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The Revision of Material Using Noughts and Crosses

This note discusses an adaptation of noughts and crosses that I have found very successful, as a method of revising course material with seminar groups of up to eighteen students. Unfortunately I cannot claim this innovation as my own; rather a colleague in the Law Department passed the idea to me.(note 1) He assured me that the game not only helped students revise material, but that students found the game enjoyable, and that playing the game engendered a competitive team spirit. All of these claims I have since found to be true. I have been using the game in a third year undergraduate Industrial Economics course. However, the game is adaptable to many subject areas and I intend to start using it in a second year undergraduate Microeconomics course.

Students should be assigned to one of two teams 'noughts' and 'crosses', with each team asked to sit together. A noughts and crosses grid is shown to the students for example on a blackboard or overhead slide. Within each cell of the grid will be a topic from the course. For example, I have used the game to revise material covered in the first half of a ten-week Industrial Economics course, with a grid similar to that below.

Table 1: Noughts and Crosses Grid

Measures of Concentration Advertising Mergers
S/C/P Innovation Contestable Markets
Advertising Mergers Innovation

where S/C/P = Structure Conduct Performance debate

The students are then asked to spend a few minutes devising questions for each cell. Hence, with two teams of nine students each student can be responsible for devising one or more questions for a different cell.

I ask an initial question with the first team to answer correctly then being the team to begin the game proper. For example, having answered my initial question correctly, team 'noughts' may decide that they will select the central 'Innovation' cell. Team 'crosses' must then ask as question on innovation. If the seminar leader believes an answer from team 'noughts' to be appropriate, a nought will be placed over the central cell. Team 'crosses' then chooses a cell to play for, having to answer a question on the topic of the cell from the opposing team. The teams take it in turn to ask questions, until one team achieves a line (possibly a diagonal line) of noughts or crosses.

I have found that students love trying to devise questions that they know the answer to, but believe their opponents will have difficulty with. I place no restriction on the nature of questions asked, and have enjoyed the diversity of questions that have then emerged. Hence, for example, students have been known to ask the other team diagrammatic questions that require one of them to volunteer to demonstrate something on a board. All students, even those naturally quiet students, enjoy the game and get involved. Further, the students' attention levels are maintained as they listen to the opposing teams answers, trying to catch them out. When I first used the game I was surprised at the level of friendly debate as students freely started discussing whether answers given were sufficient to warrant being awarded a cell. Consequently, games can last up to thirty minutes. However, I would recommend the seminar leader having a few reserve questions. I have known teams of students to each require the same cell to win the game, with each team answering questions erroneously on the topic of the cell. I then give the students the option of devising another question within a minute for the other team, or risk letting me ask a question, which may or may not be relatively straightforward to answer. (I may ask a question relating to an article in the current Economist newspaper.)

I would not use this game weekly, but find that it is a great method of stimulating discussion and revising material with students, half way through a course, and also at the end of a course.



1. Dr Jim Marshall, Law Department, Lancaster University.

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