publisher colophon


Games and Other Exercises


Any single teaching method has its limitations, and choosing one is always a trade-off. Recognizing this, most labor educators develop a mix of methods, using some to impart information, some to illuminate general concepts, and some to build skills or challenge attitudes.

Since learning proceeds best when instruction relates to the personal experience of students, we try to relate the topic to their lives. Nevertheless, we are tempted, in teaching courses heavy with important information, to cut short the process and try to fill that empty vessel—the student—with our distilled wisdom. Games and exercises help us resist this temptation. They help to establish a tempo that permits learning. For us to think that what is learned is what is taught, is to overlook the analysis and practice students need to make knowledge their own.

Games and exercises build on the principle that skills, new information, and new concepts are assimilated best if students participate actively in the learning. As labor educators, we want our students to discover the meaning and the governing principles of their experiences in order to use that understanding to shape future experiences.

A game is stimulating and involving. It builds skills, permits experimentation with different ways of handling situations, and reveals what information is relevant. Games help the instructor focus on the learning process. They provide fresh insights to both the teacher and the taught.

Use of Games and Exercises

Labor law, collective bargaining, union administration, urban problems, safety and health, discrimination, can all be taught by methods that require active participation of the student. But because there is so much content to these courses, teachers too often assume more responsibility for the learning than is effective. Aware of how much needs to be learned, they forget that new ideas take time for an adult to add to the accumulation of many years.

One rule of thumb many instructors use to guard themselves from over-teaching is to divide class time into alternating periods: lectures to provide information, and class discussion or exercises to reinforce it. Discussion is a favored method, but good discussion is difficult to conduct and easy to terminate; use of it often leaves unfulfilled the goal of student responsibility for learning. One advantage of games and exercises is that they take control out of the teacher’s hands for at least a portion of the time, and place it directly in the students’. As the instructor helps integrate what happened into a broader theoretical framework, she does it at a time when student interest to learn is high.

Although every subject benefits from use of these techniques, they are natural for teaching leadership skills and interpersonal concepts such as team building; decision making; leadership styles; goal setting; action planning; communication; problem solving; conflict resolution; and strategies of power. This chapter provides a range of methods for assisting students to examine facts, values and attitudes, then to help them go on to practice integrating what is learned into their behavior.

Conducting the Game or Exercise

Games and exercises must be part of some other continuum, must fit into some context, exemplify some principle. That context should be discussed before the game begins, and the game should flow smoothly from the discussion. For example, a game that explores the problem and responsibility of union leadership to award recognition might be preceded by a discussion of why recognition is important, where it fits into other leadership responsibilities, and what the consequences are of equal and unequal recognition. An exercise in collective bargaining might be preceded by information on management prerogatives and Section 8 (d) of the National Labor Relations Act, which defines what subjects are bargainable.

In conducting a game, the instructor needs to have the right materials well organized. Once the game begins, the instructor keeps track of the time and, if necessary, reminds students when time is running out. The instructor introduces the game, ends it, and ties together what happened. As she does so, she restates and draws attention to the major points that came from the experience, relates them to theory, and discusses their implications for future activity. She encourages students to try out skills and ideas they do not yet handle well. She sets a climate of flexibility, openness, and warmth, and backs it up by being trustworthy and responsible. Finally, the instructor has fun and shows it.

A Typical Session

The class session that utilizes a game or exercise typically takes the following shape:

1. The teacher sets the stage for the exercise by conducting a mini-lecture and discussion on the subject of the session. This highlights information the teacher wants to convey and allows students to describe their attitudes toward the issue before they experience the exercise.

2. The exercise or game is introduced. The teacher explains its purpose, outlines what will happen, and describes the specific skills or concepts with which students will be concerned.

3. The exercise is conducted.

4. When the exercise ends, students discuss what happened, how they felt, and what conceptual insight they received.

5. Students give the teacher direction in conceptualizing what the exercise meant. The teacher assists by presenting appropriate theory or information that will help students understand what happened and construct frameworks within which to organize their new knowledge. She builds on student statements and student curiosity.

6. The teacher moves the class to a discussion of how the knowledge or skills can be applied in work or union situations.

7. The success of the exercise in achieving its purpose is evaluated. Evaluation helps the teacher in her future use of this exercise. It may even lead her to reject the exercise, or use it for different purposes or with other kinds of audiences.

