Escape rooms are “live-action games in which people work together — usually in groups of three or more people — to discover clues, solve puzzles, and complete tasks within a certain time and accomplish a specified mission” (Plump & Meisel, 2020, p. 203). In the last decade, game-based learning, such as those using escape rooms, has enjoyed growing interest amongst scholarship on teaching and learning, especially in the field of management education (Leemkuil & De Jong, 2012; Nemanich, 2019). For example, Ben Arbaugh, Asarta, Hwang, Fornaciari and Charlier (2019), in their review and assessment of 250 articles on business and management education, found that the study of individuals’ involvement in games and their learning effectiveness was a key research stream.
According to Kapp (2012), games offer the participants a remarkable opportunity to experience a flow psychological state, where they immerse themselves cognitively and totally in the game. In doing so, the participants are intrigued, and made ready to creatively reflect on observations and conceptualise the abstract during gameplay. As they moved through the game, they may even generate knowledge and understanding beyond the game itself, through a quintessentially experiential learning process (Kolb & Kolb, 2005; Linnenbrink-Garcia et al, 2010). Escape rooms, when used in a management education setting, may thus offer participants a good chance to learn various people management concepts and theories, through their first-hand in-game experience.
Ben Arbaugh, J., Asarta, C. J., Hwang, A., Fornaciari, C. J., & Charlier, S. D. (2019). Business and Management Education Research: Developing and Assessing Research Streams Using Legitimation Code Theory. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 18(3), 433–456.
Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning style and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 4, 193-212. doi:10.5465/amle.2005.17268566
Leemkuil, H., & De Jong, T. O. N. (2012). Adaptive Advice in Learning With a Computer-Based Knowledge Management Simulation Game. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 11(4), 653–665.
Linnenbrink-Garcia, L., Durik, A. M., Conley, A. M., Barron, K. E., Tauer, J. M., Karabenick, S. A., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2010). Measuring Situational Interest in Academic Domains. Educational and psychological measurement, 70(4), 647–671.
Nemanich, L. A. (2019). Ahead of the Chains: Business Leadership Insights From the Game of Football, by Matthew F. Prostko. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 18(1), 117–118.
Plump, & Meisel, S. I. (2020). Escape the Traditional Classroom: Using Live-Action Games to Engage Students and Strengthen Concept Retention. Management Teaching Review, 5(3), 202–217. https://doi.org/10.1177/2379298119837615
The escape room game is designed for teaching ‘Team Dynamics’ to students. Examples of its concepts and theories include ‘task complexity’, ‘team size’ and ‘team effectiveness’.
The game involves having students, grouped according to their project teams, work on solving separate puzzles aligned to a central escape room theme. Typically, there are seven project teams of five to eight students each. Each student team is given a set of several puzzles. All the teams work concurrently within a time limit. They are to discover the clues incorporated in the puzzles as well as embedded in the classroom, and solve all of them in order to “escape” successfully. As the student teams work on solving the puzzles, the instructor will go around to offer hints to the teams that are stuck (like a game-master), and highlight the specific ‘Team Dynamics’ concepts and theories that are at play as they worked together. The latter serves as an effective way to draw students’ attention to the key concepts and theories to learn.
When time is up and the game ends, all the puzzle solutions are revealed, and simultaneously discuss the ‘Team Dynamics’ concepts and theories as reflected in the way the student teams have gone about solving each puzzle. For instance, task complexity’ is explained by reviewing the ‘task variability’ and ‘task analysability’ of a relatively simpler puzzle (received by one team), as compared to a more sophisticated one (received by another team). During the explanation, students are invited to comment on their ‘team size’ vis-à-vis the ‘task complexity’; thus concretising their realisation that they can link these concepts together, which ultimately bears implications to ‘team effectiveness’. Hence, the debrief reminds students of the myriad ‘Team Dynamics’ notions they have just experienced, through the escape room game, and enables them to concretise what they have reflected upon and abstractly conceptualised during gameplay.