One of the interesting theories, which comes from Richard Bartle, coined the Bartle's Player Type. This concept is based on 4 player types (or eight depending on sources) which are split across 2 variables being:
between acting on or interacting with, and
being in respect to other players or the game's world.
The four types are shown below:
Each of these player types is based on what their objective is, and how this impacts on how they play games. There is a surprising amount of further research and discussion of this concept, most of it directed at game developers. There are papers looking at how the proportion of one player type impacts on engagement of other player types, and how the mechanics, design, management of the game influences the break down of these player types, and the optimal proportion for different game genres.
My focus of research on this concept was looking at how these 4 types exist in a classroom.
Achievers have been the general winners of traditional classroom. They want the grades and want to attain all of the content.
Socialites enjoy the topics based on discussion and interaction, typically humanities subjects. They enjoy classrooms based on group work, however can be disruptive when individual work is required.
Explorers often seem to be the gifted students that are happy to do independent study into a specific area of the content. This can be good, however can become too disruptive when they need to complete the assigned tasks.
Killers commonly miss out in classrooms. They seem willing to fail, so long as others are failing more, and care more about their rank than truly understanding the content. They may not sound like the optimal student, but they still have a place to contribute and learn in classrooms.
Accomodation of player types
Using badges and accumulated points which are typical of most gamified classrooms, appeal to the Achievers. These need to include short, medium and long term achievements to maintain the interest.
Included list of activities which allow everyone to see the activities and successes of others students, and perhaps with either likes/upvotes/+1's or even short comments encourages socialites to celebrate the success of others.
Providing ability to unlock esoteric aspect of the content can help engage Explorers. As achievements are complete, perhaps an offshoot activity is available to explore something optional that most ignore. Killer
Setting up competitions, particularly ones with stakes will interest the killers. Can they gain some points by out scoring someone in an activity. These need to be carefully managed to avoid upsetting the Socialites.
I am still trying to develop games to activate all of these learners, but would appreciate any thoughts and advice either in the below comments or on twitter at @jarradstrain