An active learning approach to Bloom's Taxonomy: 2 games, 2 classrooms, 2 methods

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Date: January-March 2014
Publisher: U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School
Document Type: Report
Length: 6,020 words

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As educators strive toward improving student learning outcomes, many find it difficult to instill their students with a deep understanding of the material the instructors share. One challenge lies in how to provide the material with a meaningful and engaging method that maximizes student understanding and synthesis. By following a simple strategy involving Active Learning across the 3 primary domains of Bloom's Taxonomy (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor), instructors can dramatically improve the quality of the lesson and help students retain and understand the information. By applying our strategy, instructors can engage their students at a deeper level and may even find themselves enjoying the process more.

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Learning is not a spectator sport.

Chickering and Gamson (1)

The traditional approach of teaching, with instructors standing at a podium in front of the class before the students, imparting the wisdom of the collective years of their education and experience, may not be the best method for all students to learn and retain material. Cognitive research supports that this derisively labeled "sage on the stage" lecturing approach to teaching does not work well for all students. (1,2) Some students learn better through varied pedagogical practices: "[the literature] suggests that students must do more than just listen: they must read, write, discuss, or be engaged in solving problems. To be actively involved, students must engage in such higher-order thinking tasks as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation." (2) It follows then, that instructors interested in engaging their students at a more thoughtful level should consider expanding their repertoires of educational methods beyond a "death by PowerPoint" approach to lecturing. In addition to students' increased longing for captivating educational environments, the competitive environment at universities places pressure on faculty to excel at teaching. (3)

What methods can we employ to engage our students better? How do we extend our reach beyond the lectern? How do we engage students across the domains of Bloom's Taxonomy? An answer may lie in an "Active Learning" approach to address the domains of Bloom's Taxonomy. In this article, we put this discussion on a firmer foundation. In the next section, we explain Active Learning and the 3 domains of Bloom's Taxonomy: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. (4) We synthesize the role of Bloom's Taxonomy and Active Learning in developing 2 games: Trade or Raid, and Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate (Method section). We developed one game, Trade or Raid, to be played over multiple class sessions and the other, Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate, to be played during a single class session at a fast pace. In the Comment section, we provide a thorough comparison of the multiple versus single session games, elaborating on the Active Learning advantages and disadvantages through the lens of Bloom's Taxonomy. In the Future Directions section, we focus on continuous improvement and recommend study avenues in the realm of Active Learning across the Bloom domains.


We adopt the definition of Active Learning found in one of the seminal Active Learning manuscripts: Active Learning is any "instructional activities involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing." (2) As mentioned, the Bloom's Taxonomy domains are cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. In brief, Bloom's cognitive classification can be described as "thinking/head," meaning it involves activities that stimulate the mind. The affective domain can be thought of as the "feeling/heart," or activities that influence the emotions. Activities stimulating students physically fall in the psychomotor domain and can be described as "doing/hands."

In their discussion of developing affective methods to improve training for Airmen, Tharp et al recommend further research into affective learning to address "... questions regarding its use in and impact on Air Force education and training." (5) We feel the call from Tharp et al can be even broader. Their call for further investigation into affective learning can generalize beyond the needs of the Air Force, and likewise, should expand to include the other 2 domains of Bloom's taxonomy: the cognitive domain and the physical domain. Tharp and his colleagues ask how "cognitive and affective-design methods [can] be combined to create a more effective overall curriculum-development process." (5) We suggest that the solution may be found in a strategy of Active Learning that targets all 3 learning domains of Bloom's Taxonomy.


