Need to Foster Participation? Try a Ranking Game

Students laughing while engaged in small group discussion—illustrating active learning
For years I have used a game I call the Blame Game in my Intellectual Heritage I classes. Intellectual Heritage I is an interdisciplinary course in critical reading that focuses on works of literature, philosophy, and religion. Several of the texts I use in this course, including The Epic of Gilgamesh, Genesis, and the Iliad, lend themselves well to the Blame Game; in fact, through episodes of narrative peril, they essentially inspired it! More to the point, the game has almost invariably led to lively class discussions, even prompting otherwise reticent students to participate. Still, it was not until I co-facilitated a faculty workshop on student participation that I truly realized why the Blame Game seems so effectively to inspire student participation, and I was able to use the realization to design a new game for another course: Intellectual Heritage II. In short, the reason for the game’s success lay not in playing a game per se but in having the students rank things.

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