Focus

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Invigorate In-Service Sessions With Gaming by DOUGLAS BEDIENT AND JACQUELINE SCOLARI

When was the last time you heard a presenter or an attendee of an in-service workshop say publicly: “I am so happy to be here”?

For most of us, the answer is never—unless we succumb to the hot coffee and donuts that usually precede the session. Nearly all training workshops and staff orientations are plagued by common problems, whether the audiences are youth or adult, teacher or volunteer. Orientations are seen as too talky, disorganized, irrelevant and lacking audience involvement.

In a typical session, the presenter talks much of the time. The speaker might use PowerPoint or handouts to structure the presentation and use local policy information or case studies to build relevance. Although a question period allows some interaction, audience members who aren’t engaged mentally drift away. Some presenters describe this phenomenon by saying, "Their eyes glaze over."

Audience Connections
One way to confront this phenomenon is to structure presentations using a television game-show format supplemented with videotapes. We have yet to meet an individual who cannot describe the popular "Wheel of Fortune" game-show format and who can’t jump right in when deciding who will play the roles of Vanna and Pat Sajak or doesn’t know how to buy vowels and understand the show’s concepts of bankrupt, lose a turn and free spin.

We used this lively approach to conduct a training program on the delicate subject of sexual harassment. It made our presentations more palatable and relevant.

The first challenge is to engage the audience in the presentation by developing an appropriate title. A typical title such as “Introduction to ...” or “Everything You Need To Know About ...” just doesn’t do it! Contrast these with alternative titles, such as "Lincoln School Wheel of Fortune." As the audience enters, it sees this image projected on an overhead screen:

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

_ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Using Powerpoint software, random letters are projected with appropriate audio accompaniment as the audience begins to solve the puzzle.

Word Puzzles
Many orientations begin with the presentation of terminology and definitions for the topic to be covered. To spark interest, use a gaming format to introduce this terminology. Using the Wheel of Fortune format as a model, we presented the key terminology as a puzzle for the audience to solve by filling in the blanks. In the introduction to the sexual harassment workshop, the audience is asked to work through terms and phrases that describe sexual harassment. Examples include:

U N W E L C O M E T O U C H I N G

C R U D E J O K E S

S E X U A L T E A S I N G

S P R E A D I N G S E X U A L R U M O R S

After each phrase has been identified, a videotaped simulation is presented to illustrate the concept and facilitate audience discussion and elaboration. Other key concepts such as reporting of incidents, handling hearings fairly and pursuing disciplinary actions (with accompanying videotaped simulations) further develop the theme.

The process for reporting sexual harassment would include terms such as “nondiscrimination coordinator,” “complaint manager,” “report within ‘x’ days,” “confidentiality” and “good faith complaints.” The terms and videotaped examples of offending behavior would be customized for various situations, organizations and local policies. The names of actual persons to be contacted in the local district would become another part of the game.

In a subsequent round, discipline measures such as “verbal warning,” “written reprimand,” “suspension,” “expulsion” and “staff discharge” would be addressed.

Each round of the game uses new terms, phrases and situations relevant to the orientation topic. After each puzzle is solved, it is essential that meaning and significance are discussed in depth.

Reinforcing Concepts
Producing videotaped simulations sounds challenging, but a school district can use its own resources for this purpose. School drama and media clubs, creative writing classes and service organizations might cooperate in the production of simulated examples and non-examples of sexual harassment.

At the conclusion of an orientation, prizes can be awarded and handouts distributed to reinforce concepts covered in the workshop. In the case of sexual harassment, these handouts should include legal references as well as district guidelines and procedures for handling incidents.

Other popular game shows, such as “Jeopardy,” “Ready-Set-Draw,” “Password,” “The Weakest Link” or “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” provide additional possibilities for creative and engaging orientation programs on various topics: tornado and earthquake preparedness, school safety and violence prevention, health issues, multiple intelligences, teacher certification and state requirements for schools. Given the popularity of many of these TV game shows, educators can take advantage of them to produce new and improved orientations.

Douglas Bedient is a professor of curriculum and instruction at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Ill. 62901. E-mail: ga3213@siu.edu. Jacqueline Scolari is director of the Medical Resource Center, School of Medicine at Southern Illinois University. She is a former school board member of the DeSoto, Ill., School District 86.