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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 397-401

Crossword puzzle: An effective self-learning modality for dental undergraduates

1 Department of Orthodontics, Sharad Pawar Dental College and Hospital, Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Sawangi Meghe, Wardha, India
2 Department of Periodontics, Sharad Pawar Dental College and Hospital, Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Sawangi Meghe, Wardha, India
3 Department of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics, Sharad Pawar Dental College and Hospital, Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Sawangi Meghe, Wardha, India
4 Department of omfs, Bharto Vidyapeeth Dental College & Hospital, Sangli ,Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission24-Jun-2020
Date of Decision28-Jul-2020
Date of Acceptance28-Jul-2020
Date of Web Publication1-Feb-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Rizwan Gilani
Department of Orthodontics, Sharad Pawar Dental College and Hospital, Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Sawangi Meghe, Wardha, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jdmimsu.jdmimsu_233_20

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Purpose of the Study: Teaching/learning modalities modified with certain interactive and innovative learning modalities can make dental education interesting and fun-loving. Dental graduates are taught too many concepts/subjects in a very limited time period. This makes remembering and recollecting things difficult by the conventional monotonous methods of teaching. The purpose of conducting the study was to see the practicality and efficiency of using crossword puzzle as an alternative learning methodology for undergraduates and to assess the practicality and use of crossword puzzle solving as an alternative way to remember essential concepts and promote self-learning among dental undergraduates. Materials and Methods: Crossword puzzles were created online and content was validated by subject experts by compiling the clues and answers to essential objectives of the topic and the students were instructed to complete the puzzle solving in a specified time period. The students completed it in collaborative groups of 3–4. The first group who successfully complete the puzzle was reward. 30 min was allotted for 25–30 clues of crossword puzzle. Student perceptions toward crosswords for their learning were assessed with a survey questionnaire using 10 questions on a 5-point Likert scale and informal feedback. Results: Most students agreed that crossword puzzle solving was very effective and useful teaching/learning modality and it immensely contributed to active learning and improved remembering the topics and concepts better than the conventional teaching modalities. Conclusions: Exceptionally good response was obtained from undergraduates students to crossword puzzle technique as an effective teaching–learning modality in dental curriculum.

Keywords: Active learning, crossword, dental curriculum, learning modality, puzzles, teaching

How to cite this article:
Gilani R, Niranjane P, Daigavane P, Bajaj P, Mankar N, Vishnani R. Crossword puzzle: An effective self-learning modality for dental undergraduates. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ 2020;15:397-401

How to cite this URL:
Gilani R, Niranjane P, Daigavane P, Bajaj P, Mankar N, Vishnani R. Crossword puzzle: An effective self-learning modality for dental undergraduates. J Datta Meghe Inst Med Sci Univ [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Feb 28];15:397-401. Available from: http://www.journaldmims.com/text.asp?2020/15/3/397/308563

  Introduction Top

Various interactive and innovative teaching/learning methods have been advocated in medical and dental education to create a healthy learning environment for students and to make it interesting and joyful. Conventionally teaching methods are classified into teacher controller and learner controller methods.[1] In today's modern era of technology, teaching/learning modalities have drastically improved due to the incorporation of innovative technologies in teaching and learning methods.

Dental students are subjected to vast variety of information in a very short span of time during their under graduation. Most of the teaching given to students in dental curriculum is through the conventional PowerPoint/white board methods of learning resource material which is repeated every year and thus makes it a passive teaching/learning modality which is very monotonous and boring for students. Educational experience becomes more fruitful using active strategies such as quiz, debates, role-play, and puzzle-solving which alleviates boredom, breaks the monotony, and makes learning enjoyable.[2] Active learning methods like these have various advantages which mainly includes development of innovative thinking, leadership skills, collaborative learning skills, attitudes, and values, thus promoting concept formation providing an avenue for discovering misconceptions and increases motivation.[3] Incorporating active teaching/learning methods into dental curriculum will allow teachers to increase the participation of students in the learning process and boost their self-confidence and learning experience. Incorporation of games/crosswords in dental curriculum thus could be an effective method of teaching/learning for undergraduate students. Crossword puzzles/games not only stimulate the mind,[3] but also increase the remembering and recollecting skills and thus help to develop healthy skepticism.[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9] Therefore, instead of the age old teaching/learning method of teaching the subject, crossword puzzles can be beneficial as a self-learning tool to promote self-learning and to develop positive thinking in the learning process.[10],[11] Apart from newspapers and magazines, crosswords have started to appear in some medical and nursing journals[12],[13] also. Previously some studies have been conducted in some medical colleges to assess the effectiveness of crossword puzzle as a method of teaching and they have got positive results. Hence, the present study was conducted to assess the effectiveness of crossword puzzle solving as an active and self-learning modality in dental undergraduates.


