Developing Teamwork and Creative Thinking Skills Through Fast-Paced Contests

At the Online Learning Consortium: Accelerate conference in November, I attended a series of events that pitted teams of educators against one another in a fast-paced competition to propose a solution to a pressing problem in online education. Teams were given a problem prompt, 15 minutes to ideate a solution, and a few minutes each to pitch their solutions to a panel of judges. There were five sessions total; the first four sessions were preliminary rounds and the fifth was the final round where winners from the preliminaries faced off against each other. Each of these sessions lasted about 45 minutes. This series of events, organized by the OLC Technology Test Kitchen was aptly titled the Iron Chef Battles due to their resemblance to the popular cooking contest series.

These rounds were exciting. The contestants had to work fast and think on their feet. They had to use prior knowledge but also be able to quickly hunt down missing information on the internet to fill knowledge gaps. At the same time that they were brainstorming and developing their responses, they were putting together their presentations and pitches. In many cases, people on the teams had never met prior to the contest. In the span of 15 minutes they had to learn to work together and utilize all their best critical and creative thinking skills.

As a member of UTA’s Professional Learning Community on Digital Scholarship, I had been stressing to develop a project proposal to be implemented over spring 2017. I was short on ideas that would satisfy the project requirements for the program. The Iron Chef Battles provided the inspiration I had been waiting for. It got me thinking, how would such a contest play out for a group of undergraduate students? Would a contest like this increase students’ confidence in their teamwork, critical thinking, creative thinking, and communication skills? And could those changes in confidence be measured? So I set out to write a proposal for a contest series modeled on the Iron Chef Battles. As of today, I have completed the proposal and will begin planning and organizing the events when I return to work after winter break.

The contest is set to take place over each week in April as part of the Experience @ UTA Libraries Series. I have attached to proposal here for anyone who would like to view/use/adapt it to their own needs.


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