In developing principles to classify outcomes in education, Bloom and his colleagues generated their classification of learning objectives into what is now known as Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning. In the cognitive domain, thinking/head, the emphasis is on remembering or reproducing something which has presumably been learned, as well as objectives which involve the solving of some intellective task for which the individual has to determine the essential problem and then reorder given material or combine it with ideas, methods, or procedures previously learned. (4) Much effort has been focused on the cognitive domain in the past 2 decades. (6) Although a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this article, it is worth mentioning that the cognitive domain is further subdivided into 6 detailed levels: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. (7,8)

When reflecting on education, whether K-12 or higher, many consider learning as it relates to the cognitive domain. In contrast, the affective domain, feeling/heart, is focused on objectives "which emphasize a feeling tone, an emotion, or a degree of acceptance or rejection." (4) In this domain, the objective is to tune the teaching approach toward the learner's emotions, or to use the feeling/heart terminology: to touch the learner's heart to impact his or her learning. For a detailed discussion of the 5 subdivisions of the affective domain (receiving, responding, valuing, organization, and characterization by a value or value complex), refer to Bloom et al. (4) A detailed discussion of the levels of the affective domain is beyond the scope of our study.

In addressing outcomes focused on "objectives which emphasize some muscular or motor skill, some manipulation of material and objects, or some act which requires a neuromuscular coordination," Bloom et al (4) developed the psychomotor domain. Despite that few objectives in the literature focus on the psychomotor domain, it is important to consider the value of the psychomotor domain in healthcare education. For example, clinicians provide hands-on or manual care treatments; we should develop methods to tend to health education students.

In their research, Bloom et al (4) determined that most learning objectives fell into the cognitive domain, followed by the affective, and the fewest learning objectives fell into the psychomotor domain. In their vision, they hoped to develop a theory of learning that would cross all spectrums of education from those of the simplest learning to those of the most complex. It follows that if we approach the learner from more than one domain of the taxonomy, we should achieve stronger attention, comprehension, and retention.


As previously mentioned, Bonwell and Eison (2) provide our definition of Active Learning: "instructional activities involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing." Active learning can be looked at in contrast to the traditional classroom in which the instructor does most of the talking, moving, and doing, while the students sit and observe passively. (9) Two assumptions on which Active Learning is built, become apparent; "learning is by nature an active endeavor" and different students learn differently. (9) Active learning can be achieved through a variety of educational activities that focus on engaging students and rely less on instructor activity. These instructional activities can be "problem-solving exercises, informal small groups, simulations, case studies, role playing, and other activities, all of which require students to apply what they are learning" (9) (emphasis in the original). Active learning may involve using "structured exercises, challenging discussions, team products, and peer critiques." (1)

How then, do we incorporate Active Learning in our classrooms? We suggest the systematic approach to Active Learning that Auster and Wylie offer with 4 teaching dimensions: "context setting, class preparation, class delivery, and continuous improvement." (3) We set the context by developing a foundation of the skills needed to understand the games through traditional lecture methods, class discussions, and reading assignments. For our multiple session game, Trade or Raid, we introduce the game in its simplest form at the end of the first class. As a result, students begin to apply core macroeconomic concepts even before they receive a formal lecture on the topic. Thus, the Active Learning context is initiated in advance or concurrently, depending on the lecture flow. For our single session game, Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate, we establish the context over the first few class sessions with a foundation of health policy lectures.

This leads to class preparation. For each of the 2 games, we developed instructions, gathered necessary materials, and designed the games to inspire the students to apply the material developed in the foundation. Class delivery was different for each game. For our multisession game, Trade or Raid, the delivery was done in many short stages. At the beginning of the game, when the students had minimal foundation in economics, the instructions were simple with few variables. As the students gained more understanding of macroeconomic theory over the semester, we integrated more factors into the game. The challenge with the one session approach of Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate was that we had to make the information thorough, yet concise enough to be consumed in one class period. We discuss our approach to Auster and Wylie's fourth dimension, continuous improvement, in detail in the future directions section.


How do instructors engage students across the domains of Bloom's Taxonomy? To engage our students at the Army-Baylor Graduate Program in Health and Business Administration (part of the Academy of Health Science Graduate School in the Army Medical Department Center and School), we created 2 games. Trade or Raid is played in multiple sessions over the entire semester, building and evolving based on the material taught in the macroeconomics lectures. Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate is played from start to finish in a single health policy class session and requires quick thinking, strategy, and action.


