Survivor: Classroom - A Method for Active Learning that Addresses Four Types of Student Motivation


  • James A. Newell Rowan University


This paper describes an active learning game that addresses different motivational styles including intrinsic, social,  achievement, and instrumental. The game is loosely based on the CBS television series Survivor and involves breaking the class into student teams (tribes) and allowing them to compete at solving chemical engineering problems. In each round, the first tribe to correctly solve the problem receives immunity while all other tribes lose one player. The eliminated players work in new teams to develop questions for use in subsequent rounds. Unlike many activities, including game show adaptations, designed to foster active learning, this method addresses all four primary motivational styles and is well suited for classes with mathematical solutions to problems. Student feedback regarding the activity has been overwhelmingly positive over three years.

Author Biography

James A. Newell, Rowan University

Jim Newell is a professor of chemical engineering at Rowan University. He currently serves as secretary/treasurer of the Chemical Engineering Division of ASEE and has won the Ray Fahien Award from ASEE for contributions to engineering education and a Dow Outstanding New Faculty Award. His research interests include high-performance polymers, rubric development, and developing metacognition in engineering teams.