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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Jeopardy in Education

Jeopardy in Education

By Dr. Steve Gruenert
Associate Professor and Department Chairperson
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University


Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

In the game of Jeopardy, contestants are given answers and must provide responses to such in the form of questions.  It sounds easy enough, but as the last few decades have shown us on network television, it can be a challenge, indeed.  Education, likewise, has provided us answers for quite some time, to which we have been trying ourselves to ask the right questions.

Consider the following from games played in our schools each day.

Contestant - “I’ll take Pedagogy for $1000, Alex.”

Alex - “The answer is: Giving a pop quiz.”

Contestant - “What is a form of assessment?”

Alex - “No, I’m sorry, the correct response is: How do weak teachers ensure attendance?”

In your next faculty meeting, why not deepen everyone’s perspective by including Jeopardy as a way of putting a conversational cart before a horse. It might lighten a subject that runs the risk of hitting too close to home … yet one that needs exploration.  The Internet has many sites where one can download the Jeopardy game and insert your own answers and questions.

One such critical conversation has to do with student behavior.

As educational leadership faculty, we believe that when students misbehave, they are answering a question. A strong teacher will be able to discern the answer a student is providing. An average teacher will fumble around trying to read-in to the answer or attempting to guide the student toward a different one, eventually succumbing to the philosophical weight of the exercise. A weak teacher will respond with his or her own answer in response to the student’s answer. The weak teacher will misbehave as well.

Student misbehavior seems to pervade many schools; teachers oftentimes claim it as their number one source of frustration. Quotes of apples not falling too far from trees are oftentimes topics of lounge banter.  If student misbehavior is a recurring problem, perhaps it is an answer students are providing for a question borne of the teacher, lesson, or classroom environment.

So, let’s explore some other answers that are occurring in our schools.

Contestant - “I’ll take Bullying for $500, Alex.”

Alex - “The answer is: Jimmy won’t leave Charles alone.”

Contestant - “What happens when Jimmy gets mad?”

Alex - “No, I’m sorry, anyone else?”

Contestant - “What happens when the teacher leaves the room?”

Alex - “No, I’m sorry, we need a more specific response.”

Contestant - “Who is Jimmy, and what are his needs?”

Alex - “Correct.”

Let’s try another:

Contestant - “I’ll try School Culture for $500, Alex.”

Alex – “The answer is: Good people are visiting a toxic teachers’ lounge.”

Contestant – “What happens if preparation periods are too long?”

Alex – “No, I’m sorry, do we have another question?”

Contestant – “Where is the only microwave provided to staff?”

Alex – “No, I’m sorry, it doesn’t have anything to do with technology.”

Contestant – “How can a good school become weak?”

Alex – “Correct.”

Another possible question might be “What have we done with our leadership to encourage ‘our best’ to seek refuge?” 

If the Socratic Method is to continue to explore the answers in a setting of dialogue and inquiry, perhaps using the game of Jeopardy in the context of educational professional development (going deeper with each inquiry, to get to the best and most logical question), could be deemed as the Jeopardic Method.

Consider this a new way to approach leadership, one of getting to the best question for each answer provided in daily business of “doing education.”  It could even become a part of the way we better learn how to lead.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to have three focus groups of educators get together (high performers, average folks, and underperformers) for the purpose of facilitating the Jeopardic Method with these issues:

The answer is, “Low faculty morale.”
The answer is, “Low student academic performance.”
The answer is, “Poor student attendance.”
The answer is, “Weak parental support.”

The similarities or differences in the questions (responses) provided would be interesting, indeed. What would teachers from each group believe is the cause of each of these conditions?

In particular, who among these groups could potentially move us toward the right questions? Or rather, would we stay with all groups at the pedestrian level -- that which has provided the same questions (reasons) to the answers we have experienced in education for quite some time?

By the way … teacher misbehavior, a question in and of itself, serves also as an answer that our strongest principals are beginning to aptly question.


Dr. Steve Gruenert and Dr. Ryan Donlan are always looking for contestants in their own game of Jeopardy.  Some consider it a rather uncomfortable topic for conversation; hence, our authors oftentimes must eat lunch by themselves or with each other.  If you would like to ask some powerful questions, or help better to discern the answers we experience, please feel free to contact them at or at  They would be happy to call on you.

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