8. Conclusion. The ending may be a summary, an anecdote, or warm good wishes for success as students try out their new skills at work, in the union, or at home.

All exercises should be reviewed for the instructor’s competence to handle the outcomes. Be sure you have a grip on what you are doing. Think about your relationship to the students, and their relationship to each other. No exercise should be undertaken that will undermine mutual trust or expose a student’s behavior as a failing.

Check for a logical flow of experience, reflection on it, formulation of principles based on it, and development of students’ personal theories that can be tested and practiced in new situations.

Role Playing

Role playing is probably our strongest tool for providing insight into personal interaction. It provides an imaginary situation in which students can practice skills and identify effective and ineffective behavior. It is rewarding for teachers, since the situation is not rehearsed and its outcome varies each time it is used. Students find it useful because they can try out new ways of handling situations without risking anything in their real lives.

Role plays can be simple or elaborate. As a starter, the simpler the better, since many students have trouble with the more elaborate. Stage fright and the need to master a role combine to undermine the effectiveness of formal role plays for both players and audience. Elaborate situations work better after simple, more spontaneous exercises have given students practice and assurance.

An exception to this rule is role play by teams, as in a bargaining game, where the team focuses on its strategic response to the situation. Instructors experienced with this teaching technique agree, however, that bargaining games are more successful when students are assigned individual roles to play within the negotiating situation.

Six Spontaneous Role Plays

Spontaneous exercises can be integrated within a lecture or discussion format. For example, the instructor can say: “What would you do? Jean, you’re the steward, Joe, you’re the operator. You have had it up to here with getting docked for every extra minute you take for wash-up. Tell her what you think.” Simple role plays can be used in quick succession to make your point and to familiarize the class with the method, or to see whether one response works better than another. Each exposes critical needs for tact, for analysis of other people’s agendas, or for understanding unrecognized fallacies in thinking.

The instructor cuts the action after a few minutes and opens the situation to discussion. What was good about the presentation? How might it have been more effective? What else could be done to accomplish the goal?

Several of the following spontaneous role play situations have been used successfully in working women’s training programs. They can be adapted for other groups, or used as presented here.

1. You see an article in the local union newspaper reporting that the international wants each local to set up a health and safety committee. You know your local has a committee, but it is pretty dead and there are no women on it. You think a woman should be on it because a great many health and safety problems relate to pregnancy. You go to the president with the news clipping, say you think it is a great idea, and that you would like to work on this. He says, “That’s right. That’s really important. But right now we have got layoffs and the state legislature is trying to cut back our pension rights. I don’t really have time to get this going. After things settle down we can do something.” What do you say?

2. A friend you respect is running for shop steward and you are helping her. You have just told another worker that you think your friend will do a great job. She says, “I don’t think a woman could stand up to the foreman. I know Helen would care about the things that go on here, but I just don’t think any woman can handle the job.” What do you reply?

3. All of the auditors in your department are men, and for the period of time you have worked for the state, always have been. You work as a secretary in the department, have been going to school at night, and have almost completed your degree in accounting. You ask the boss to be considered for the next opening. He tells you that you have to take the examination for the title and that your experience won’t count, since it is clerical. Besides, he can’t have women in the department because the job involves travel. What do you say? What do you do?

4. The local union president has appointed you to chair the human rights committee. You want to run a story in the local newspaper asking people who are interested in serving on the committee to get in touch with you. The president says, “It’s okay to announce the committee, but I see you want people to volunteer to serve on it. You can strike that line. I know exactly the right people.” What do you say? What do you do?

5. You are at a union meeting where layoffs are being discussed. One member says, “Women who go to work are simply taking jobs away from men.” What do you get up and say?

6. Same situation, new player: Feelings are running high, and as you talk, some of the men start yelling: “Go back to the kitchen.” “Why don’t you sit down?” “Barefoot and pregnant.” “What’s the matter? Can’t you get a man?” How do you handle this? What do you say?

Small-Group Involvement in Role Plays

The flexibility of the role playing technique also makes it useful for group briefings and group strategizing. Below is an example of a role play used to prepare students for involving workers in the union.