Trade or Raid is an interactive economics game designed to familiarize the students with the fundamentals of macroeconomics, development, and political economy. In Trade or Raid, we adopt an iterative approach to the game over multiple class sessions, with rule changes that increase the complexity of the game and reflect the additional material the students learn in the macroeconomics lectures. The initial session of Trade or Raid is played early in the semester and is designed to require only a minimal foundation in macroeconomics. By the end of the semester, Trade or Raid rule changes increase the complexity of the game to a degree that integrates a more thorough knowledge of macroeconomic concepts, principles, and theories.


Each round of Trade or Raid may take from 10-15 minutes. Typically, we may play one round at the end of a class. In this game, we organize students into 3 teams, each representing a notional sovereign country. In actual play, each team chooses its own name to create a sense of belonging. For clarity in this article, we use Team 1, Team 2, and Team 3. During the game, the teams work independently to try to develop their respective nations' economies. To do so, each nation begins with a set of poker chips that represent the nation's capital stock-the productive capacity of the nation. The instructor provides the teams with the chips as shown in Table 1.

Each round is broken down into a series of phases. The first phase is production. With a productive capacity of 3 blue and one red, Team 1 receives 3 blue chips and one red chip at the beginning of each round. During the second phase, consumption, each team decides how much of their production they will consume. When the team consumes production, they turn in chips representing production to the instructor and receive gold coins that represent social utility (gold coins are not tradable; they represent the cumulative happiness of the residents of the Team's country). Following consumption, the teams can trade any remaining production with other teams. For example, Team 1 could trade excess blue chips with Team 3 for white chips, with the intent of consuming blue and white chip pairs in the next round. In the final phase, investment, teams can use any remaining chips to buy additional productive capacity. Additional productive capacity is priced differently for each team. Team 1 can buy additional blue chips for one chip each; additional red capacity for 3 chips each; and cannot buy white capacity. Team 2's costs are reversed, and Team 3 must pay 3 chips for any additional capacity, regardless of color. If the team chooses to invest, the productive capacity is greater in the next round, yielding more production for all future rounds, representing a wealthier country. In subsequent rounds of the game, we introduce other economic principles to increase complexity, such as capital depreciation, taxation, infrastructure investment, etc, coinciding with lessons taught in class lectures.

While the game seems stacked against Team 3 based on the initial rule set, we introduce the first rule change after the first 2 or 3 rounds, adding raiding to the trade phase. Now during the trade or raid phase, teams may either make a peaceful offer of trade with one of the other teams, or they may raid one of the other teams. Raiding consists of one of the team members from the raiding team taking as much (usually all) of the target team's production as they like. Under these rules, the target team has no defense. Order now becomes critical, and gives Team 3 a powerful advantage. Since Team 3 always goes last, if Team 1 or Team 2 raid anyone, Team 3 can simply come through last and take all of the booty for itself. With the introduction of raiding, the game changes dramatically and provides an opportunity to discuss the impact of geography on economics. Table 2 demonstrates that the teams did eventually choose to specialize and engage in some level of trade. Looking at the red/blue/white columns for each team, one can see that each team ultimately only maintained productive capacity in its respective specialty.

The problem to be solved now for the 3 teams is how to take advantage of peaceful trade opportunities and increase investment so that production for all can increase. Gaining control over violence is a necessary condition for economic growth and is the central theme of the book Violence and Social Orders, (10) which is read toward the end of the course. When students finally arrive at the book, they have viscerally experienced and actively participated in the problem of violence and its utility-reducing effects for weeks as they have struggled to deal with game theoretic issues such as the inability to commit to promises.

In Table 2, we illustrate the Teams' results over multiple rounds and sessions of Trade or Raid (due to space constraints, only 2 teams are listed). Note the minimal amounts of investment that occur. An optimal strategy would be to invest heavily throughout the game to generate more production. The problem for Teams 1 and 2 is that if they save production with the goal of investing, it may be stolen from them during the trade or raid phase of each round. In the game documented in Table 2, Team 1 invests a total of only 10 chips, Team 2 a total of 15 chips, and Team 3 (not shown) a total of 33 chips, far less than optimal. This pattern has been consistent over all 3 iterations of the game, and reflects economic theory about development and violence (as modeled by Leeson (11)). Having experienced the difficulties of controlling violence, teams gain a deeper understanding as to why many parts of the world seem consigned to poverty

