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The effect of the use of games in the basic speech course.

Abstract

This study was designed to determine whether innovative teaching techniques, such as the use of games, or traditional teaching technique, such as lectures, are a more effective teaching method for the basic speech course. This study sought to understand the impact of the use of games on speech and exam scores in the basic speech course. The experimental group, including the students who were taught using games as a teaching technique, experienced higher exam and speech scores. The control group, including the students who were taught using traditional teaching techniques did not show a significant increase on exam and speech scores.

Introduction

The basic speech course is relatively unique with respect to other courses in that the instructor is a role model for the skill students are trying to acquire and master. Professors demonstrate rhetorical skills through lecturing and students attempt to model that behavior. Gibbs (1999) suggests encouraging students to model the professor's rhetorical style by constructing learning activities that incorporate the type of skills students are striving to acquire. Effective teachers create interactive atmospheres that encourage student involvement (Andersen, Nussbaum, Pecchioni & Grant, 1999) because learning is an experimental process (Lucas, 1999) and "students acquire skills incrementally" (Gibbs, 1999, p. 77). Thus, professors should incorporate opportunities to use skills within the curriculum. This study was designed to test whether the traditional teaching technique, such as lectures where there is little opportunity for students to exercise rhetorical skills, or the nontraditional teaching technique, such as game playing where there is a greater opportunity to use rhetorical skills, is a more effective teaching method for the basic speech course.

Playing games in the classroom creates a playful, interactive, involving atmosphere (Meier, 2000) that can establish an effective experienced-based learning environment (Ruben, 1999). Games should be created which allow participants to simulate skills (Brauer & Delemiester, 2001). Simulating skills through games provides skill development without the risk of failure (Wells, 1990) because students develop skills better in a situation where there is minimal perception of risk (Gibbs, 1999). Students can be given opportunities to play games that encourage students to practice rhetorical skills in an environment of low risk (Meier, 2000). Thus, games incorporated in the basic speech course in an environment of low risk should further encourage the development of rhetorical skills.

In addition to providing opportunities to practice rhetorical skills, games may also provide an opportunity to acquire cognitive knowledge. Games can simulate actual exam questions that can promote cognitive development (Wells, 1990) and can be easily adapted to any discipline (Brauer & Delimiester, 2001). Participation in games encourages cognitive learning that is stimulated by the organizing of information (Weinstein, Meyer, Husman, VanMaterstone & McKeachie, 1999). Games encourage retention (McKeachie, 1999), student involvement (Andersen et al., 1999) and motivate learning (Meier, 2000). Games also encourage the reading of the course textbook and the study of lecture notes as preparation for participation in the game (Weinstein et al., 1999). The use of games in the basic speech course should affect exam grades.

Hypotheses

The review of the literature indicates that the use of games as a pedagogical technique should increase exam and speech grades. Thus, the following hypotheses were formulated.

* H1: Students of the basic speech course should score significantly higher on the second speech than the first speech when given opportunities to practice rhetorical skills through playing games after the first speech.

* H2: Students of the basic speech course will score significantly higher on the final exam than on the midterm exam when students have been taught using games after the midterm.

Sample and Procedures

The sample consisted of 184 students enrolled in a basic speech course at a regional campus of a large Midwestern university. Eight sections of the basic speech course across two semesters were used in the study. All eight sections were treated as similarly as possible using the same textbook, syllabus, professor, lectures, projects, exams, speech scoring rubrics and speech assignments. The basic speech course was taught using a rigorous attendance and participation policy. Thus, most students attended and participated in class. The experimental and control groups consisted of four classes each. The experimental (n = 92) and control (n = 92) groups had no notable differences in participants. The experimental group was exposed to games as a teaching method after delivering the first speech and writing the midterm exam. The control group was taught using traditional lecture methods the entire semester.

The experimental group was exposed to game playing as an experimental treatment. The goals of the game playing were to: a) encourage students to read and study the textbook and lecture notes; b) expose students to sample test questions to help students gauge their level of preparedness for the final exam; c) create an environment that is supportive and competitive yet poses minimal risk for failure; d) encourage students to gain confidence in rhetorical speaking by building into the game the necessity to speak before the class; d) gauge their level of learning by comparing their ability or lack of ability to answer sample test questions with other students ability in the class; e) promote incremental learning of both theory and practice of oral discourse; and f) engage active involvement while learning in the classroom. Random days were chosen from the schedule to play games.

The professor created a game similar to Jeopardy (Stevens, 2001). The professor created sample exam questions from the textbook readings for the day. The sample exam questions were categorized, such as persuasive techniques or types of arguments, and the questions were evaluated and given a value based on difficulty. The values ranged from 200 to 1000 available points. Actual questions used to play Speaking Jeopardy were not used on the final exam.

