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Is game-based pedagogy just a fad? A self-determination theory approach to gamification in higher education

Poornima Gupta (Great Lakes Institute of Management, Gurgaon, India)
Preeti Goyal (Great Lakes Institute of Management, Gurgaon, India)

International Journal of Educational Management

ISSN: 0951-354X

Article publication date: 7 March 2022

Issue publication date: 22 March 2022




The purpose of this paper is to design and incorporate gamebased pedagogy grounded in self-determination theory (SDT) for a higher education course in a business school program.


The study evaluates the learning outcomes of students from higher education in gamified and non-gamified contexts. The study was conducted over a period of two years in a management institute in the National Capital Region of India. The participants of the gamification study were the students in the age group 22–25 years with 0–3 years of work experience.


In general, findings of this study suggest that the group that underwent the course with the game-based pedagogy had better learning outcomes. In the game design, this study found that the addition of “meaningfulness” to the game elements improved the engagement with the gamification process for the learners. Consequently, this study found that “meaningfulness” played an important role in engaging the students, thereby, leading to improved learning outcomes.

Research limitations/implications

The study suggests that when the game design is rooted in theory, it is likely that the desired results from gamification will be achieved. The evaluation of the courses was done by the researcher themselves. An external evaluation is required to confirm the results of the gamification elements used in the course as enumerated in the paper.

Practical implications

All the game elements used in the game design were underpinned by SDT which suggests that if the three innate needs of competence, relatedness and autonomy in individuals are met, the desired learning outcomes is likely to follow.

Social implications

Due to the use of an online environment for the conduct of the evaluations, the study permitted the students to receive and have access to constant feedback enabling them to improve and enhance their learning.


Existing research shows inconsistent results with the use of gamification in the learning process. This study suggests that by grounding the gamification design in learning theory is more likely to achieve favourable results. In addition, if the game elements provide meaningfulness to the participants, the gamification process is more likely to succeed.



Gupta, P. and Goyal, P. (2022), "Is game-based pedagogy just a fad? A self-determination theory approach to gamification in higher education", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 36 No. 3, pp. 341-356.



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