Using Side-Choosing Games (SCGs) for Teaching Formal Science Courses

The goal of SCGs for teaching is to create a dialog between the students in two ways: (1) the students make claims about a formal science topic and other students bring them into a fault or contradiction (or agree with them). This leads to an assignment dialog between the students (not a dialog with logical arguments). (2) The assignment dialog brings up questions like: why did I get into fault? why did I win? What was my first mistake? Students can discuss those questions in small teams in person or in a chat room. Those informal dialogs are likely to involve logical arguments.

Low-tech use of SCGs

The games played by the students (the assignment dialogs) can be formally checked for game rule violations by using the lab definitions provided by the instructor. But this requires software and the software is very unforgiving if a student makes a small mistake.

We decided to try a low-tech use of SCGs where students were playing the role of administrator making sure that the game rules are followed. The administrator also had a helping role with scheduling the matches and moving the games along.

To record the student interactions we could have used email but Piazza has a more convenient capability of recording the interactions. The low-tech approach worked quite well. There is a danger that some students are lazy and don't check that the values they get conform to the game rules established by the instructor.

But the low-tech approach provides flexibility allowing the students to participate in the debates without having polished algorithms implemented.

It is important that one of the students playing the assignment dialog (game) have higher skills than the other unless both are quite strong.

Team-based learning. We divide the class of n students into n/3 teams of 3 students. Within each teams a full round-robin tournament is played. The winner (maybe chosen randomly if there is a tie) becomes the leader of this team. In the next round we have n/9 teams of 3 winning students (each representing her team of three students). We stop this division process when all teams arrive at the same conclusion and there are no faults.

Spring 2014: A new version of SCG for teaching algorithms using Piazza

MS Algorithms Course Spring 2014: SCG with Piazza . We embarked on teaching an MS algorithms course using SCGs and Piazza. To find the topics that were studied using debates, check the Homework link. The debates were a part of the homeworks. The debates are embedded in the Piazza posts (private Piazza groups of three students were formed at the beginning of the semester).

The concept of side-choosing games was not yet used. (SCG was already used but it stood for: Scientific Community Game.) In this course we used semantic games associated with a predicate logic formula. We used a table by Hintikka to map formulas to games:

The process described here is useful:

SCG-Teach. An introduction to teaching with SCG from 2013 and updated 2015.

Instance-Solution Special Case. describes an interesting special case demonstrated with teaching query design and spreadsheet development.