Can a Jeopardy-Style Game be used to Teach Critical Thinking?

Recently, I was speaking at a workshop, to a group of instructional designers, on using games to teach in the classroom. A great comment was voiced by an attendee, about what he viewed as a limitation of the use of games to teach. His statement was, “Well, I can see how a game can be used to get people to remember little facts, but I do not see how a Jeopardy-style game can be used to promote critical thinking.” Personally, I love comments like this when I speak, especially when they appear to be “anti-game.” The primary reason I like comments like this, is it helps emphasize that games are not really the issue -- it is how people view them and use them that is the problem.

Here is my short response to his comment. First and foremost, I broke down and clarified his point, which was he simply viewed Jeopardy-style games as a way to get test trivial, fact-based knowledge. He did not see these types of games as way to teach critical thinking. Fortunately, I was able to show multiple examples of how I use games to create critical thinking in my training. As an illustration, I showed a game that I used to teach Infectious Diseases in a public safety environment. In my first example, I had a preview slide that talked about Tuberculosis. In this slide, I had two basic points that I discussed to set up my questions. Essentially, I wanted to stress that Tuberculosis is a bacteria, and it is of greatest risk to you, when inhaled (especially in an enclosed space). The questions I used after the preview slide looked like this:

When transporting an active TB patient, what can you do to minimize your exposure, besides wearing a mask?
a) Cover patients head with a sheet
b) Spray the area with a disinfectant
c) Open vents/windows
d) All of the above

Now, everyone in this particular workshop had an audience response pad, with which to answer.

Note: 90% of my audience in this session did not have a healthcare background and zero knowledge of TB. The results of the poll for this question where something like this; 20% picked A, 30% picked B, and 15% picked C, and 35% picked D.

It was clear that the audience was not sure of the correct answer (a good thing when trying to deliver a teaching point). I proceeded to discuss each possible answer, illustrating why C is the correct answer, and the others (though plausible) are not quite correct. The point of this is not to get people to “remember the correct answer,” but, to get people to understand why C is correct and the rest are not correct. After the question, I had added a summary slide that pointed out some additional information, but would also help to lay the foundation for the next question, which would build upon what they'd just learned.

I have said this in many previous blogs, but when it comes to using games, I find that I need to deprogram people on how they view games as a teaching tool. In most cases, it takes about 4-5 examples in a workshop for people to have an a-ha moment about the true power of games in training.