Game 2. The health Policy Game: Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate

We played Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate in a single session (the fifth) of a health policy class, after establishing the students' foundation of health policy-making in the previous 4 lecture sessions. In this game, students are assigned roles as legislators or stakeholders, and their task is to "pass" a national health policy bill that best supports their respective constituents. Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate integrates the health policy coursework from earlier in the semester to provide an Active Learning scenario of a health policy-making process in a democratic republic society. Drawing from previous class sessions, we expect students will recognize aspects of several frameworks, such as agenda-setting from the Stages Heuristic (12) or Longest's Framework, (12,13) and actors and context factors from Walt and Gilson's Policy Triangle. (12,14) Likewise, the national health policies that students propose during the game include aspects of both public interest theory and economic theory of government interventions. Before starting the game, we remind the students that they may generate policy items that run the gamut of government roles, including expenditures, taxation, and regulation.

Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate Game Play Explained

The overall objective for all players is to diligently promote their group's ideologies to best support their constituents' desires. The students are separated into either one of 2 legislator groups or one of several stakeholder groups. The number of stakeholder groups is based on the number of students in the class, but at least 5 or 6 groups are necessary to generate enough complexity.

To understand the game play for Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate, a few definitions are in order. A "policy item" is a specific healthcare action stakeholders try to promote to a political party's policy proposal. Students may generate positive promotion items: policy courses of action designed to benefit the owning group. For example, the American Hospital Association stakeholder group designs a policy item increasing Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement rates by 10%, thus increasing revenue to hospitals. Alternately, students may create negative blocking items: policy items that preserve benefits or prevent disadvantage to the owning group. For instance, the American Hospital Association designs an item, albeit an unrealistic one, that makes the development of provider-owned medical facilities illegal, thus blocking competition.

In addition to the overall objective listed above, each legislator group has as its objective passing their political party's national health policy proposal. Passing occurs when one legislator party collects more chips than the other by the end of the voting period and remains in good standing with constituents for reelection. In other words, the legislators want to pass their proposal, but they do not want to do so at the expense of their constituency. Therefore, the challenge for the legislator parties is to try to balance as many stakeholder groups' desires as possible.

While the legislator groups attempt to pass their proposals, each of the stakeholder groups have as their objective to have more of their policy items on the National Health Policy Proposal that passes than any other stakeholder group. So, the stakeholder group has to decide which legislator party (or both) to support by contributing chips. For example, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) stakeholder group may want to have the following policy items included in the national health policy proposal: expanded Medicare benefits, ceilings on prescription drug pricing, restrictions on what hospitals are allowed to charge seniors for hospital stays, and other policy items. The AARP stakeholder group offers one of the legislator groups any number of poker chips representing the votes/influence/support of the AARP's constituents in an attempt to have the legislator group place the AARP policy items on the bill. Considering that the stakeholder groups in the game include groups with incompatible goals, such as the American Hospital Association and PhRMA (the trade association for the pharmaceutical industry), it quickly becomes clear that the conflicting policy items from each of the stakeholder groups creates a layer of complexity and requires all the players to strategize. Additional complexity ensues from the right of the stakeholders to reclaim their chips at any time. Thus, if the legislator group adds or removes a policy item that offends a stakeholder group, the stakeholder group can take back their chips to keep or give to the other legislative body. Note: due to space constraints, detailed instructions for Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate are not included here. However, that information is available upon request from the authors.


Comparison of the Multiple and Single Session Games

Each game had its advantages and disadvantages; some affected both games. For instance, we designed both games to relate to the concepts and theories of the corresponding coursework and from the inception of each game, we focused on stimulating learning across the 3 domains of Bloom's Taxonomy. Although playing the games took longer than if we had only presented lectures about the topics, we expect the games left a stronger impression of the concepts on the students. Individually, each game had its advantages and disadvantages as well.