Break the class into three groups. Describe to each group one of the workers below. The group is to develop a strategy for recruiting that worker for some union activity. It also is to choose a “recruiter” who will use that strategy in approaching the worker. The teacher selects three people to play the worker roles and gives them their parts to study while the group develops its approach. The recruiter has the last word. Following the role play, class discussion focuses on the strategy, and on the recruiter’s ability to follow up on favorable or unfavorable responses from the worker.

1. Rita, a young woman. This is your first day on the job. When you started you were told that there was a union but you did not have to join. That’s OK with you. You think that unions have outlived their usefulness and believe that when institutions are outdated, they should fade away. You plan to help the union fade away by not joining. You are already active in civil rights and other organizations that you think are more vital today than unions, and you plan to stick to them.

2. Evelyn, a ball of fire. You have challenged management on a lot of bad practices. But you have never gotten anywhere and you are frustrated. You are impatient with the union, but you have courage and people do listen to you.

3. Tony. You have two years of college and are recently divorced. You find yourself at loose ends these days; the children are older and don’t need or want a hovering father. You are thinking of going to night school with the idea of moving into management.

Bargaining: The Most Elaborate Role Play

In a well-developed role play that requires preparation over one or more sessions, students combine many learning experiences: analytical problem solving, information collecting, practice in oral communications and interpersonal relations. Most bargaining games create a labor-management negotiation for students to work out. In those games, the instructor usually has to apply pressure to induce students to work toward a settlement, because the management team (composed of real unionists) loves to take a hard line. If urging by the instructor does not work within the time limit, a paper might be assigned on the topic: “What Issues Prevented Settlement?”

If the group is inexperienced at negotiating, the game will be more successful if the bargaining problem is close to its experience and special interests. In the case of more experienced negotiators, bargaining games are more helpful if the situations are unlike their own. Experienced students will feel freer in a simulation that lacks the pressure or threats of the problems they face every day.

The game presented here was developed for the collective bargaining course that is part of Cornell University’s Trade Union Women’s Studies. Because so few women have served on bargaining committees, the game is played not between labor and management, but between the women’s caucus and the union negotiating committee. The women have a demand they want the committee to put at the top of the list for the coming negotiations.

The case presented can be simplified or expanded. New elements can be introduced that are appropriate to your student body. Where a class consists of both men and women, a role reversal situation might be productive.

The Bargaining Game

You work for Cornell Manufacturing Company in New York. This company employed an almost totally male work force until 1968. From then until now, the percentage of women employees has grown from 3 percent to 33 percent today. There are nine job classifications for hourly workers. These are:

Step 1. Entry level—portering, cleaning, and light maintenance.

Step 2. Packing and labeling.

Step 3. Machine loader.

Step 4. Warehousing: shipping, carrying, loading, and unloading heavy packages. This job involves an element of strength, and is still largely manual—the employer has not brought in claws, fork lifts, etc.

Step 5. Machine operator (not highly skilled).

Step 6. Machine operator (skilled).

Step 7. Inspection.

Step 8. Maintenance mechanic (machinery repair).

Step 9. Process planner (non-production job).

Everyone in the manufacturing end of the company has entered at Step 1, and has progressed up the ladder as far as he or she was able to go. The tradition of learning the work sytematically, step by step, is seen by the senior members of the work force as being the “only way to do it.” Clearly it is accepted by new job applicants, too; the company has always had a long waiting list of applicants.

There is, however, growing unrest among the women in the plant because of their inability to be promoted above Step 3. It is clear that Step 4, which requires considerable strength, is a big stumbling block for most women, although a few have managed it.

Women now number approximately 132 out of a workforce of 400. Some women have decided to form a women’s caucus. Their aim is to press for increased promotional opportunities for women. They believe the way to accomplish this is to convince the union negotiating team to bring their proposals to the bargaining table and to fight for them. This is the first time this issue has been raised.

The Negotiating Team

You know that a women’s caucus has been formed to press the union to develop job opportunities for women. Your team is meeting to discuss strategy in dealing with this new group.

There are approximately 268 men out of the 400-member work force. The average seniority of the men is 15 years; most are above Step 4 level. The majority of the men oppose changing the current classification system. However, a number of the younger men would support changes.

With this in mind, prepare within your group: A new job classification system acceptable to the membership as a whole; and the arguments in support of the present system as well as of your new proposal.

