Gamification, Anxiety, & Motivation in Second Language Learners: A Qualitative Systematic Review


  • Jeremy Edwards University of Sunderland


Second Language Acquisition, Applied Linguistics, Foreign Language Anxiety, Gamification


For second language learners, anxiety poses a major hurdle in the use of the second language in a myriad of contexts, including in the classroom. Teachers and schools often make use of technology in order to better serve their students in a variety of ways, and many teachers chose to use gamified educational platforms in order to enhance their classrooms; however, second language anxiety remains pervasive. Since second language anxiety is a major hurdle for students, one should expect newly developed courses and platforms to attempt to reduce negative affective states. Gamification of educational content is a flourishing industry with notable sites such as Duolingo that can be counted among those that make use of it. This systematic review aims to determine if specific gamified elements can be found to be related to student anxiety and confidence so that recommendations can be made to teachers and developers to further improve those elements. The results of this analysis show that quests, narratives, and storytelling along with more immersive gaming experiences commonly co-occur with classroom environments where students felt less anxious and more willing to communicate with their peers in their second language. Additionally, awards or points were commonly present with a decrease in anxiety and increase in confidence. Competition was not found to be connected to decreases in anxiety, and this could be a significant area for improvement among second language learning platforms as competition has been previously shown to lead to anxiety, and in second language learners, it has also been shown to lead to negative self-perception. This study posits that reducing competitive elements of gamified platforms and increasing cooperative- and narrative-based elements would lead to more equitable classrooms where second language students feel more comfortable in expressing themselves.






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