Welcome to the third of a series of Blogs featuring 2017/2018 Masters projects on Education and Technology supervised at the UCL Knowledge Lab (partner and coordinator of iRead). Each of the projects featured has focused on a key research area of  iRead.

Rita Elyanova

During my BA, I studied English, Politics and teaching skills in order to become a teacher, whilst applying my pedagogical and theoretical knowledge in diverse types of work experiences within the educational field. Swiftly, I acknowledged the positive influence technology can have on students, teaching and learning. Simultaneously, it became evident to me that there is a current gap within educational practice to use this potential and the advantages that technology can bring to the 21st educational environment. Aiming to contribute to a closure of this gap and advance my knowledge of strengths and weaknesses of the integration of technology in education, I pursued the MA in Education and Technology at UCL.

Problem addressed

Changing working and learning environments in the 21st century require learners to be self-regulated in their learning and one aspect that contributes to this is learners’ belief in their self-efficacy, which is their belief in what they can do and achieve. Educational practice should respond to the needs of students and a way of doing so is by using the opportunities provided by educational technology, such as gamification, which can increase a student’s engagement with a digital learning environment and therefore the domain knowledge. Looking at a specific gamification feature, namely digital badges, little information can be found on theoretical guidelines or frameworks of how to design digital badges to support self-efficacy, despite the fact that badges have had a positive influence on students’ self-efficacy, as previous research has shown.


The design-based research study iteratively developed design principles about the design of digital badges to strengthen the self-efficacy beliefs of students, which were applied to the design of the iRead eReader. The study was set in the context of struggling readers, to support their potential low self-efficacy and with that help them to improve in their reading skills.


During the research study, two groups of participants were included. A group of 3 primary school teachers, teaching in a dyslexia school in London took part in a focus group and a co-design workshop. The second group of participants were 5 children, who attended Year 5-6, having recognized reading difficulties and participated in one design session, a co-design workshop (see Figure below).

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 20.55.53

Key highlights of research 

The developed design principles capture that digital badges aiming to strengthen the self-efficacy of struggling readers should:

  • Value the achievement of the overall end-goals within a digital learning environment in a differentiated manner.
  • Value personal achievements by displaying them in an easily accessible manner.
  • Acknowledge mastery experiences and encourage coping mechanisms with failure, by using attainable objectives for the student.
  • The learner has to be persuaded of his competences through social encouragement and critical reminders, which may encourage positive learning behaviours.

For a copy of the thesis you can email Rita at rita.elyanova@gmail.com

Relevance to iRead

In the iRead project is developing a Reader app that scaffolds children to work on their reading skills through strategies (Work package 7). This project opens up a new opportunity for our design by exploring how digital badges may sit on top of the Reader to support a child’s self-efficacy.

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