Larry Simon, First Vice President. You have worked for Cornell Manufacturing Company for the past 18 years. You are currently a Step 8 maintenance mechanic, and work on the floor full time. You have served as vice president of the union for the past 10 years, coming in on the union slate led by Steve Maxwell.

Your long-term goal is to get released time to work for the union full time. You are viewed as Maxwell’s natural successor, and you feel you deserve the president’s job as a result of your years of service to the union.

You are an easygoing person. You don’t make waves and don’t like people who do. The women’s caucus poses a threat to you and your union. If Maxwell loses the fall election, you lose too.

Steve Maxwell, President. A 25-year employee of Cornell Manufacturing Company, you have been union president for 10 years, a full-time union job. Because you like your position and don’t want to go back to the shop, you are concerned about this “insurgent group,” which may represent a lot of votes. You are up for re-election in the fall and suspect that several candidates may challenge you for office.

You are caught between the women who want change and the men who want to maintain the status quo.

Lance Peters, Shop Steward. You have worked for Cornell Manufacturing Company for the past 4 years. You are currently a Step 4 warehouses You are shop steward for your unit and have been selected by them to serve on the negotiating team.

You are aggressive and have no difficulty in defending workers to the boss. Your long-term goal is to become union president. You see women and young men as your natural constituency.

You don’t have much respect for your union president, Steve Maxwell. You believe that he has lost touch with how it feels to work on the floor. You feel that the time has come for a new president, but realize that it is too soon for you to make your move.

Betty Washington, Secretary. You have worked for the Cornell Manufacturing Company for the past 9 years. Currently a Step 3 machine loader, you have no ambition to move up within the company. Rather, you are devoted to the union. Unmarried, you spend most of your non-working time in union activity. You see your future within the union structure.

You rarely express an opinion of your own within the union hierarchy. On the issue in question, you are unsure of your feelings.

Harry Wilson, Second Vice President. You have worked for Cornell Manufacturing Company for the past 23 years and are a Step 9 process planner. You have risen to the top of the structure and have no interest in becoming a supervisor. You do have ambitions to become union president, but realize that your chances are slim. You are a crusty person, and others find it hard to get along with you.

You see the women’s caucus as an attempt by upstarts to undercut the union. You believe that they should be stopped now, before they create problems in negotiations.

The Women’s Caucus

Your problem is to meet with the other women in your unit, and hammer out proposals. You are determined that this time your demands are not going to be taken off of the bargaining table. You are also aware that you must gain the support of the negotiating team and the union membership to be successful.

With this in mind, prepare the following within your group: A proposed job classification scheme; the arguments you would use to convince the negotiating team that your proposal has merit; if you are unsuccessful in achieving support for your proposal, a design for an acceptable alternative.

Gail Martin. You have been employed by the Cornell Manufacturing Company for a little over one year. You are a Step 1 porter, 20 years old. This is your first job. You were selected to serve on this committee despite your inexperience because you are outspoken and have had one year at the local community college.

You represent the new young woman entering the work force who grew up during the liberated 1960’s. You are not willing to sit back and wait for change. You feel that there are at least 50 other women who feel as you do.

Hattie Johnson. You have been at the Cornell Manufacturing Company for the past 10 years. Currently, you are a Step 7 inspector. You have made it by hard work to the position of inspector and you strongly support the present classification system. Your goal is to be promoted to Step 9 to show management that women need no special privileges. You don’t believe you’ve ever been discriminated against.

Although you have taken no active role in the union, you have been selected to serve on the women’s caucus because you are the highest-ranking woman in the plant.

Barbara Winters, Spokesperson. You have worked at Cornell Manufacturing Company for 7 years. You are a Step 5 machine operator. With in the union, you have held the position of grievance committee person for the past three years. You intend to run for a union office when elections take place this fall. Your long-range goal is to be the first woman president of your local.

You have a personal commitment to advancing the cause of women in the work force. In addition, you see women as the force to help you achieve your personal goals.

Gladys Street. You have been employed by Cornell Manufacturing Company for 5 years. You are a Step 3 machine loader. You have never played an active role in the union; you pay your dues, but rarely attend meetings. You have never been involved in a union election campaign or an outside political campaign.

Most of your non-working time is devoted to your family. Everyone is fond of you because of your sympathetic personality. You are excited and a little awed at being selected to serve on this committee.

