jeopardy game showOne of the biggest challenges for most instructors is engaging their students. It’s difficult enough to present complex ideas in a way in which students understand them, let alone ensure they are interacting with and internalizing those ideas.

Because health professions education is serious stuff, it’s easier to overlook the effect that games can have on a student learning. Within these fun shells are powerful training tools which can be used to:

  • Review, preview, and prepare for assessments/exams
  • Alert instructors to their students’ learning gaps
  • Let students know how they’re doing in a course
  • Motivate and energize students
  • Promote teamwork and stimulate discussion
  • Break down complicated or sensitive material into sizable chunks
  • Increase content retention


How Game Shows Improve Learning

  • Which artery is the most frequent site of coronary artery stenosis?
  • What is the recommended antidote for Heparin toxicity?
  • What is the only fat soluble antioxidant synthesized in the body?

Millionaire game show

If you’re like most health professions educators or students, you couldn’t resist trying to answer those questions in your head. When a question is asked, the mind automatically searches for answers and for context. At its most elemental level, a game show is an entertaining question-and-answer framework. In the format of a game show, students want to engage with the material. They interact with the questions and seek answers. Game shows are an ideal format for learning for several reasons.


  • Game shows appeal to students’ sense of competition. Most people love to have the opportunity to show off their knowledge and engage in friendly competition. Friendly competition inspires some of the greatest learning—it encourages people to gather more information and, in the case of training, make an effort to retain more information.
  • Game shows have a short learning curve and appeal to persons of all ages. Game shows have been internationally popular for years. Most students—regardless of age—have a reference to at least one popular game show. Because they’re such a part of modern global culture it’s easy for students to grasp the rules of a basic game show without a lot of explanation.
  • Game shows engage multiple senses. They allow students to get out of their seats, interact with material, hear questions, see information, ring in, and even cheer. They also provide trainees with a significant experience. People tend to remember positive and negative experiences, and game shows create a positive learning environment that cements content retention.
  • Game shows are ultimately flexible. Instructors can add their own material into a game show, expound upon answers, add additional information, and change the rules to suit their needs. They’re tools you can customize to work the way you’d like them to.
  • Using game shows increases content retention. An independent study to gauge the effectiveness of the game show as a training review tool found that when trainees were given an oral review with questions and answers, 54% of the trainees passed a final exam. When the same questions and answers were used in a game show format, 88% of the trainees passed the same exam.


Which Game Shows Work Best?

Family Feud game showDifferent games have different strengths and weaknesses. Here are some suggestions for using the more popular game show formats:

  • Large quantities of fact-based information (e.g. a product feature quiz) is complimented by a Jeopardy!-style game where students can answer multiple choice or short-answer questions quickly.
  • Content with multiple answers or sequences (e.g. laboratory safety procedures) fits well in a Family Feud-style game show where students have to uncover multiple steps or answers.
  • Complex content with additional information fits well into a College Bowl-style game where you can ask a team follow-up bonus questions.
  • Longer answer or discussion questions work well with Tic Tac Toe-style games, because students have a longer period of time to answer, and can be used for demonstration and role play
  • Matching drugs with treatment goals, interactions and effects is ideal for a Concentration-style game show.
  • Beat the Clock-style game shows allow students to act out scenarios and “physical” challenges (e.g. writing an example of a properly-modeled treatment plan on a flip chart).
  • Who Wants to be a Millionaire?-style game shows allow you to structure your content from relatively easy to harder as your students advance up the game show ladder.


Best Practices when using Game Shows

To be useful as a teaching tool, game shows have to be modified to fit your particular instructional needs.

  • Always focus on the positive; avoid berating or mocking wrong answers.
  • You can eliminate or at least minimize the emphasis on prizes. You want the focus to be on the content, not on who’s winning.
  • When possible, put your students into teams instead of having them play as individual contestants. People learn best in a collaborative environment, and playing on a team will allow students to learn from their peers.
  • Don’t be afraid to modify the rules. Just because something is a certain way in a TV game show doesn’t mean that you have to—or that it’s best—to play with those rules. As the educator/host you can:
  • Add extra information before and after the questions. You’ve got their attention, now is the perfect time to go into more detail about the answer and the content at hand.
  • Explain incorrect answers. Tell your students why their answer is incorrect, and what the correct answer is.
  • Debrief after the game show. You may find that your trainees didn’t catch a particular concept or group of information. After the game show is a perfect time to reflect on the competition and the information, as well as do a little brush-up review to catch anything that fell through the cracks.
  • Involve the entire audience. Everyone should either be on a team or cheering for a team. If you have too many people, divide the room in half and have a select group answer a question while the rest of their half cheers them on. If your contestants are stumped by a question, you can also throw it out to the audience.

Don’t forget to have fun. A game show is a great opportunity to do something different and exciting in the classroom. The most successful game show users are those that play around with the game show, constantly improve their technique, find out what question and answer format is best for them, and truly enjoy the role of being an educator/host.

Source:  Yaman, D. &  Covington, M. (2006). I’ll take learning for 500: Using game shows to engage, motivate and train. Pfeiffer.


Trivia Game Templates for TurningPoint Instructors

TurningPoint offers two templates for creating your own audience response trivia games. You can use these templates in your TurningPoint sessions to promote team-building and/or problem-solving skills among your students.

“Who Wants to be a Millionaire”-like Trivia Game

  • Millionaire game templateOne student at a time responds to questions
  • 15 question levels
  • Preformatted multiple-choice questions at each level
  • Hyperlinks for “phone a friend”, “50:50” and “ask the audience”
  • “Correct” feedback screen at each question level
  • “Fastest finger” can be used to determine who starts the game

“Jeopardy”-like Trivia Game

  • Jeopardy game templateTrivia board reveals 5 categories with 5 questions per category with values ranging from 100 to 500 points
  • Team captains or representatives take turns selecting questions (“I’ll take Sports for 200”)
  • Points are awarded for correct answers
  • “Fastest Finger” can be used to determine which individual or team was first to answer correctly
  • 25 questions total – game lasts approximately 30 minutes

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