By Derrick E. Rancourt, Professor in the Department of Oncology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Calgary & University of Calgary Teaching Scholar
This year I’ve used a flipped classroom approach to teach Biotechnology Business and Profession, and it has been a positive experience overall. The class is having great discussions that are seeded by my leading questions. However, 10 weeks into the course, I started thinking that the approach was getting stale—until two of my students brought in a template of the game Jeopardy to lead their own assigned discussion. Although their game had a few technical issues that kept them from fully discussing their topic, the kernel of the idea was inspiring to me.
It was the second time this semester that I had been exposed to a gameshow teaching approach. In my biomedical engineering professional development class, a guest lecturer trotted out a version of Family Feud to discuss “the top 10 answers on the board” regarding mentors. Although it fell down a little, her effort also excited me.
My students informed me that gameshow teaching is now common in high school. I did a little research and found that the approach is also starting to permeate University teaching.
In my last class, I decided to give it a go and prepared a session based on the popular Match Game. After familiarizing myself with the game by watching a YouTube video, I generated 10 fill-in-the blank questions based on the assigned reading material. I arranged the class with two “contestants” on one side and six “celebrities” on the other, providing the celebrities with blank paper and markers for writing their answers. When I announced what we were doing, several students volunteered to be celebrities, which was great. The remaining celebrities, as well as the two contestants, were drawn from a cup.
After flipping a coin, the lead contestant got to pick between question one or two on my list. After reading the question, I asked the celebrities to write down their answers. Then I asked the contestant to give what s/he thought was the answer. I then went to the audience to have a discussion, because it’s important to engage “the leftovers” in the play. Then I asked the contestants to reveal their answers so that the contestant would receive their points. After 10 rounds back and forth we had a winner and a fun discussion!
On the internet, I found over 25 gameshow ideas for teaching, many of which can be adapted to teaching University courses. Of course, it takes some preparation to ensure superb delivery. The good news is that there are PowerPoint templates for some of the more popular games, so you or your teaching assistant do not have to write code to deliver perfection.
It’s probably not a good idea to only use games to reinforce learning concepts in the flipped classroom. However, games may be an excellent way to spice things up. Other approaches that I have used are mini-case studies, guided analysis, and role playing. Of course, it’s also useful to use a distributed teaching approach where students are given the opportunity to deliver content. Sometimes taking away PowerPoint forces them to be creative. Perhaps we should be taking Powerpoint away from Instructors to instill creativity in them as well.
 Chavez et al (2012) Popular game shows as educational tools in the pharmacy classroom. Curr Pharm Teaching & Learning 4(2): 146–149.