Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Michael M. Grant

Second Advisor

Tammi D. Kolski


The transition to college from high school is significant for at-risk students, especially as they tend to struggle with self-regulated learning skills when trying to adapt to the university environment. In an attempt to mitigate this challenge and assist students with this transition, many universities offer first-year experience courses. Nationally, however, a quarter of freshmen students still drop out before their sophomore year. The purpose of this action-based research study was to evaluate the implementation of a gamified curriculum for at-risk students enrolled in a university first-year experience course. The first research question in this study explored how and in what ways the implementation of a gamified curriculum impacted at-risk students’ self-regulated learning skills. The second question explored how and in what ways the implementation of a gamified curriculum impacted at-risk students’ motivation. The third question examined at-risk students’ perceptions about the gamified curriculum on the quality of their learning experience.

This seven-week action research study incorporated a gamified curriculum designed to increase self-regulatory learning skills (goal setting, strategic planning, task strategies, self-instruction, help-seeking, and metacognitive monitoring) and motivation (choice, control, collaboration, challenge, constructing meaning, and consequences) for 10 academically at-risk students enrolled in a first-year experience course. I analyzed qualitative and quantitative data to include the Learning and Study Strategy Inventory (LASSI) instrument, journal reflection assignments, a Final Self-Reflection Learning Quest, gamification elements, and learning management system (LMS) metrics. The LASSI pretest and posttest results were analyzed using descriptive statistics as well as inferential statistics including a series of paired sample t-tests.

Findings from this study indicated that although only one subscale of the LASSI, Self Testing, was found to be statistically significant, correlations were found between various gamification elements and the subscales of Information Processing, Concentration, and Using Academic Resources. Additionally, as a result of various cycles of coding and the emergence of themes, findings suggested that students perceived the gamified curriculum as helping to improve their academic mindset, study habits, and motivation, all while making their learning easier. Implications for instructors considering the implementation of a gamified curriculum and future areas of research are offered.