Common Technology, Uncommon Results: Game Shows and Cooperative Learning in Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Classes

Article excerpt

Teaching and learning methods that encourage creativity and critical thinking are important to help undergraduate students enhance their abilities and realize their educational goals. Traditionally many instructors have relied on lectures as a teaching tool, and some students have taken notes more intently than they have listened. This encouraged instructors to make lecture notes available, and subsequently, some students did not attend class if examinations focused on facts from textbooks and notes. As a result the lecture-based learning and teaching style has sometimes not been rewarding for the students or the instructors.

While lectures have been beneficial, more active learning tools may enhance that approach. This paper describes a teaching innovation that promoted active and cooperative learning methods in an undergraduate entrepreneurship course at a large, Mid-western university. These experiences may interest instructors as a way to increase students' attentiveness to classroom sessions with technological resources that are common at most colleges and universities. This paper has three sections: a literature review gives the theory behind the innovation; the active teaching methods are described next; and some points are drawn from the outcomes of the experience.

Theoretical foundation

Theories to support innovative teaching methods appear in the literature on active and cooperative learning pedagogy, and technologically-assisted learning (Farrington, 1999; Fiet, 2001 a; Katz, 1999). Scholars have argued that the addition of active learning techniques, such as games or students' presentations of their research, reinforced lecture materials and added to student comprehension (Cyrs, 2000; Sorenson, 2001). These methods have been recognized as good practice and yielded increased student focus, heightened participation in class discussion, and improved examination scores (Fiet, 200lb; Huehner and Kallgren, 1999; Phipps, Phipps, Kask and Higgins, 2001; Yuretich, Khan, Leckie and Clement, 2001).

Cooperative learning theory has posited that interactions with peers, to assimilate information and transform it into knowledge and then to relay that knowledge to another person, fostered superior learning outcomes (Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1998; Sorenson, 2001). These types of structured processes that cooperative learning supports have offered alternatives for communication and instruction. And integrating technology into classrooms has also expanded interaction options for students and teachers in spite of organization and economic challenges (Windelspecht, 2001; Graves, 1999). Technology has provided greater accessibility for students and instructors outside classrooms, increased flexibility and discussion time, and allowed better access with email usage or World Wide Web support (Ali and Franklin, 2001 ; Hedges and Mania-Fernell, 1998; Tiene and Luft, 2001; and Windelspecht, 2001). While cooperative and technologically-aided learning have necessitated skills upgrades, the outcomes have generally been positive (Graves, 1999; Hedges and Mania-Fernell, 1998; Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1998; and Windelspecht, 2001).

Encouraging examples of these methods in action have been documented across diverse disciplines such as oceanography, history, and biology to show benefits to students from active learning methods, cooperative instructional techniques, and technologically-enhanced teaching strategies in many forms and formats (Huehner and Kallgran, 1999; Windelspecht, 2001 ; Yuretich, Khan, Leckie, and Clement, 2001). Application of these techniques could have merit as a vehicle to improve undergraduate business, economics and other areas of instruction as well.

Application of theory to the classroom

Administrators have encouraged improvements in pedagogical methods with seminars and workshops (Cyrs, 2000; Fiet, 2001b; Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1998; Lant, 2001). One of the authors had the opportunity to participate in a few workshops, and it became clear that an introductory entrepreneurship course would be a candidate for the use of cooperative learning methods and games because of the number of new concepts and amount of new terminology (Alien, 2001; Drea, 2001). …