For example, playing Trade or Raid, most students developed a better understanding of the game as they played multiple sessions. Correspondingly, their knowledge of the macroeconomic theories behind the game grew as the students related the game to the coursework and lectures that continued over the class sessions. On the other hand, some students found the game a little confusing initially and did not devote their full attention to subsequent game sessions. Because class sizes were normally 25 to 30 students, it was possible for some students to participate in a limited capacity. However, there was evidence, such as the following students' comments, indicating that most students were engaged in the game and associated it to the corresponding concepts:

   The game mimicked reality. As new concepts were brought into the
   reading and lectures, the rules of the game were changed so that
   those lessons would be particularly pertinent.

Trade or Raid incorporated concepts of consumption, production, investment, and trade. The game illustrated the concept of absolute and relative advantage clearly.

Whereas Trade or Raid required 10-15 minutes in multiple class sessions over the course of the entire semester, students played Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate in a single class session, thus minimizing the class interruptions and time required for the game. Like Trade or Raid, Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate is a complex game, but it has the added challenge of a frenzied pace of game play. Said pace may have led to the students relating fewer concepts and theory to the game than they did with Trade or Raid. However, we believe the "aha" moment for some students came after the game session ended as they contemplated the events of the game. This is evidenced in one player's suggestions for improving the game:

   I would recommend ... ensuring a clear split between special
   interest groups that are likely to support republican
   and democratic sides.... To add a real complexity to it,
   it would be a good idea to give different special interest
   groups a different number of tokens to reflect their actual
   political interests. If this were done I think it would
   encourage a little more interorganizational collaboration
   because groups with less political influence would be
   encouraged to collaborate with one another on different

Active Learning Advantages and Disadvantages Through the Lens of Bloom's Taxonomy

As we observed the students' in-class actions and evaluated their feedback, we determined the Active Learning approach was successful in impacting the students across the cognitive, affective, and physical domains. By employing game play, we engaged the students' desire to win. Their desire translated into actions and behaviors affecting learning.

Cognitive Domain

In Trade or Raid, we added increasing complexity to the game over the course of the semester. The increasing complexity encouraged the students to keep their focus and wits sharp if they wanted to have a chance at winning. Their passion for winning engaged the students at the cognitive (thinking/head) level. By adding intricacies over the course of the game, aspects previously beneficial to a certain team became liabilities later. For example, in the beginning of the game, Team 3 felt they were at a disadvantage because they only had one production capability. However, when raiding was introduced, they discovered they had a critical advantage. Similarly, when depreciation was introduced, efforts at diversifying the production base became rapidly ineffective, and so teams were required to change strategies throughout the course of the game.

On the other hand, Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate is a single session game, so we were limited to the extent we could increase the level of complexity. We were, however, able to create a few complexities. We told the students that the instructor may change aspects of the economic or political environment, or any other externality. For example, 5 minutes before the vote (ie, chips) tally, we told the legislator stakeholder groups to reduce the number of policy items on their national health policy proposal to a level substantially lower than what they had on the board. By doing so, legislators had to reevaluate each policy item to determine which provided the most stakeholder support. Stakeholders had to determine which of their policy items were being cut and what actions they should take in retaliation (for example, demand the return of their chips).

Affective Domain

The passion elicited by the competition in each game affected the students at the affective level. To be accepted in the Army-Baylor Graduate Program in Health and Business Administration, students must compete against their peers for a limited number of slots in each cohort. Most of the students are very competitive and have a strong desire to succeed. By placing the students in a de facto competition, a game, we target the students' desire to win and focus on impacting the students' learning by getting them emotionally attached to winning. In Trade or Raid, the competition is on a game session by game session basis; each time the students play, they step through the phases of consuming, trading and raiding, and investing. To come out ahead, the students have to integrate what they have learned from the macroeconomics lectures, readings, and exercises. Dealing with intergroup behavior, problems of trust, negotiations, and broken promises, coupled with the inherent unfairness of the rules (order of play, absolute advantages) triggered surprisingly powerful affective responses to the game:

   It was certainly an emotional experience. Some members
   of losing nations resented perceived slights from richer
   nations that extended far beyond the game. Building allegiances
   and watching them be successful (at the expense
   of others) was the most memorable part of the game.