Tina Richards. You have worked at Cornell Manufacturing Company for the past 5 years, are a Step 3 machine loader, hold the position of women’s shop steward. You were appointed to this position for three years. You quickly rose to Step 3 but have been unable to be promoted because of your physical inability to perform Step 4 work.

You are a loyal union member, loyal to your president, and have supported him in every union election. However, you have been pressured by women to do something about the lack of promotional opportunities at Cornell. Increasingly over the past year you have become frustrated over your own inability to move up within the company and can identify with the feelings expressed by the women you represent.

The Empty Chair Exercise

The Empty Chair exercise permits discussion of an issue within the framework of a group small enough to underscore interpersonal relations skills. It demonstrates the value of gathering maximum information.

The exercise can be adapted to a mock negotiating session, or to other role plays where individuals represent or speak for a larger group. It is particularly useful in a classroom situation where a few class members are chosen to speak for the views of a group too large to make discussion practical.

An inner circle is formed for six students who represent their individual points of view or perhaps two team views. Members of the inner circle are asked to refine ideas or strategies suggested in preliminary discussion or to represent the position of their team.

Although six students sit in the inner circle, there are seven chairs. The rest of the class sits outside, preferably in an outer circle. Inner circle members volunteer; or, if representing a team, are chosen by it.

Persons from the outer group may join the inner group, one at a time, and sit in the seventh chair when they want to contribute information they think the inner group needs. No other outer group member may speak. Those who join the inner group stay there only long enough to make their point. The teacher may have to enforce this rule in order to keep the seventh chair vacant for other contributors.


Brainstorming is part of the problem-solving process. It is used to generate many ideas quickly and to involve the whole class. It is not used to bring about agreement on a course of action.

Brainstorming builds on the concept that creative ideas are sparked by the thinking of other people as long as diversity is encouraged. It is especially useful in neutralizing domineering students, and in overcoming patterns of silence other students may have developed from fear of ridicule.

Here are the ground rules for brainstorming:

1. A problem is presented and the class suggests ideas for solving it. The focus is on a single problem, not a multiple or complex issue; for example, how to increase attendance at a membership meeting.

2. As many ideas as possible are expressed without any thought to their practical considerations. Several ideas may be combined into a new one. There is no class evaluation or analysis of any suggestion.

3. Make sure all students contribute.

4. Set a relaxed tone. The session should be congenial and interesting, not feverish.

5. Record all ideas.

After fifteen minutes, the brainstorming is stopped. In the next fifteen minutes, all the ideas are categorized and the class evaluates them. As students look for workable solutions, some of the wilder ideas may fit into practical measures that could be taken. Priorities are chosen for the best ideas for action.

When the priorities have been chosen, the class discusses the exercise and the results of brainstorming. Did it generate interesting ideas? Did it help discover practical solutions?

Other Creativity Warm-Ups

Here are a couple of quick exercises to stimulate student thinking and build on the thinking of others.

1. The class sits in a circle. Some problem is chosen for the focus. The student nearest the door starts by proposing some solution. Go around the circle with each student proposing a solution that uses as many ideas as possible of the person before her. If a student can’t add anything, she may pass. Continue until the problem has a plan that is generally acceptable.

2. The class sits in a circle. A problem is chosen for group focus. The student nearest the door proposes some solution to the problem. The next student states why she disagrees with the first. The third, why she disagrees with the second. Continue until all have spoken. If there is time, go around the circle three times. The point is that conflict can generate ideas that work. Discuss class reactions to the exercise and how they felt while it was happening.

Identification Ballot

An exercise in the critical skill of problem-solving is the Identification Ballot. The purpose of this game is to teach students how to build a structure that permits conflict as a resource, and how to look at the larger aspects of individual ideas. It emphasizes the need for shared participation in decision making.

The ballot can be used to identify either problems or solutions. Each problem or proposed solution is evaluated against an appropriate matrix or list of questions.

The example cited here can be adapted easily to other issues. It was developed for Cornell University’s Trade Union Women’s Studies course, “Social Behavior and Work.”

1. Divide the class into groups of four.

2. Distribute a ballot to each student. At the top is the question on which they are to vote: What are the three best steps your union can take this year to eliminate discrimination against women in employment?

3. Each student records up to five ideas, then evaluates them against the following questions: Is the idea politically acceptable in your union? Does the union have the authority to take this step? Is the step financially feasible? Will it receive support from the community? From the employer? Can the step be accomplished in one year?

