Saturday, February 11, 2017

Scholarly Critique: Games as an Interactive Classroom Technique: Perceptions of Corporate Trainers, College Instructors and Students

I work in sales operations for a large security company. Sales operations is a lot like being a stage manager and the sales reps like the actors. However, in addition to a number of other responsibilities, I take an active role in training those sales reps in how to perform certain aspects of their job (I don’t think stage managers train the actors…). Sales reps can sometimes have personalities that make them difficult to train – big egos, low attention spans, complacency, etc. Therefore, with each new topic in this eLearning curriculum, I look for ways to more effectively engage and train.

I came across the article, “Games as an Interactive Classroom Technique: Perceptions of Corporate Trainers, College Instructors and Students”, in a search for games in corporate training. Although the article was published almost ten years ago, I found the authors’ study of interactive classroom teaching techniques between college faculty members and corporate trainers to be compelling. Their study consisted of two parts. The first part consisted of a survey among college faculty and corporate trainers to determine their classroom techniques and influences on teaching styles. Kumar and Lightner clearly place a focus on active learning versus passive learning approaches such as lectures or online learning. Their research indicates that interactive learning positively affects students, specifically adult learners, in memory, performance, social collaboration, and transfer of learning. They argue that games and simulations provide the perfect framework for active learning in the classroom. The second part of the study, five college faculty members volunteered to help develop new games that would replace lectures. After conducting the new game in the classroom, the five college instructors assessed the student learning and were interviewed on their experiences. In the first survey, data shows that corporate trainers utilized significantly more active learning strategies than college instructors. In the second part of the study, the five college instructors found increased student engagement and interaction through the use of the interactive game.

Kumar and Lightner’s findings are exactly what I would have assumed they would be - colleges focus more on lectures and corporate training uses more activities. The data adequately supports the notion that games can have a positive effect on learning, especially within the adult classroom. What the study did uncover are relevant questions around the social dimensions of using game play in adult learning. The college instructors felt in the second part of the study admitted to feelings of reluctance toward the use of games as well as some feelings of inadequacy in dealing with the formats. And, despite overall positive feedback, some students expressed that games in the classroom seemed childish or beneath them. Collective learning through interactive games does require engagement and “buy-in” among participants which may require breaking down social barriers or preconceived notions.

The study also brought to light several other questions relating to game play that, I believe, are launching points for further research. Foremost, the comments from instructors and students in the survey indicate that the actual design and implementation of the games influenced how they were perceived by students. This takes into consideration the delivery of such activities and how they can be most effective. In my opinion, I think many would agree that games are valuable teaching tools. The focus, therefore, needs to shift from the “why” to the “how”. My sales reps may be difficult to teach but one thing I do know is they love to play!

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