Jan L. Plass Receives $173,000 Grant to Study How Badges and Trophies Influence Learning

Jan L. Plass, Steinhardt’s Paulette Goddard Professor in Digital Media and Learning Sciences, is the recipient of a $173,000 grant from the Digital Media and Learning Research Competition of the University of California Humanities Research Institute for a project titled, “Good Badges, Evil Badges? An Empirical Inquiry into the Impact of Badge Design on Goal Orientation and Learning.’ Bruce D. Homer, of the Graduate Center at CUNY, is the co-principal investigator of the study.

Video games have often used badges as a measure of achievement, from completing a specific task to showing mastery over a particular skill set. In order to realize the potential of badges on lifelong learning, the researchers will be studying the effect of different badge design on players’ attitudes and achievements.

The study will look at commercial games as well as the educational geometry-concept game, Noobs vs. Leets, to learn how the presence or absence of badges and trophies affects game play and motivation. Video recordings of gameplay will be analyzed for trends and insight into participants’ perception and valuation of badges as part of their gameplay experience and for changes in gameplay patterns when a player receives a badge.

The study will collect empirical evidence that will inform the discourse on the purpose and function and badges, and enable the researchers to develop theory-based, empirically validated design patterns to support badge designers and issuers in their design decisions.

Plass is co-director of the Games for Learning Institute (G4LI), a collaboration of nine partner universities supported by the Microsoft Research and the Motorola Foundation. G4LI is dedicated to advancing the design, use, and evaluation of computer games in formal and informal educational settings.