Gamifying the mundane

Dr Sarah Hack – School of Psychology 

Developing key skills typically requires the repetition of tasks at regular points on a student’s academic journey.  Such repetition can lead to a loss of enthusiasm and dwindling engagement from students. An online spinner was used to ‘gamify’ one such regularly occurring task with Psychology Foundation Year students.  In this activity, an online spinner was used alongside a Padlet ( to introduce randomness and competition into a research evaluation exercise.  

Pre-session an online spinner was customised to include seven evaluation categories the students typically use to critically engage with psychological research.  

Colourful spinning top circle with different words in sections


The same categories were used as column headings in a Padlet using the ‘shelf’ format.  During the teaching session the spinner was used to randomly select an evaluation category, at which point the students had to start writing their responses in the appropriate column on the Padlet.  Once completed, this category was removed from the spinner, and the activity continued.  Post-workshop the Padlet was edited to include teacher-input (see example below) and then locked and a link provided via SurreyLearn. 

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Example of board showing written responses

Educational practitioners know from experience that whilst familiarity may not actually breed contempt, it can certainly contribute to a drop in student motivation and engagement. Using the online spinner provides an opportunity to ‘gamify the mundane’, introducing an element of randomness, competition (and mild excitement!) into an activity that students are required to do regularly. Using a Padlet provides the opportunity for students to contribute anonymously, enabling those less confident to contribute without fear of ‘getting it wrong’ publicly.  

Using the online spinner provided a welcome injection of enthusiasm into the evaluation activity. This was a hybrid teaching session with students in-person and joining remotely, and both groups were able to engage and to contribute effectively.  (Students without a laptop worked in 2s/3s with someone with a computer.)  Looking ahead, given the impact arose from the novelty, the activity cannot be used regularly, but alternatives to spinners are available which similarly introduce randomness, including random cards, flip tiles, open the box. For example, see

  • In an on-campus workshop, the online spinner may be combined with sheets of flip-chart paper placed around the room. Students could write responses on sticky-notes which are then added to the relevant poster. 
  • Use two online spinners for quick-fire research design. One might include a number of possible research topics and the other a variety of research methods. Students might then work in groups to propose suitable research projects. 
  • Where students need to be able to recall factual information, for example, definitions or formulae, the spinner might be used to gamify a quick-fire testing situation at the end of a teaching session. 

For more information contact: Sarah Hack, Teaching Fellow in Psychology,