Gaming is not just for families and Friday nights…

By Cheryl Horst

We hear frequently the term “gaming” as a way to make our classrooms interesting. But how do we “game?” Where do we get ideas for games? How do we design them and make the rules? Do we give prizes? Will gaming be well received by everyone in the class?

In “How Gaming is Used as an Innovative Strategy for Nursing Education”, authors Mary Royse and Sarah Newton discuss nursing research on the use of gaming in the classroom.  “The use of gaming in the nursing classroom has been shown to improve nursing student outcomes, because it enhances retention of knowledge, promotes problem-based learning, and motivates nursing students to become more engaged in their learning” (Rosye, Newton, 2007).  Apparently gaming in nursing education has been around since the 1980s. Hmmm…I don’t remember participating in any such fun during the time I sat in the classroom. I’m sorry I missed it!

Gaming sounds to be a wonderful means to evaluate students, but with a few concerns. Although it seems to me that gaming is one of the teaching tools I can use to get students to step up to the plate and become an active learner (and many of them need to do just that), my questions are: 1) is there life after Jeopardy and the Match Game; 2) where do I go to find out what other nursing instructors have found to be successful; 3) do I have the time for gaming; and 4) will everyone like the gaming idea?

I guess you can tell I have used Jeopardy and the Match game in my class. Although I am no Alex Trebek or Gene Rayburn, I do the best I can with what I know. I divide the students according to their clinical groups as teams, and in a very short time their competitive personalities come out. Students seem appreciative for the review and it breaks up the monotony of my voice and the powerpoint slides. I don’t really want to invent the wheel, so a bit of networking with other nursing instructors who are successful at gaming would be great.

My third concern is my perceived lack of time I have to add in gaming. We use gaming as a way to review for upcoming exams, but in nursing, I teach two evenings of one topic and on the third evening they take that exam.  I need to develop gaming strategies that I can incorporate directly into lecture time, and not worry about having enough time at the end of the evening because at the end of the evening, students are tired; they just want to know what they need to know for the exam, and they want to go home. Plopping a game in the middle of lecture can provide some formative evaluation to see if they are understanding key points of the topic. Nursing is all about critical thinking…thinking outside the box, putting pieces of the puzzle together…NCLEX (nursing licensure) tests on skills, knowledge, and abilities of the nursing graduate, so using gaming early to help develop those thinking skills seems to be a plus.

Concern #4 is that not all students enjoy this type of learning. We already know that students learn differently. The students who are quiet and feel they will be embarrassed if they are put on the spot through gaming may dread this method of review. But then again, those students who are quiet may receive encouragement from the stronger students. MAYBE, if the instructor encourages this support.

No matter which gaming experience you incorporate into your class, remember to save some time to debrief your students after the game is over. Debriefing will help to identify areas where knowledge is weak, provide rationales for correct answers, and provide the connection between the information learned and clinical experience. Remember to provide encouragement to your students too. A “job well done” will go a long way to helping them to enjoy whatever game you choose to compliment your lecture.

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