (McGonical, 2010). While there is some evidence of the use of gamification at the classroom level, involvement in PLD initiatives suggests, there is little evidence locally of gamifying teacher learning.

For teachers to deliver the outcomes of the New Zealand Curriculum, they must first understand the approach to learning which these issues embody. For those who have never experienced learning in a risk-taking and collaborative, not to mention the digital environment, it may be difficult to understand how best to promote these intentions when teaching. Gamification and game­based learning strategies can be used to support the goals and direction of the New Zealand Curriculum (Kirikino and Raroa, 2015).


The proposed gamification of teacher learning would also promote collaboration. Teachers working together as opposed to in silos is a major driver of 21st-century PLD. Alongside the collaborative element of many of the gamification and game-­based learning experiences is the use of competition as a motivator (Nicholson, 2012). Deterding et al. (2011) discuss the idea of ‘consequentless’ competition, whereby under the rules of the game there are no penalties for failure. Players are granted awards for effort and time spent in gameplay, no disadvantage in seen in taking chances and making every attempt to succeed. Learners are thus, encouraged to try and consequently learn from their mistakes as they reattempt game levels and interactions. Kapp (2012) explores competition in gameplay. Whether competing against a rival player, another team or trying to beat a previous score, a competitive element is shown to increase user engagement.

Findings imply that gamification promotes risk­ taking and growth mindset. Research also agrees that gamification and game-based learning increases engagement with learning material. Collaboration is an important component of the application of game elements, having the potential to increase a learner's understanding markedly through analysis and transformation of their ideas, as they apply their knowledge and interact with others. The promotion of participation, the development of growth mindset and risk-taking, collaboration and sharing are all target outcomes, for PLD leadership.

  • Increase - Collaboration, social awareness, communication, (bonus increase in digital literacy) while still giving choice, differentiation, redefining the teacher as learner in a fun and rewarding way.
  • Rewards - resource bank, collaboration leading to better collegial relationships, recognition, feedback and feedforward on practices and resources, ubiquitous and timely support.
This platform would offer...
  • Links to relevant PLD opportunities
  • Online PLD services
  • A space for resource sharing where teachers and education professionals could share, exchange and peer review teaching and educational resources.
  • Reflective blog - a space for educators to share their experiences of teaching and learning.
  • Connect - make connections with fellow educators
  • On trend - use the handy

Dynamic and responsive - built by teachers for teachers this resource grows and develops with the education community.

Te Noho Kotahitanga expresses a commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi, highlighting cooperation or mahi kotahitanga - the idea of cooperation and whanaungatanga to actively engage in working relationships. In this case, colleagues working together in a fun, supportive learning environment using gamification in learning and interaction, as students might.

Working collaboratively toward rewards, badges, and levels, motivate and challenge staff to engage in teacher PLD and to use digital technologies to the benefit of their community. Reminiscent of an iwi, whānau, hapu social system, a gamified LMS would help communities of teachers as learners to recognise strengths within their networks, and to identify those who may need extra support. A gamified LMS which promotes the sharing of knowledge and resources also reflects values identified in Tataiako, such as identifying “Productive Partnerships” where Mäori students, whänau and educators share knowledge and expertise with each other to produce better outcomes.”


Teachers - Primary stakeholders. Directly impacted as users of the gamified LMS. This group should have the maximum opportunity for input into the design and use of the system. Reflections gathered from this target group will be invaluable to the project.

Students - Secondary stakeholders. Impacted by teacher development and improved teaching practices. Feedback sought for the change in teacher practice as a result of involvement in the initiative. Measurable learning outcomes considered as a result of developing teacher practice.

Whānau - Secondary stakeholders. Gamified LMS may potentially promote an increased engagement by whānau as teacher development, and school-wide goals become transparent. The analysis of the project will seek whānau expertise and reflections of child engagement with school and learning.

School Leaders - Primary stakeholders. Integral to the success of the initiative, school leaders should contribute to the promotion of PLD for all staff. Principals, senior leadership, and e-Leaders will provide feedback, observations, and suggestions throughout the planning, pilot, implementation and redefinition stages of the project.

Professional Learning Providers - Primary stakeholders. Benefiting directly from the promotion of teachers PLD, consultation with providers around the extent to which they would like to be participating in the advancement of the project will be made.

Community - Secondary stakeholders. Benefiting both through the improvement of education and the opportunities afforded by increased involvement in teacher learning with community experts. Engagement with local businesses, iwi groups, and other interested parties will help this project to evolve with a 'local flavour' firmly aligned with the community.

Community Feedback

The Lytton High School, PLD team, was presented with this project proposal. This group included three classroom teachers, one literacy specialist, the deputy principal (PLD lead) and the principal (by special invitation). An outline of the innovation, to use a gamified learning management system to support teachers as learners, was proposed in response to the PLD team’s identified need to develop a new approach to PLD at the school.

Presentation Outline:

  • A short review of the identified needs to develop PLD at the school, including the need for innovation which would enable the PLD team to facilitate a dynamic and efficient PLD programme.
  • A brief outline of the principles of gamification, referencing the use of gamification in both classroom and business settings.
  • Suggestion and discussion, around the possibilities that a gamified approach might have for teacher PLD.
  • An overview of the design and purpose, of a gamified learning management system (LMS) and why it might benefit teacher PLD.
  • An example of a gamified learning management system, Adobe Captivate Prime.
  • Discussion and feedback session.