The professor began the activity by playing the Jeopardy theme song to set the mood (Stevens, 2001). The professor initiated the game by choosing a category and question worth 200 points. Questions and categories were posted on the overhead. Students were instructed to rise from their seats to answer the question. The first student standing would get the first opportunity to answer the question. If the student correctly answered the question, the student received 200 points and was asked to pick a category and amount for the next question. If the student did not answer the question correctly, the second student who stood received the opportunity to answer the question. If no student could answer the question the professor provided the answer with an explanation. The game would proceed until all categories and questions had been answered. Following the completion of the game scores for individual students were tallied. The top three scoring students were given two bonus points. The professor would laminate bonus point cards to distribute to winning students (Stevens, 2001).

The control group did not play games as a teaching technique. The only difference between the control group and the experimental group was the playing of games. On days when the experimental group played games to cover course material the control group received a traditional lecture on the same material.

Results

The first hypothesis was designed to determine if a correlation exists between speech scores and teaching techniques. The first hypothesis was tested using paired sample T-Test. The experimental group, including students who were taught using games after the first speech, scored significantly higher on the second speech than on the first speech (t = -4.32, df = 89, p < .000). Thus, there was a significant association between teaching techniques and speech scores. To test the validity of the findings, the control group, including students who were taught using traditional teaching methods the entire semester, was also tested for a correlation between speech scores and teaching techniques. The control group, using traditional means of teaching, did not score significantly higher on the second speech than on the first speech (t = -1.44, df = 91, p = .153).

The second hypothesis was designed to determine if a correlation exists between exam scores and teaching techniques. The second hypothesis was tested using paired sample T-Test. The experimental group, using games as a teaching method after the midterm exam, had significantly higher scores on the final exam than on the midterm exam (t = -4.78, df = 91, p < .000). Thus, there was a significant association between teaching techniques and exam scores. To test the validity of the findings the control group, using traditional means of teaching the entire semester, was also tested for a correlation between exam scores and teaching techniques. The control group did not have significantly higher scores on the final exam than on the midterm exam (t = -. 753, df = 89, p = .453).

Discussion

The results of the current study furthered our understanding of teaching methods and their effect on exam and speech grades. Games in the classroom created an interactive, involving environment that encouraged students to participate and increased the understanding of concepts resulting in higher exam scores. The use of games can be applied across disciplines reflecting the flexible nature of this innovative teaching technique. Although traditional teaching techniques may be necessary to cover certain material, professors should consider incorporating innovative teaching techniques that encourage retention and application of course material into the curriculum.

"People acquire skills incrementally" (Gibbs, 1999, p. 77) and thus opportunities to develop rhetorical skills should be practiced as often as possible in the basic speech course. The results of the current study show that games that incorporate rhetorical skills contributed to higher speech scores. Thus, the use of games in the classroom can increase applied skill levels. Professors who teach skill-oriented courses should consider playing games in the classroom that require the practice and application of skill.

The use of games in the experimental group, as opposed to not using games as a teaching technique in the control group, resulted in significant increases in both exam and speech scores. Motivation to study in order to participate in the game and rhetorical opportunities built into the parameters of the game were both successful teaching techniques for the basic speech course.

References

Andersen, J., Nussbaum, J., Pecchioni, L. & Grant, A. (1999). Interaction skills in Instructional settings. In A.L. Vagelisti, J.A. Daly, and G. W. Friedrich's (Eds.). Teaching communication: Theory, research, and methods. (2nd Ed., pp. 359-374.). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Brauer, J. & Delimiester, G. (2001). Games economist play: A survey of noncomputerized classroom games for college economics. Journal of Economic Survey, 15, 221-236.

Gibbs, G. (1999). Planning your students' learning activities. In W. J. McKeachie's Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (10th Ed., pp. 20-33). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Lucas, S. E. (1999). Teaching pubic speaking. In A.L. Vagelisti, J.A. Daly, and G. W. Friedrich's (Eds.). Teaching communication: Theory, research, and methods. (2nd Ed., pp. 75-84). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

McKeachie, W. J. (1999). Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (10th Ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Meier, D. (2000). The accelerated learning handbook. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Ruben, B. D. (1999). Simulation, games, and experienced-based learning: The quest for a new paradigm for teaching and learning. Simulation & Games, 30, 498-505.

Stephens, K. K. (2001). Engaging students in active learning: The use of game shows in the basic speaking course. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association in Atlanta, Georgia.

Weinstein, C. E., Meyer, D. K., Husman, J., Van Mater Stone, G., & McKeachie, W. J. (1999). Teaching students how to learn. In W. J. McKeachie's Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (10th Ed., pp., 312-325). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Wells, R. A. (1990). Management games and simulation in management development: An introduction. Journal of Management and Development, 9, 32-46.

Lisa M. Schroeder, Kent State University, OH

Schroeder is an assistant professor of communication studies at the Tuscarawas Campus of Kent State University. She earned a Doctorate of Philosophy from Kent State University in 1997.
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Author:Schroeder, Lisa M.
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Date:Sep 22, 2002
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