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The Plant Health Instructor

Volume: 02 |
Year: 2002
Article Type: Course-Curriculum Development
​​​​Student Reaction to Review Sessions Modeled After the DeBary Bowl

​Paul Vincelli and Pat Heist

University of Kentucky

Date Accepted: 04 Feb 2002
 Date Published: 01 Jan 2012


Keywords: debary bowl

Plant pathology teachers have used review sessions modeled after competitive game shows for several years (3). These bring excitement and fun into the classroom, with the intention of enhancing student motivation to learn. We conducted review sessions modeled after the DeBary Bowl during the 2001 fall semester in a 400-level introductory course in plant pathology. (The competition was named the Nesmith Bowl in recognition of an outstanding Extension specialist in our institution.) Teams of students were given four review sessions, one in the class period preceding each exam. Prior to each competition, students were re-assorted onto different teams. Preparation for the competition was expected to be done outside of class, as a part of preparing for each exam. Competitions were conducted as a single elimination playoff, using a commercial quiz-bowl-buzzer system. Students were not allowed to discuss their answers before or after "buzzing in". Questions used were those that challenge students to think at the "knowledge" level of Bloom's taxonomy (1), through recall of facts, terms, and concepts. Exams were comprised of many such questions, but not exclusively so. Students on the winning team each received 5% extra credit on the exam, and all other students were allowed to earn the equivalent amount on the same exam by answering an extra-credit question. After the first and fourth review sessions, students were provided a questionnaire to be completed anonymously. The questionnaire contained three questions posed as statements (with possible responses of "strongly disagree", "disagree", "agree", and "strongly agree"), as well as space for written comments. Quantitative responses to questions were analyzed using the chi-square test (2), testing the hypothesis of unequal cell probabilities. Of 24 enrolled students, 23 and 21 returned completed questionnaires after the first and fourth session, respectively.

Updated 2012

We found that student response was very favorable to the review sessions early as well as late in the semester. In both surveys, >95% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statements, "The Nesmith Bowl was enjoyable" and "Preparing for the Nesmith Bowl helped me learn the material" (P<0.01). In response to the statement, "Participation in the Nesmith Bowl helped me learn the material", 96% and 90% of respondents reported agreement or strong agreement (P<0.01) after the first and fourth sessions, respectively. Written comments indicated that students perceived the exercise as a helpful and exciting way to review material, that they had a better understanding of instructor expectations, and that the review helped them identify areas of weakness in their knowledge. One recurrent concern was that "free loaders" – underachieving students – were able to receive extra credit without apparent effort. Written comments also highlighted the importance of pacing the game slowly enough for students to assimilate the material.

Our results demonstrate strong student support for a review session modeled after the DeBary Bowl. Possible ways to obviate concern about "free-loading" students include: awarding prizes (e.g. pens, tee-shirts) instead of credit on exams, apportioning extra credit to the winning students based on the number of correct responses, or modifying the game format to require minimal involvement of all participants.

Addendum, 2007​

The Nesmith Bowl continues to be highly appreciated by students as a way to review class material, to enhance motivation to learn, and to better understand teacher expectations. It has become a fundamental part of this introductory course. There is no longer any remuneration (extra credit or prizes) for the winning team; competing for either seemed contrary to the notion of valuing learning for its own sake. This also eliminated any concern about “free-loaders.” (Paul Vincelli)

Addendum, 2013

Since the de Bary Bowl is no longer held at the annual APS meeting, a brief description seems in order.  It was a game-show format conducted during the evenings, with teams formed around APS divisions, a substantial bank of technical questions, and plenty of chairs for the rather sizable audience.  It was a competitive event but very much conducted in good spirits, thanks to the warmth and humor of hosts such as Drs. Don White and Cleo D’Arcy, among others. 

Our Nesmith Bowl reviews continue to be highly popular among students.  The intention is to keep them fun and not especially competitive.  One of my goals for the course is to promote positive attitudes towards the subject matter, and the Nesmith Bowl seems to contribute towards that end. 


1. Bloom, B. S., and Krathwohl, D. R. 1956. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York, Longmans, Green.

2. Ott, L. 1977. An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Data Analysis. Duxbury Press, North Scituate. 730 pp.

3. Stack, R. 1993. Putting your class in "Jeopardy". Phytopathology News 27:64.