Statement: "We do need to do something!"

Discussion: The innovation is responsive to the necessity of an innovative approach

Statement: "Maybe, then our teachers would try it with their students."

Discussion: Gamifying teacher learning would promote an understanding of gamification as a pedagogical approach and thus may lead to an increased use of gamification in the classroom.


Statement: "Some of our teachers just wouldn't be able to use it."

Discussion: Technical ability may limit teacher engagement.

Response: Start with a less technical approach such as badges, digital badges, gamified task sheets.

Statement: "It might be going a bit far."

Discussion: We are aware of the overload which teachers experience when given an 'extra' task to complete on top of an already busy schedule.

Suggestions: Incorporating gamification elements into the existing PLD infrastructure may increase engagement without increasing teacher workload.

Statement: "Well, we already have 'Teaching as Inquiry.'"

Discussion: Teaching as Inquiry is a mandatory component of the teaching profession. How might the gamification of out PLD assist this? School leaders identify that many teachers may not be using the inquiry cycle to its full potential, and some teachers could recall no formal training or development around efficient use of this tool to inform their practice.

Suggestions: A gamified PLD approach could be used to support and streamline the Teaching as Inquiry process.

"First why and then trust." Simon Sinek


The findings of this inquiry suggest that while school leaders may be interested in the idea of gamification of teacher PLD, some suggest that digital proficiency may limit uptake. Follow-up inquiry might propose a pilot study which would teach interested users how to use a gamified learning management system to support their PLD while monitoring for desired outcomes through teacher and student feedback and response surveys.

As an integral, and compulsory, part of teaching practice it was decided that the need for each teacher to engage in Teaching as Inquiry could promote "buy in" to the gamification project. The project design should incorporate elements which would streamline the 'Teaching as Inquiry' process, for example, the areas of learning in the LMS would target practicing teacher criteria (PTC) and provide badges as peer-reviewed evidence of meeting these.

Do these findings support the development of a gamification platform to support teachers as learners? What are the next steps?

Step 1: Assessing the relevance of this project. Propose the project to primary stakeholders, i.e., PLD teams (done).

Step 2: Adjust the project design and reformulate research questions in response to feedback received in Step 1 (done).

Step 3: Survey other stakeholders. Use the design thinking process to evaluate the viability of the project.

Step 4: Refining project design to incorporate elements involving secondary stakeholders.

Step 5: Run pilot programme.

Step 6: Analysis of pilot programme. Incorporate feedback from all stakeholders, via Google Form.

Step 7: Identify potential impacts. What next steps might we take to promote teachers as learners? How might secondary stakeholders be more involved with the gamified LMS platform?

Step 8: Roll out gamified LMS to a larger audience. May need to begin with lower tech platforms such as badges, digital badges, gamified Google sheets, working towards a gamified LMS.

Step 9: Data analysis and interpretation. Sharing of data and reporting on failures and successes.

Step 10: Set up processes for the continued redesign in response to feedback and analysis.

Final thoughts....
There is ever increasing evidence of the potential for gamification to support student learning. We wonder, how might gamification support the teacher professional learning and development?

Innovative companies and business leaders are beginning to develop online productivity tools and apps which draw on the elements of game-play to promote continual learning for employees and thus success for projects. Teachers looking to use gamification and game-based learning in their classrooms may benefit from the first-hand experience of learning in a gamified environment. School leaders are looking to develop targeted aspects of teaching and learning within their school. Gamification may provide a differentiated, measurable, quantifiable analysis of PLD.

Communication with stakeholders suggests that there may be some initial barriers to a gamified LMS, such a limitations of technical skill and extra workload. Our suggested adjustments include starting small with physical badges, leading into digital badges, gamified Google Sheets or other existing platforms, before embarking on pilot studies in a gamified LMS with small groups of interested users.

Feedback throughout the implementation stages and continued analysis and response are fundamental to the success of this innovation. Evolution of this project should be responsive to the environment and community which it serves; thus, it is expected that a gamified LMS would develop relevant features of kaupapa Māori and Te Noho Kotahitanga. This innovation should perpetually be reflective of the needs of all stakeholders and serve the goal of supporting teachers as learners.


Deterding, S. (2012). Gamification: Designing for motivation. Interactions,

19(4), 14-17. Retrieved from ScienceDirect Database

Kapp, Karl M. 2012. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. New York: Wiley. Retrieved from ScienceDirect Database

Kirikino, J. & Raroa, R. (2015). Gamification and Game-Based Learning in the New Zealand Education System - A Literature Review. Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, NZ. [Unpublished]

McGonigal, Jane. (2010) Reality Is Broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: Penguin. Retrieved from EBSCOhost Database

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION (2007) The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington, NZ: Learning Media. Retrieved from www.nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum

Nicholson. S (2012) A user-Centered theoretical framework for meaningful gamification. Games+Learning+Society 8.0. Retrieved from http://scottnicholson.com/pubs/meaningfulframework.pdf Accessed 08.10.12

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