Recently I came across a School of Life Sunday Sermon by Jane McGonigal. Her topic for the sermon was “Productivity,” and while it starts out slow, I thought she had some really good points that are applicable to life, games, and classroom teaching.
Jane introduced the concept of PERMA in this talk. PERMA is an acronym used by psychologist Martin Seligman to describe fundamental human motivators:
- P – Positive emotions
- E – Engagement
- R – Relationships
- M – Meaning
- A – Accomplishment
Interestingly, this overlaps quite a bit with the 6 Cs of Motivation and Sebastian Deterding’s elements of gamification. I think this has profound implications for the overlap of games and learning, and even the argument for the gamification of classrooms. Today, I want to focus on how educators can implement the PERMA models into classrooms on a daily basis, and point out a few easy ways that games can support this process.
Positive emotions include feelings of joy and laughter. One easy way to do this is classrooms is to use humor. I once taught with a teacher who showed a funny Youtube video ever Friday. The videos didn’t connect to the content she taught, but they gave the students something to look forward to, and helped them begin to associate her class with positive emotions. A teacher I had in high school designated a monthy “Whose line is it anyway?” day when students competed in games from the improve t.v. show to entertain the class. Other ways to promote positive feelings include cartoons, jokes of the day, and the use of upbeat music to create a positive classroom climate. Games naturally add a sense of fun and playfulness to classrooms, amplifying positive emotions.
Engagement relates very closely to flow experiences. It is the experience of being totally immersed in an activity that is neither too difficult nor too easy. The fine art of creating engagement for students involves the balancing of many elements. One facet of engagement is challenging students according to their skill level – designing learning experiences in students’ Zone of Proximal Development – tasks they can accomplish with support from others. It also involves allowing students to choose topics and activities of interest to them, and creating a space for students to explore their own curiosity. Good games – instructional or recreational – engage players in flow. This causes students to lose track of time and enjoy the moment and the task they are pursuing.
Relationships are the basis of any meaningful learning community. Develop relationships with students by taking time to let them know you care about them. Spend time at the beginning of the school year playing get-to-know-you games, introducing yourselves, and writing classroom expectations together. Ask students about their hobbies, families, and friends. Take time to share about your weekend plans. Help students develop relationships with one another by modeling and enforcing respectful behavior and implementing a variety of opportunities for classroom talk, such as Think-Pair-Share, Philosophical Chairs, Microlabs, and The Final Word. Collaborative games are a great way for students to develop interpersonal skills and build relationships with their teammates, both virtually and in real life.
Meaning can be implemented classrooms in a variety of ways. Desigining learning experiences within a real-world or gamified context can give students a meaningful way to practice skills and apply content knowledge. Allowing students to explore their own curiosities can add meaning to any subject area. Offering choices of how to display content mastery allows students to play to their strengths and can help the projects become more personally meaningful. Involving students in service-learning or place-based lessons can help students attach community meaning to the things they are studying in school.
Accomplishment is most valued when what we accomplish does not come too easily, but is not difficult enough to discourage us from finishing the task. Helping students find accomplishment in school includes providing timely descriptive feedback so that students are aware of what they are doing well and what they need to practice further. Good game designers embed feedback in the game so that players know when they are playing well and when they need to change tactics. Points, levels, awards, comments on students work, self and peer evaluation, and grades are all different types of feedback that can support student accomplishment in different ways. Recognizing accomplishment is an important factor in motivating students and creating a productive learning environment.
What other strategies do you use to incorporate the PERMA principles in your classroom on a daily basis?
What further connections do you see between games, PERMA, and learning?