Trends in Adult Education Part #1: Trends – Gamification and Gender Equality

My learning partner, Penny and I got together this week to discuss two emerging trends in adult education: gamification and gender equality.


Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 4.35.09 PM.pngimage source Pixabay

The trend I brought to the table was gamification. It is an instructional strategy I first encountered in PIDP 3250 but refrained from diving into in previous blogs as, quite frankly, I really wasn’t quite sure about it. More specifically is it effective? Is it worthy of the hype? Is it really something I could successfully integrate into a health care provider workshop or online perinatal course?

Let’s check it out.

Gamification [n]: the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” Knewton Infographics para 1.

When I think of games, I think of fun, and making learning fun is certainly something I as an educator aspire to. Then I starting considering why incorporating fun into learning was important and the first thing that came to mind was increased motivation.

This infographic posted on eLearning Industry cites a survey done by TalentLMS that found, “79% of the participants said that they would be more productive and motivated if their learning environment was more like a game”. I was curious to know more about the study and so I checked out the Talent LMS web site and found out that the ‘participants’ of the study were users of TalentLMS – no sample size or demographic information was provided. So much for a valid study . . .

More convincing is this quote from The Education Arcade at MIT found on the Knewton Infographics “Game players regularly exhibit persistence, risk taking, attention to detail and problem solving, all behaviors that ideally would be regularly demonstrated at school.” This got me thinking; what are the elements of gaming that induces these behaviours in gamers? And can these be applied to the educational setting?

A google search for these answers brought me to the article that I had Penny read and the one we met up to talk about: Analysis of Gamification in Education by Scott and Neustaedter.

Key points and take home messages for us were:

  • The four elements of gaming that can be successfully be applied to the educational setting (Scott & Neustaedter, 2013, p 1) are:
    • Freedom to Fail;
    • Rapid Feedback;
    • Progression;
    • Storytelling.
  • Things to watch for:
    • Scott and Neustaedter (2013) warn of “. . . implementing game components by simply trading out the parlance of pedagogy for that of gaming culture” (p 1) as educators run the risk of adversely affecting engagement.
      • Personal anecdote:
        • To help ‘motivate’ staff to read the material for a new mandated educational program at my hospital, a leaderboard that illustrated progress of completed readings for each team was created with the promise of a free dinner for 2 for the winners. It was not favourably received and staff reported feeling bullied.
  • Competition versus collaboration:
    • One of the case studies that Scott and Neustaedter (2013) present involves adding ‘head to head’ competition to the educational setting. After what I had seen happen at work with the reading completion competition I wasn’t at all convinced that it was a safe bet for the classroom. Knewton Infographics lists collaboration as helping students to feel pride in their work in their game. Personally, I think that collaboration is the path I would chose to go with.

Things to keep in mind:

  • “This analysis reveals that the underlying dynamics that make games engaging are largely already recognized and utilized in modern pedagogical practices, although under different designations” (Scott & Neustaedter, 2013, abstract/introduction).

Bottom line for me was stick with proven instructional strategies.

  • While Scott and Neustaedter (2013) acknowledge that “(t)here is no once-size-fits all model for the successful gamification of a classroom” (p 7), sticking to and understanding underlying principles of the four elements they have outlined (see above) means I should be able to successfully integrate gamification into my workshops and online course. All I have to do now is to figure out how . . .

Gender Equality

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 4.48.02 PM.pngimage source pixabay

The educational trend that Penny offered for discussion is that of gender equality. I thought yes! We always need to be thinking of how to ensure gender equality in education; this is a perfect trend to explore in more detail. The barriers to education for women around the world are appalling: approximately 516 million of the 774 million adults that lack basic literacy skills are women (UNESCO as cited in Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p 8). As a self-identified feminist I was very keen to learn more about gender equality in education.

What I really liked about the article that Penny brought forward (Trends Shaping Education 2015 Spotlight 7) was that it looked at gender trends in education from OECD countries, which includes the likes of Canada, Australia, Sweden and the US, and not just 3rd world countries. The article emphasis the importance that education plays “. . . in ensuring that women and men have the same opportunities in their personal and professional lives, through formal schooling, shaping attitudes and transforming behaviours” (OECD, n.d., p 1).

Penny summarized the concept of gender equality as ‘levelling the playing field’. This is echoed by UN Women, 2014, as cited by OECD, n.d. : “Gender equality does not mean that men and women should become the same but that a person’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities should not depend on whether they are born female or male” (p 2).

The OCED article highlights the importance of gender equality in the education of children particularly when the stereotypical notion that boys are naturally better at math than girls and girls are better at reading than boys is debated:

Where do these gender differences in performance come from? It is not the case that girls and boys have inherently different abilities in these subjects. Instead, performance differences are driven by the fact that schools and societies foster different levels of self-confidence, motivation and interests for different subject areas among boys and girls (OECD, 2015 as cited in OECD, n.d. p 3).

Finally, the article looks at how gender equality is playing out globally in terms of leadership roles and occupational choices for women. Female dominated fields include health and welfare and education, while male dominated fields include computing, sciences, engineering, manufacturing and construction. Hardly a surprise, but what will be interesting is to see how educational programs will shift to create a level playing field in these areas.

Key points and take home messages for us were:

  • The importance of gender neutral curriculum throughout the educational system: “(g)ender segregation in career choice results in talent loss for the individual as well as for society” (OECD, n.d., p 9).
  • Being aware of your own bias as an instructor;
    • I think that this is really coming to the forefront especially given society’s emerging awareness of the spectrum of gender diversity that can and is being expressed.

Gender equality in education is gaining awareness but we still have a long way to go. “(T)here is a moral imperative to ensure that everyone can choose the subject or career that appeals to him or her. We need to ensure that we create a society in which men can become nurses and women can become mechanics without any hesitation or discrimination, if this is what they choose to do” (OECD, n.d., p 9).


Evaluation for gender sensitive teaching (n.d.) Project e-qual – Teaching, Gender, Quality University of Fribourg. Retrieved from:

Gamification and game-based learning (n.d.) Centre for Teaching Excellence University of Waterloo. Retrieved fro:

Knewton Infographics (n.d.) KNEWTON. Retrieved from:

Merriam, S.B. & Bierema, L.L. (2014) Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

OECD (n.d.) Trends Shaping Education 2015 Spotlight 7, OECD Publishing. Retrieved from:

Stott, A & Neustaedter, C. (n.d.) Analysis of Gamification in Education Retrieved from:

Teaching To Promote Gender Equality (n.d.) Center for Teaching Excellence University of Virginia. Retrieved from:

The Top Gamification Statistics And Facts For 2015 You Need To Know (n.d.) eLearning Industry. Retrieved from:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s