Academic journal article e-Journal of Business Education and Scholarship Teaching

Adapting the Survivor Game to Create a Group Learning Term Project in Business Finance

Academic journal article e-Journal of Business Education and Scholarship Teaching

Adapting the Survivor Game to Create a Group Learning Term Project in Business Finance

Article excerpt


A large, consistent and growing body of research supports the view that learning in the context of small groups can enhance student performance, and encourage the development of innovative and creative problem-solving strategies (Schwartz 1995; Ortiz et al. 1996; Slavin 1996; Johnson et al. 1998; Johnson & Johnson 1999, 2009; Springer et al. 1999; Johnson et al. 2007; Gaudet et al. 2010; Gregory & Thorley 2013; Neidigh 2016).

Moreover, several studies present evidence that the transferability of learning is enhanced when learning takes place in the context of small groups (Kirschner et al. 2009; Sears & Pai 2012; Pai et al. 2015). Transferability refers to the ability to achieve learning in one context, and then apply this knowledge in a different context. Transferability is especially important in business education, where student knowledge is of little value unless students can apply it in a real-world business environment.

Other scholars have focused on business education per se, noting that it is essential for students to develop small-group learning skills to prepare for workplace demands, since an increasing number of businesses use group project approaches to problem solving, and to the development of ideas and products (McKinney & Graham-Buxton 1993; Harker & Harker 2007; Brutus & Donia 2010; Tribe 2013; Boud 2014; Lee et al. 2016; Betta 2016).

This paper explains in detail the manner in which the framework of the popular television reality show Survivor has been used to structure a group learning game in a college level business curriculum. The example I present is in the discipline of Business Finance, but the same approach can be used to structure group projects in almost any business discipline.

This adaptation of the television show, referred to here as the Survivor Game, is a valuable vehicle for encouraging student groups to analyze the details of complex business problems that would be nearly impossible to explain in a traditional lecture format. Participation in the game intensifies constructive group interaction, and encourages the development of creative solutions to difficult business problems. It would not be an exaggeration to note that the quantity and the quality of creative ideas emanating from competing student groups is breathtaking, and exceeds the value of ideas that even a talented teacher would be able to develop on his or her own.

The Television Reality Show Survivor

No doubt most readers are familiar with the reality show Survivor, a successful show that has been featured on primetime television for many years, and continues to be popular today. Still, it may be helpful for us to review the fundamentals of the show, which really is a group game.

In Survivor, sixteen or more persons are transported to a remote, primitive location, and are given no modern conveniences to help them cope with a challenging physical environment. Immediately, these "Survivors" are divided into groups. These groups then engage in competitions involving physical and intellectual challenges such as races through obstacle courses, and the solution of puzzles. While many of these challenges are physically demanding, all of them continually force the groups to devise strategies for winning. The losing group suffers significant consequences, in that one or more of its members will be voted out of the game, and will lose the opportunity to win the financial prize of $1,000,000. At the end of the game, just three survivors remain, and the winner of the prize is selected by the majority vote of a jury composed entirely of persons who had previously been eliminated from the competition.

The Academic Model

The academic model, the Survivor Game, converts the reality show model into an appropriate term project. The game retains the idea of group competition and group reward, and the idea of staged eliminations leading to a significant end reward for the winners. …

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