   Trade or Raid brought out the worst in people. Everyone
   wanted the gold coins and did whatever they could in
   the hypothetical situation to gain them. There were many
   tense moments when the personalities of leaders, even
   within the classroom, clashed.

In contrast, we developed Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate with a compressed timeline to simulate an impulse buy experience. Students want to win; to do so they have to think and act quickly and strategically to have the most items on the passing bill (stakeholders) or to gain the most chips to have their bill pass (legislators). With an impulse buy, consumers are placed in situations in which they perceive they must buy items immediately or lose the opportunity to make the purchase in the future. In like manner, in our game, the stakeholders have to make immediate decisions on how many chips to offer for each policy item they want on the legislator group's bill. The legislators have to decide which policy items will garner the most chips. The impact to the students' affective domain can be recognized in how loud and frenzied the negotiations get, particularly as the time remaining in the game begins to dwindle.

Physical Domain

Each game had a similar but different impact on the students' physical domain. Both Trade or Raid and Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate required students to get involved physically, but in slightly different ways. In Trade or Raid, the students used poker chips to signify their production capability and they collected/dispensed the chips in each phase of the game. As the game progressed, the students had more objects to work with, including toy soldiers, different color poker chips, and gold coins. They moved around the room when they were raiding, and flipped coins to simulate combat once armies were introduced. Their handling of the different objects exceeds the impact of solely reading information on a page or screen and makes the information more memorable. As one student commented:

   It places these lessons in a context that we can see and
   touch as opposed to viewing them in abstract through
   lectures (emphasis added).

The design of Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate puts the legislator groups at separate dry erase boards in the room. Although the legislators do not have to remain at the boards and can pursue the stakeholder groups, generally, the stakeholders approach the legislator groups. Imagine a classroom filled with 25 students, with each student on a separate mission to win-whatever "win" means to him or her-moving around the classroom, fighting for the attention of his or her target person. The ensuing chaos ensures a lot of physical movement and involvement. Visions of the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange on a volatile day may come to mind.


The direction we take our 2 games depends on what we have learned during the process of developing and employing the games in the classrooms. Changes we make are based on continuous improvement, an integral part of the Active Learning approach.

The Role of Continuous Learning in the Active Learning Process

We previously discussed 3 of the 4 dimensions to the Active Learning teaching approach: context setting, class preparation, and class delivery. (3) While each of those aspects is important, perhaps the most difficult dimension to implement is that of continuous improvement. Continuous improvement requires taking the time to evaluate the work that has been done, make adjustments as necessary, and implement the changes the next time the games are employed. Although for Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate we had to do the reflection after the game session, we were able to consider changes for Trade or Raid over the course of the semester.

Student feedback is an integral part of the continuous improvement process. (3) We gathered feedback about the learning experience from our students for each of the games. A few of the student comments and the impact of the comments on the games are included in the following paragraphs.

Regarding Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate

The preponderance of the students' feedback for Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate called for extending the game; as one student clearly stated:

   I think the game should be extended to either an entire
   class period or too [sic] 2 class periods. Essentially, it
   would have been nice to have a little more time with my
   special interest group to discuss our policy and initiative
   ideas. Some of this could have also been resolved if we
   knew our groups ahead of time and you could assign the
   blog the week before a specific focus area for each group
   that would get the creative juices rolling.

The comment above identified 2 weaknesses in the game, time and pedagogical strategy. Several students suggested that we provide them more time; some suggested playing the game over more than one session, but most suggested providing time before game day to prepare their policy items and plan of attack. The pedagogical strategy weakness lies in the compressed timeline designed to stress the negotiating process and incite emotions-hence, impacting the affective domain-so we want to be careful in increasing game play time. We intentionally withheld information until the day of the game in to make the game more challenging. However, doing so limited time available to determine policy items based on what they had learned in previous lecture sessions. For future renditions, we will provide students lead time and enough information for them to predetermine policy items.

