Game Design, Gamification, Learning Design and Assorted Other Strangeness

The Explorer in the Classroom

The Explorer In The ClassroomRichard Bartle defined 4 types of players and how they enjoyed playing MUDs (precursors to the modern MMORGS). For a discussion of how these types map to a classroom see here.

The Explorer in Education

Explorers delight in having the game expose its internal machinations to them. – Richard Bartle

In the terms of education, explorers are the students who are fascinated by the systems that have been put in place around the material. Often they are also fascinated by the material.

They are interested in experimentation, trying new things, and figuring out how to manipulate the system to their own ends. In general they will know the procedure for grading—sometimes better than the teacher. However, they will not be overly interested in their personal grade, unless it prevents them from engaging with new material or systems.

They are interested in socializing with their peers when it brings out new information, or when it is a method of comparing notes.

They express competitiveness in the desire to know the most, and often are not interested in engaging in direct confrontation within the class.

Most teachers will experience them as the relatively quiet students who does well on testing without too much effort, but who have a depth of knowledge around the subject that they can draw on.

They are the students that the top achievers in the class ask questions of and consult on what needs to be done and when.

Things an explorer might say

Oh you don’t know about …..


What would happen if……

I wonder why…. 

How to deal with the explorers in the class

Explorers are not as motivated by the more traditional tools used by teachers. Punishments and rewards do not really hold their interests (as long as they don’t get in the way of them following the path of inquiry that they want to), and neither does competition with other students. So how do teachers motivate them?

The Explorers are almost the definition of intrinsically motivated individuals. It does not take much to motivate them. Often, the best way is to arouse their curiosity.

To take an example from history just look at how Ernest Shackleton advertised for explorers in a newspaper in 1914.


While it may seem strange, this advertisement was very successful because the explorer personality instantly starts asking questions and wants to know more.

Classic inquiry-based beginnings to a class will appeal to the explorer. Openings with questions or mystery stories will suck them in instantly.

To have this type of student continue to be engaged with the class, however, it must be complex enough that there are new things for them to discover. It is also preferable for them to use multiple strategies to reach the goal of the exercise.

Explorers become bored easily if the material is too repetitive, or made available too slowly. They want to constantly move to the next chapter, the next experiment, or figure out how the material interacts together.

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