Examining EFL students’ motivation and attitudes toward a gamified course using leaderboards and quests at a Japanese university

PhD Thesis

Philpott, Andrew. 2020. Examining EFL students’ motivation and attitudes toward a gamified course using leaderboards and quests at a Japanese university. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/53m6-yn52

Examining EFL students’ motivation and attitudes toward a gamified course using leaderboards and quests at a Japanese university

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorPhilpott, Andrew
SupervisorSon, Jeong-Bae
Dashwood, Ann
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages268
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/53m6-yn52

This thesis reports on an investigation into the use of leaderboards and quests (i.e., quest-based learning) in a gamified English as a foreign language (EFL) course at a Japanese university. The study focuses on gamified instructional design, a type of gamification that incorporates specific components of traditional games into the structure of an academic course to influence student behaviour. The study uses Deci and Ryan’s (1985) Self-determination theory (SDT) as the theoretical foundation to explore how leaderboards and quests affect student performance (i.e., amount of work completed) and foreign language (FL) motivation. For the study, the researcher developed a gamified EFL course using leaderboards and quests as central gamification components. The main part of the study was conducted over a 14-week period with two intact classes of participants: Class 1 (n = 26) and Class 2 (n = 20). The leaderboard acted as an independent variable as it was only used in Class 1. A quasi-experimental mixed methods research design was utilised to collect and analyse data from five data collection instruments (i.e., performance-related data, a leaderboard questionnaire, quest diaries, the Language Learning Orientations Scale (LLOS), and semi-structured interviews) to answer three research questions.

The first research question examined leaderboards to determine how they affect student performance. The results of the study showed that the participants generally enjoyed the leaderboards. Four ways the leaderboards affected performance were identified: (1) they encourage performance but limit performance; (2) they could negatively impact learning outcomes if they reward quantity over quality; (3) they positively affect the emotions, attitudes, and performance of the participants who have a middle or high leaderboard rank; (4) they negatively affect the emotions, attitudes, and performance of students who have a low leaderboard rank. The second research question explored the participants’ opinions and perceptions of quest-based learning (QBL) to determine its viability as a pedagogical approach for EFL courses. The results showed overwhelmingly positive opinions and perceptions towards QBL, and provided evidence that QBL can increase intrinsic FL motivation while supporting FL learning. The third research question examined the effect leaderboards and QBL had on the participants’ FL motivation. The results showed that
leaderboards increase extrinsic FL motivation by using points and rank to control behaviour, and undermine intrinsic FL motivation more than they support it. The quests increased the participants’ intrinsic FL motivation. The increase was attributed to the quest design that leveraged specific aspects of multiple motivation theories (e.g., SDT, positive psychology, international posture).

The findings from this thesis make several important contributions to the bodies of literature surrounding gamification. First, the findings provide an updated perspective on the state of FL motivation at a Japanese university. Second, the findings show that SDT is an effective theory to analyse gamified instructional design implementations. SDT was able to align leaderboards to external regulation and show that leaderboards shift internally leaning extrinsic motivation to externally grounded extrinsic motivation. Third, based on all the findings, the thesis introduces a new framework to guide future gamified instructional design implementations. Fourth, the thesis details how QBL can be used for EFL pedagogy to support FL learning and intrinsic FL motivation. The thesis concludes with suggestions for future research that aims to replicate the results of this study, and research that examines how different types of leaderboard configurations affect performance and FL motivation.

KeywordsESL, EFL, gamification, leaderboard, quest, motivation
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470401. Applied linguistics and educational linguistics
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Education
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