   Another suggestion would be to weight the power of the stakeholders
   by dividing the tokens out proportionately ... reflect[ing] reality
   rather than every group holding 11 tokens.

In our initial iteration of the game, we provided each stakeholder group the same number of tokens (11). In reality, health policy stakeholder groups have different levels of influence. For example, it is likely that the American Medical Association has more influence in health policy bills than does the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In the future, we will distribute the tokens in accordance with the estimated influence weightings of each of the stakeholder groups.

   I also think that many of the groups that normally support
   the Democratic Party's policies were not included
   in the game (minority groups, poor, women, etc) and I
   think it would be interesting to include these groups.

It was too easy to talk with the congress and it actually didn't cost much money. I'm not sure how we could do that. I just know that you have to contribute a lot of money to gain the favor or vote of a legislator.

Concluding the discussion about Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate with the 2 students' comments above, we provide the seemingly unrelated comments to illustrate how the sheer volume of feedback can stir our ideas for improving the games. In the case of the above comments, we derived an idea to add additional player positions in the game. We will add individual voters of various social economic status and ethnicities. These voters will have a designated time period in the game during which they will have the legislators' full attention and can confront the legislators on any policy items. Doing so will challenge the legislators to remove or add policy items to their bills to satisfy their voting constituents.

Regarding Trade or Raid

The feedback differed for Trade or Raid, due in large part to the maturity of the game. While this was the first year we played Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate, Trade or Raid is in its third year. We have done much of the improvement and finessing of the game over its past few iterations. We make minor tweaks to the game as the game progresses over the semester, gauging the students' interest and needs. Despite the maturity of the game, we still find ways to improve it and student feedback is integral to the continuous improvement process.

Of the 2 games, Trade or Raid is the more intricate and complex. That complexity was not lost on the students, as expressed in these students' comments:

   The game objectives and the process were unclear in the

   Better explain the rules and potential stratagies [sic]. I felt
   like we were operating in the dark for much of the game.

Despite the refinements over the years, it is clear that the students could benefit from more instruction about game play and rules.

As with Vote, Negotiate, and Retaliate, time was an issue for some students. However, the time issue took a different form with Trade or Raid, as show in the following comments:

   The game play was too spread out. Each turn was too far
   removed from the last.

   Dedicate specific time each week for the game so students
   can know when to expect to play and be prepared.

Both comments indicate the need for more structure in the timing of the game. In the future, we will provide specific times for the game sessions and share the schedule with students.


Our foray into gaming as a strategy to involve Active Learning across the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains of Bloom's Taxonomy has provided us with dramatic improvements in engaging the students and their information retention. We have shared what we gained from our experience in this article. We provided a clear explanation of Active Learning and the 3 domains of Bloom's Taxonomy. (4) In the explanations of our games, we integrated the role of Bloom's Taxonomy and Active Learning to provide an understanding of the relationship between them.

We focused the discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of each game through the lens of Bloom's Taxonomy to provide a clear understanding of how Active Learning impacts each of the learning domains. Practitioners can develop teaching games using our model as a template to maximize the impact of their games. Researchers can build on our model through an experimental or quasi-experimental study focused on empirically evaluating the affect of the games on each of the domains. Although the challenge of providing material in a meaningful and engaging way to maximize student synthesis exists, the quality of lessons and the students' retention of the information can be dramatically improved by following a simple strategy of Active Learning across the primary domains of Bloom's Taxonomy.


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MAJ Fred K. Weigel, MS, USA

LTC Mark Bonica, MS, USA

MAJ Weigl and LTC Bonica are Assistant Professors, Army-Baylor University Graduate Program in Health and Business Administration, JBSA Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Table 1. The distribution of chips among
the teams at the beginning of the Trade or
Raid game play. The chips represent the
productive capacity of each nation (team)
in play.

Team   Blue Chips   Red Chips   White Chips

 1         3            1            0
 2         1            3            0
 3         0            0            4

Table 2. trade or raid scoring by Each round of a 13-round Game
conducted over an Entire semester.