4. Each student reduces her proposals to the three that best meet these criteria.

5. When the student finishes, she folds the ballot and places it in a secret ballot box. She does not sign her name.

6. The ballot box is opened and all suggested ideas are consolidated into one master list. A reader and a recorder are chosen to do this. If the same step is suggested more than once, do not record it a second time. When all ballots have been recorded, tear them up.

7. Each team now reduces the master list to the three best steps. Again suggestions are measured against the evaluative questions.

8. When each team has identified its three best steps, combine two teams and ask them to reduce their six suggestions once more to three.

If there is enough time, the process can be repeated until only two teams are left—half the class in each. The instructor then asks for a report on the final six suggestions and helps the class reduce these to three.

Enough time must be left to discuss what happened. The instructor should cut off balloting and decision making a half hour before the close of class, and ask each group to report the three steps they have chosen. Students are asked to describe what they did when it looked as though their own anonymous ideas would be rejected. Does the class consider that the final reports satisfactorily identify the best steps? What did students learn about each other and the process of decision making? Was it valuable to receive each other’s thinking?

The Action Window

Setting priorities among a host of possible actions is another problem-solving skill. The Action Window helps a group decide which actions they should undertake first. The example given can be applied to helping committees or executive boards move toward specific goals. It builds morale and enables a group to choose actions that can be successful in the short run and at the same time identify those actions that will take longer or may never be accomplished at all. Large sheets of paper will be needed for each “window.”

1. List as many situations as possible that you could deal with as a member of a committee. Brainstorming might help here.

2. Decide whether each situation helps or hinders you in reaching committee goals.

3. For each situation, decide whether or not the union is willing to move in that area.

4. Enter each situation in the appropriate window.

Force Field Analysis

This exercise can be applied to situations similar to those in the Action Window game. It is particularly useful for carrying on the analysis required to change an existing situation when the union is willing to change (Window B), or to change the union’s resistance to a situation that exists and is favorable to committee goals (Window C).

The Force Field Analysis helps students select realistic action steps and assures a review that requires the participation of all committee members.

1. Choose an action objective.

2. List on one side all the driving forces that work for your objective.

3. List on the other side those forces that resist.

4. Cross out any forces on your list over which you have no control.

5. Assign a number from one to ten to each remaining force, indicating the strength of it.

6. Develop a plan that will reduce resisting forces and increase driving forces.

Example: Your committee has determined that many young mothers would come to membership meetings if child care were available. You want to encourage the participation of these women.

Objective: Persuade the union to provide child care at membership meetings.

Cross out the Driving Force, “The union voted a dues increase this year.” There is nothing you can do about that one way or the other.

Cross out the Resisting Force, “Men just don’t like kids at a meeting.” You cannot control how people feel.

Assign strengths to each force. If young mothers feel very strongly about the issue, give that force a 10 strength for you. If no one cares much about attendance at meetings, give that force a weaker 3 strength for you. Your analysis might look like this after the committee has discussed it.

You have 13 points for you, and you have 13 against. You want to change that balance and win. Develop a plan that will increase Driving Forces and reduce Resisting Forces. In this example, the young mothers and your committee can mount a campaign to demonstrate that they really are interested and that their interest could be translated into votes. You will need some information on the other points and an education effort.

Rumor Clinic

The Rumor Clinic can be used either as a visual or an oral game. Its purpose is to demonstrate the failings of one-way communication, and to explore how people’s attitudes screen out reality, or adjust reality to fit their screens.

The classic example of screening is that of the law professor who staged the sudden entrance into the classroom of a criminal, the police, and bystanders, who then engaged in an encounter. They left as suddenly as they came, and the students were asked to describe what had just occurred. The diversity of accounts was astounding.

One type of screening and one-way communication used in our classes relies on a projector and a slide. The slide is of a scene that challenges common stereotypes or depicts incongruities. If a slide cannot be used, photocopies of a suitable picture may be substituted.

The picture in our example was of a woman, a black man, and two white men in a work situation. The woman was behind a huge executive desk. The black male appeared to be a client speaking on the phone in an authorative manner. One of the white men was offering a cup of coffee, and the other was taking notes. Instructions for conducting the game:

1. Explain that you wish to demonstrate certain aspects of the communication process as it applies to organizational behavior.

