By Sunny Thakral

Winning an ISA with Mangahigh

Gaming our way to the top

Children love games, in fact, we all do so two years ago we started a project to look at how gamification principles like leaderboards, levels of challenge, rewards and competitions could support learning.

Being an inclusive school, we support a varying range of abilities and one of the major challenges most international schools face is a transient student population. Students join us with varying levels of interest and proficiency especially in Mathematics and English. Personalisation is core to the school’s vision and our gamification programme focused on empowering learners to access our curriculum based on their pace. Another focus was enabling staff to use innovative methods of instruction to support student learning.

As part of a School Action Research Project, we investigated the impact gamification makes on attitudes, engagement and learning outcomes. We reviewed a number of platforms and mapped their impact on our processes from a pedagogical point of view. A direct result was the pilot of Mangahigh in Year 5. Using data analysis based on standardised assessment, we identified students who were at risk of becoming disaffected and decided to use this as an opportunity to engage them.

Mangahigh uses Artificial Intelligence to generate and mark assignments so it had the added benefit of reducing staff workload. Key staff like numeracy and assessment coordinators were trained via the support that was offered by Mangahigh. Between us we worked on a strategy and decided to focus on a year group which had the most number of underachieving students.

Staff development was critical so we conducted workshops and highlighted the benefits of using gamification and continued to support them throughout the pilot. Similarly, we ran workshops for parents showcasing how the pedagogy worked and discussed how to shift the focus to education based games instead of conventional games.

We wanted to start by setting a weekly homework or a class task initially. At this point, our strategy went out the window, as students went wild with it. In the first week, they logged more activities compared to the entire month before. We saw levels of engagement increase. Within the first month, data analysis showed that some of the identified students were catching up to age-appropriate levels. Teachers were supporting students with clarification of concepts and some students were racing ahead of the curriculum. Once the pilot was over we took stock and looked at positive outcomes and issues faced by teachers, parents and students. We devised solutions and extended the pilot with Year 5 teachers now training peers from other year groups.

The focus was on developing Mathematics proficiency through the use of gamification principles across the Primary School. The programme empowered teachers to develop innovative pedagogical practices that incorporated data-driven planning.

Students take CEM tests in September and these are used to measure annual progression. Analysing data showcased higher than average gains for age-related Mathematics progression after the project was introduced. Even taking into account the highest ever annual gains historically, the year on year progression was almost half a years worth per child!

Measuring progression of disengaged students showcased huge jumps. Boy A who was -0.4 and -0.5 in his two previous CEM tests jumped to +0.98 in one year. Similarly, Girl A who was -1.5 years behind her age reduced the gap to -0.07 within one year. These success stories can be attributed to greater use of data generated via Mangahigh, which enabled our teachers to support students by reducing the burden of assessment and assignment setting and focusing on informed lesson planning and targeted interventions.

The end result was that over the course of the programme, our students won the FOBISIA Mathematics challenge (twice) and 17 gold medals as part of the annual Mangahigh challenge. More importantly, though, there were some amazing individual success stories that inspired the whole school community.

Our initial work on this project was also published by Mangahigh to inspire others on how to embed gamification successfully in schools. We also share this at international conferences and now it has been recognised as an example of outstanding use of Digital Technology in Learning at the education Oscars, the International School Awards 2019.

By Sunny Thakral