Do Badges Affect Intrinsic Motivation in Introductory Programming Students?

Lisa Facey-Shaw*, Marcus Specht, Peter van Rosmalen, Jeanette Bartley-Bryan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

104 Downloads (Pure)


Background. Programming is a challenging and highly important topic for introducing learners to our digital world. Research has shown that motivation plays a key role in programming performance. Gamification using digital badges has the potential to influence motivation, provide social recognition and encourage learner participation. More research is recommended to evaluate its motivational impact in different contexts. Intervention. This research explores the effects of badges on the intrinsic motivation levels of introductory programming students within a higher education institution. The course is offered during the first year of the programme. We report the results of a baseline study without badges and four subsequent badge experiments of different designs over a four-year period. Methods. This quasi-experimental study followed a pre-test/post-test design to measure the effects of badges on the intrinsic motivation levels of university-level introductory programming students. Badges were designed and implemented. Feedback via focus groups and a post-badge survey was collected. Results. Findings are inconclusive as the quantitative results suggest that badges did not increase intrinsic motivation scores. Contrastingly, badge survey and qualitative data indicate that badges were received more positively on average. Discussion. We analyse and discuss the results within the context of motivation and the programming discipline, and discuss external factors that may impact the relationship between gamification and motivation. Conclusion. Further research is necessary to investigate whether gamification, through the use of digital badges, can foster positive intrinsic motivational results, particularly in the well-known challenging domain of introductory programming.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1046878119884996
Pages (from-to)33-54
Number of pages22
JournalSimulation & Gaming
Issue number1
Early online date13 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • digital badges
  • gamification
  • higher education
  • intrinsic motivation
  • introductory programming
  • GAME

Cite this