Blockbusters – Bromley College

“A little while ago we bought a set of voting buttons for our computer system. I loved the instant feedback I could get from the quick formative assessment quizzes I could run – testing out the learners’ understanding on the fly. But then the company we bought from introduced me to the computer version of the Blockbusters game – it’s fantastic! It comes as a complete package to help you build your own vocational version of the TV quiz show.

The impact of using it has been massive – suddenly, the learners looked forward to being assessed! It generates good camaraderie, they’re enthused and engaged throughout, and there’s a great, and healthy, competitive atmosphere.”

Advice for others? ”It’s not the only game we use – there are loads out there. Think about variety and appropriateness. Keep it fun, vary it and you’ll keep having the impact.”

Errol Ince – Head of Engineering

Exams’, ‘tests’, ‘assessments’ – not the sort of terms that make learners relax and not the sorts of activities that most people look forward to. But Errol and his team found that the on-going task of measuring the impact of their training could actually be quite a lot of fun if they stopped doing what they’d always done and tried something new.

Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-born American industrialist and arguably the second-richest man in history, said in his book Think and Grow Rich that you should ‘turn your shortcomings into assets’. In our educational context, we could interpret this as ‘which bit of the programme/process do the learners dislike, and how can we make this the area they look forward to the most?’

For Errol and his team, this was assessment – initial, formative and summative.

The game

The Blockbusters game is a simple piece of software that is free to download from Promethean Planet. “Producing the quizzes is easy,” says Errol, “though it can be a little time consuming at first.”

Step 1: Write 20 questions and their corresponding answers on your chosen subject.

Step 2: Take the first letter of each answer and transfer to the Blockbusters game grid.

Step 3: Add the questions to the corresponding grid letter.

And that’s it…

“All the students enjoy it tremendously,” says Errol, “but it’s also a very good assessment tool. I can quickly determine what their knowledge is – how much distance they’ve travelled. It also helps them with their team-working skills – it’s very good development for them.”

Induction and initial assessment

Errol uses the game during induction as an ice-breaker activity – helping to build the group dynamic while also getting a strong sense of what individuals already know.

Formative assessment

At the end of each theory workshop, Errol tests his learners’ new knowledge.

Hasan Koulle (learner): “You spend the whole afternoon learning very technically about it (the subject) then you’re tested, but in a fun way. There’s competition between each other, but it’s a great laugh and you’re learning at the same time – which is the best thing about it.”

But rather than just finding out what the students know, the game engages each team in a debate to work through possible answers before deciding on which one to submit. This enables those learners who did not know the answer to contribute, or at least hear the debate, so giving them an extra chance at learning the key points being tested in a risk-free environment.

Lincoln Gordon (learner): “I think it’s a brilliant way to learn. After a lesson, when you do the game, it’s like going over what you’ve just done so it sticks, and you enjoy it – it’s really fun at the same time.”

Summative assessment

Finally, Errol also uses the game at the end of a unit of study to help assess the distance his learners have travelled and the effectiveness of his teaching.

Using the Blockbusters game is just a small part of the approach Errol’s department uses to assess the on-going skills and knowledge development of its learners. Errol’s second case study on fault finding shows how his team also makes very effective use of vocationally-specific computer programs. And in the college’s inspection report, inspectors highlighted this area as a key strength:

  • highly innovative use of ILT to support teaching and learning in motor vehicle lessons.