To assess the effectiveness of crossword puzzle solving as an active and self-learning modality in dental undergraduates.


  1. To assess the usefulness of crossword puzzle as an interactive and creative learning tool for dental undergraduate students
  2. To evaluate the efficiency of crossword puzzle as an alternate way to improve understanding of essential concepts and vocabulary.

  Materials and Methods Top

The above-mentioned study was done in the Department of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics, at Sharad Pawar Dental College and Hospital, Sawangi (M) Wardha. Final BDS students were selected by systematic random sampling. Every alternate student from attendance register was selected for solving the puzzle. Total sample size was 50.

Suggestions were taken from dental faculty members regarding the topics to be selected for crosswords. After discussing the suggestions, two topics, growth and development and development of dentition and occlusion, from the subject of orthodontics were finalized. These topics were from the “Must Know” domain of the syllabus. Crossword puzzles with ensured content validity by the experts of dental faculty were designed on a free internet resource online on www.armoredpenguin.com/crossword. Simple learning and recall and problem solving and application of knowledge was considered while designing the crossword puzzles. The crosswords were made so that they are congruent with the specific learning objectives of the topic.

The topic was taught to the students through didactic lecture. At the end of the lecture, the crossword puzzles in printed format were distributed to all the students and they were asked to complete this exercise within a stipulated timeframe. The first group to complete the exercise within time was then declared as winner and rewarded.

Design of the study

The present study is a randomized controlled, parallel group interventional study with open label.

Pre-test and post-test forms were given to students before and after solving of crossword puzzle respectively to assess knowledge gain. These forms consisted of 10 questions with one word answer of 1 mark each.

Feedback forms were then distributed to all the participants to assess their perception about crossword puzzles as an effective self-learning was obtained through questionnaire survey that included questions dealing with crossword puzzles. They were asked to respond a 5-point Likert scale. The survey questions were prepared based on the overall educational objective of assessing the usefulness of this method of teaching/learning. Open-ended questions were also included.

Conduction of crossword

The 50 students who were selected for crossword were further split into three subgroups based on their performance in formative examination as low achiever group (10 students), moderate achiever group (25 students), and high achiever group (15 students). Low, moderate, and high achievers were defined as per the criteria of Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Deemed to be University as students scoring <40% marks as low achievers, students scoring between 40% and 74.9% marks as moderate achievers, students scoring >75% marks as high achievers.

The students from these three subgroups were then divided into two groups randomly using simple lottery system as Group A (25 students) and Group B (25 students) as depicted. This randomization was done so that each group should have equal number of low, medium, and high achiever students, making both the groups equal prior to the start of crossword and thus avoid any bias.

Prior to the start of crossword activity, the students were sensitized about the study and the reason of conducting this study was explained properly to all the students. Consent form was then taken from all the students.

Among the two groups made, Group A (25 students) was considered as experimental group and Group B (25 students) was considered as control group for the study. Hard copies of printed crosswords were given to the participants of Group A (experimental group). The students were asked to individually solve the crossword within 45 min. To encourage self-learning, students were permitted to refer textbooks and other self-learning tools to solve the crossword. The participants of Group B however initially underwent self-learning without crosswords. Crosswords for two different topics were conducted on two different occasions.

Pre-test and post-test evaluation was done in both the groups. Taking into consideration that none of the groups in this study should miss this unique and innovative method of self-learning in dental education, Group B (control group) students were able to solve the crosswords after posttest.

Views of students about crossword as self-learning tool for the experimental group (Group A) were recorded using the questionnaire which was prevalidated.

Data analysis

Data was analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively using data analysis of completion index. The data analysis of completion index (% of correctly solved clues, p < 0.05), comparison of pre and post test score comparison (student's unpaired t test), learning effective index (% posttest score minus % pretest score), intervention effectiveness (class average normalized gain [g] 0.3 i.e., 30% is considered significant)[14],[15] and students feedback were analyzed quantitatively on a 5 point Likert scale, the usefulness of crossword solving exercise however was analyzed on a 10 point Likert scale. Open-ended questions were analyzed by qualitative method of data analysis.

Ethical clearance

The Institutional Ethics Committee of DMIMSDU has approved the Research work proposed to be carried out at Sharad Pawar Dental College, Sawangi(M), Wardha. Date : 17th Nov 2019 with Reference no DMIMS(DU)/IEC/2019/565

  Results Top

After acquiring the data of crossword and subjecting them to statistical analysis, the following results were drawn. The compliance percentage of student's participation in group A was 100% for both the crosswords. Crossword completion index was 95%.