2. Ask for five volunteers and send them out of the room. Choose as “teller” someone who is alert and observant.

3. Explain that you are going to show a picture for one minute and you want the class to observe it closely. The teller will have the special job of describing the picture as completely and accurately as possible to the first volunteer who enters the room.

4. Throw the slide on the screen for one minute, or let the class turn over the photocopy you have distributed and study it for one minute.

5. Call the first person back into the room. Introduce the teller as a person who is going to describe as completely and accurately as possible the picture she saw.

6. Each listener in turn becomes a teller for the next person who returns to the room.

7. The last person tells the class as completely and accurately as possible what she heard.

8. The instructor leads the class in a discussion of what changes took place between the version of the original teller and the one the class just heard. A blackboard is useful for quickly writing down all the changes that are mentioned.

9. Then the instructor asks the class to look again at the true picture. Students observe either the slide or their photocopy.

10. Discussion: What changes occurred in the description? Why did these changes take place?

Other Class Participation Techniques

The examples of games and other exercises in this chapter have not touched on some of the more familiar techniques that also are useful adjuncts in placing responsibility for learning directly on the student.

1. Panels. The more structured, the better. Assignments that require students to present the side of an issue with which they disagree may open their minds to the problem better than those that follow their natural biases.

2. Scrapbooks. Maintaining a sharp eye for parallel issues in the daily newspapers can bring home the relevance of the principles students are learning in the classroom.

3. Student Summary of Previous Session. Some teachers find summarizing not only helps student learning but also increases ability to make public presentations. Assign one student each session the job of reporting to the next class meeting what occurred at this session.

4. Audience Reversal. This exercise requires students to present the same idea to different audiences. It builds skills and provides the stimulus for learning more about the views they espouse or oppose.

5. Worksheets. Using a series of worksheets will help students learn to map the steps needed to accomplish their goals. The exercise extends over several class sessions, for each of which students complete structured worksheets that analyze one or two steps in the goals process. Spacing the assignments permits students to learn how to break out tasks into small, discrete units and to solve those before moving on to the next step.

6. Questionnaires. Questionnaires are used to test attitudes or information on particular subjects. The questionnaire is administered to the class. Results are compared and discussed.

7. Particular skills, such as those needed for time management, career planning, or assertiveness training, are built through exercises and games contained in numerous popular paperback books. The exercises suggested in those books can be adapted for union use.

8. Mock Meetings. These are useful for practicing parliamentary procedure and the task and maintenance functions of a smaller group, such as an executive board or education committee.


For learning to occur, adult students should be confronted with real problems over which they can practice making decisions. Active involvement is the key if students are to become more accomplished and responsible individuals. The use of games and exercises in classroom situations provides students with opportunities to practice decision making and to see their daily experiences as learning situations.


Bolles, Richard. What Color Is Your Parachute? Berkeley, Cal.: Ten Speed Press, 1972.

        . The Three Boxes of Life and How to Get out of Them. Berkeley, Cal.: Ten Speed Press, 1978.

        , and John C. Crystal. Where Do I Go from Here with My Life? Berkeley, Cal.: Ten Speed Press, 1978.

Jakubowski, Patricia, and Arthur J. Lange. The Assertive Option: Your Rights and Responsibilities. Champaign, 111.: Research Press, 1978.

Jones, John E., and J. William Pfeiffer. Structured Experiences in Human Relations Training. Vols. I–VII. La Jolla, Cal.: University Associates, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1979.

Lakein, Alan. How to Get Control of Your Time and Life. New York: Signet, 1973.

Lippitt, Gordon, and George A. Ford. Life Planning Workbook for Guidance in Planning and Personal Goal Setting. Fairfax, Va.: NTL Learning Resources, 1972.

Mackenzie, R. Alec. The Time Trap: How to Get More Done in Less Time. New York: AMACOM, 1972.

Scholz, Nellie Tumlin, Judith S. Prince, and Gordon Porter Miller. How to Decide: A Workbook for Women. New York: Avon, 111.: 1975.

Simon, Sidney. Meeting Yourself Halfway. Niles, 111.: Argus Communications, 1974.

Strayhorn, Joseph M., Jr. Talking It Out. Champaign, 111.: Research Press, 1978.

Additional Information

MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Creative Commons
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.