Gamification in education: a mixed-methods study of gender on computer science students’ academic performance and identity development


Underrepresentation of women in computer science (CS) increasingly demands the necessity to find and enhance current learning engagement approaches to bring more women into computing fields. Some researchers have been exploring the influence of gamification on female students as one of these possible learning engagement strategies. Gamification refers to the introduction of video game elements into non-game activities to enhance engagement and motivation. Previous studies have reported mixed results of the impact of gamification on women. In this study, we introduce SEP-CyLE (Software Engineering and Programming Cyberlearning Environment), an online gamified tool that was designed to provide supplemental computing content to students. This paper presents a convergent mixed-methods study guided by social identity theory and self-efficacy to understand women's experiences with this gamified tool. More specifically, this study explores virtual points' and leaderboards' effects on CS identity development, self-efficacy, and performance. The results show that virtual points and the leaderboard contributed to improved performance for students of all genders, suggesting that gamification is a gender-neutral learning engagement strategy that improves female students' performance as much as male students. Regardless of improved performance, most women did not actively enjoy or were motivated by the virtual points or leaderboard in SEP-CyLE. Additionally, gamification had no significant impact on CS identity development or self-efficacy constructs and had little to no impact on women's interest and engagement in the field of computing.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. (NSF 1712116). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. We would also like to thank all of our participants—faculty and students.

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Zahedi, L., Batten, J., Ross, M. et al. Gamification in education: a mixed-methods study of gender on computer science students’ academic performance and identity development. J Comput High Educ (2021).

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  • Gamification
  • Computer science
  • Gender differences
  • Education