                                Team 1

Round    Production   Consumption   Investment   Inventory   Spending

1            4             2            0            2          0
2            4             2            1            1          0
3            5             8            0           -3          0
4            5             2            3            0          0
5            6             6            0            0          0
6            6             5            0            0          0
7            5             2            0            0          3
8            4             3            0            0          1
9            4             1            0            0          3
10           4             0            4            0          0
11           8             0            0            0          0
12           8             4            2            4          4
13           10            8            0           -4          6

Totals       73           43            10           0          17

                      Team 1

                           Productive Capacity

Round    NZ   GDP   Gold   Red   Blue   White

1        0     4     3      1     3       0
2        0     4     3      1     4       0
3        0     5     12     1     4       0
4        0     5     3      2     4       0
5        0     6     8      2     4       0
6        1     6     7      1     4       0
7        0     5     3      0     4       0
8        0     4     3      0     4       0
9        0     4     1      0     4       0
10       0     4     0      0     8       0
11       8     8     0      0     8       0
12       -6    8     4      0     10      0
13       0    10     12

Totals   3    73     59

                               Team 2

Round    Production   Consumption   Investment   Inventory   Spending

1            4             0            0            4          0
2            4             0            3            1          0
3            7             6            6           -5          0
4            9             6            0            0          0
5            9             7            0            0          0
6            9             6            3            0          0
7            9             8            0            0          1
8            8             4            3            0          1
9            8             4            0            0          1
10           8             2            0            4          2
11           7            10            0           -4          1
12           6             0            0            0          0
13           6             6            0            0          0

Totals       94           59            15           0          6

                      Team 2

                            Productive Capacity

Round    NX   GDP   Gold    Red   Blue   White

1        0     4     0       3     1       0
2        0     4     0       6     1       0
3        0     7     9       6     3       0
4        3     9     9       6     3       0
5        2     9     8       6     3       0
6        0     9     9       6     3       0
7        0     9     12      6     2       0
8        0     8     6       6     2       0
9        3     8     4       6     2       0
10       0     8     3       6     1       0
11       0     7     15      6     0       0
12       6     6     0       6     0       0
13       0     6     6

Totals   14   94     81

Description of Game Play Activity and Resulting Scoring

The table captures the decisions and outcomes of each student
team's actions.

Round 1 for Team 1: the students started with a productive capacity
of 1 red and 3 blue. Thus, the first entry for production is 4.
Team 1 consumed 2 units of production and saved 2 units as
inventory for the following round. Total gross domestic product
(GDP) for the "country" was therefore 4. This represents the
concept of circular flow in macroeconomics, where production and
consumption have to be equal.

Round 2: Team 1 produced 4 again, but this time consumed two units,
invested one unit, and saved one unit. The gold earned was 3,
representing the 3 for 2 reward the team earned by consuming a
mixed pair of chips (1 red, 1 blue). This demonstrates a second
principle of economics, that we prefer to consume a variety of
goods, rather than just one type. The one unit of investment
appears in the increased quantity of blue productive capacity,
where the blue capacity went from 3 in round 1 to 4 in round 2.

Round 3: As a result of the investment in round 2, Team 1 now
produces 5 units, 4 blue and 1 red. In round 3, Team 1 consumed all
of their production from round 3 (5 units), plus the 3 units they
had been holding in inventory, which results in inventory being
measured as -3. Again, this represents changes in inventory, a key
measure for Keynesian macroeconomic theory.

Round 6: Team 1 has a net export (NX) value of 1, which means they
exported 1 more unit of goods than they imported. Since the game
operates in a real (rather than money-based) economy, a positive NX
tells us that Team 1 was raided in this round, and that 1 of their
chips was taken. Losses to raiding are treated as exports.

The final totals row shows how much each team produced, consumed,
invested, spent on building armies, exported, and finally how much
gold was earned. The gold total represents the amount of utility
the citizens of each country gained through the process of
consumption. The final lesson of the game is the realization that
it does not matter how much a country produces, all that matters is
how much its citizens are able to enjoy life. This is the ultimate
lesson of macroeconomics, and the point of the course to show that
maximizing this value is not as easy as it sounds in a sometimes
violent world.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A361848302