After analyzing the pre-test and post-test scores of both the groups, the following conclusion was drawn: the score of Group A (experimental group) increased from 25% (pretest score-5.6 ± 1.2) to 50.55% (posttest score-10.25 ± 1.3). There was also a significant increase in absolute and relative learning gain. The response that was received for the questionnaire was about 99%. Group B also showed improvement in test scores from 32.51% (pretest score: 7.03 ± 1.3) to 49.70% (posttest score: 10.14 ± 3.1) [Table 1] and [Table 2].
Table 1: Scores of pretest, posttest, and learning gain

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Table 2: Perception of students about crossword activity

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The students found the idea of keeping crossword puzzle as an active learning tool very effective. 85.2% of students strongly agreed on this point, 69% students strongly agreed that their knowledge regarding the topics of crossword puzzles substantially increased, about 62% of students strongly agreed that the crossword activity not only motivated active learning along with self learning but also helped them to remember and recall the topics, nearly 52% students were of opinion that this activity was brain storming and effective in developing problem solving efficiency, and 57.67% of students were of opinion that the topics in this activity were from the core area of the topic.. Thus, as per the “Hake's criteria,” crossword puzzle solving was considered a moderately effective educational intervention in the form of a self-learning tool.

Overall, about 90% of students strongly agreed that crossword puzzle improved learning through recreation and that it is an effective self-learning method, whereas 70% of students strongly agreed on incorporating crossword puzzle in dental curriculum. As per the response received from the 10-point scale, it was concluded that 62% of students found this intervention as “useful” whereas 38% of students found the educational importance as “very useful.”

The suggestion and strengths received from students in item no. 10 of the questionnaire are shown in [Table 3].
Table 3: The suggestion and strengths received from students in item number 10 of the questionnaire

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  Discussion Top

Various interactive and innovative teaching/learning methods have been advocated in medical and dental education to make the teaching/learning process fun and joyful for students. The Indian dental curriculum has long been advocating the incorporation of new teaching–learning modalities in dental curriculum to make the learning more interesting and fun filled. It has been a routine observation by dental faculties that students usually find it very challenging to properly remember the concepts of dentistry by the traditional method of teaching–learning which is followed by most of the dental colleges in India. Difficulties in remembering the terminologies and definitions are a common problem encountered by majority of dental students. To overcome such difficulties, numerous authors and subject experts have suggested adoption of alternate/active learning strategies into the dental curriculum to improve participation of students in learning.[3],[16],[17] MacDonald and Saarti also suggested that understanding fact based subjects (like dentistry) should be less of a burden and more of a satisfying experience.[16] Active learning strategies in dental curriculum may overcome these problems. Incorporation of newer self-learning modalities will not only promotes critical thinking but also makes the whole process of learning a fun filled experience. Keeping these things in mind, this study was planned to assess the usefulness of crossword puzzle as a self-learning tool in dental undergraduates and student's perception toward this modality.

The conclusion drawn after assessing the results of this study was that crossword puzzle solving is an efficient modality for teaching/learning in dental curriculum. This is witnessed from higher posttest scores, absolute and relative learning gains, and student's acceptability toward this new learning modality.[18],[19]

Very few studies in dental education still have used a randomized control design and pretest/posttest analysis as measure to determine effectiveness of crossword puzzles solving among dental undergraduates. Hence, no previous data is available for comparison. However, a RCT bi Riau et al. used this method for evaluating vocabulary in class 8 students.[20]

Effectiveness of the crossword puzzle solving as an effective self-learning tool can be accepted and sustained due to the good response received from the students in feedback which proved crossword solving activity was an enjoyable and effective teaching–learning modality. As described by Thorndike's law of effect, the crossword puzzle activity was a pleasurable and memorable experience for the dental students and hence is more likely to be repeated and learned. Students have recommended crossword puzzles as a useful, and acceptable tool along with challenging and problem solving for learning and understanding the subject better. Hence, it can be concluded that retention of the subject/concepts was higher in the intervention group as compared with the control group.

This method can be used for conduction of small group discussions and tutorials. From the response received from the students, crossword puzzle solving appears to be an effective method of teaching/learning and can be included in dental curriculum. Although creation of topic-specific crossword puzzles was a bit time consuming. The advantage, however, is that the crossword puzzle activities are easy to implement electronically (using software/free websites). A variety of computer software is present on the internet for preparation of crossword puzzle.[21],[22],[23],[24],[25],[26],[27],[28]

  Conclusions Top

We observed a reasonably good response from dental undergraduate students to crossword puzzle solving modality of teaching. It was very immensely appreciated by the students. To make undergraduate teaching more interesting and interactive and to promote active learning, future involvement of complex crossword puzzles solving can be added in the dental curriculum in India and worldwide.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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