“Reacting to the Past” is an active learning pedagogy in which students are assigned historical characters in role-playing games designed for higher education. In Reacting to the Past (RTTP) games, students must communicate, collaborate, and compete effectively and in doing so they learn skills—speaking, writing, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership and teamwork—in order to prevail in difficult and complicated situations.
Unlike in a play, the roles in the game do not have a fixed script or outcome. Students must align with the philosophical and intellectual beliefs of the historical figures they have been assigned to play and figure out their own means of expressing those ideas persuasively, in papers, speeches or other public presentations. Plus, students must also pursue a course of action they think will help them win the game. Instructors advise students, and grade their oral and written work.
“I am not sure I have ever had a deeper learning experience” –English professor James Lang, on playing Nehru during the RTTP Annual Faculty Institute, as reported in the Chronicle. “Reacting to the Past will revitalize your classroom, change you and your students—whatever you teach.” José Bowen, President of Goucher College, after playing the art critic Joséphin Péladan during the Art in Paris: 1888-1889 game, as reported in his blog.
The RTTP curriculum was developed in the 1990s at Barnard College, and has now been implemented by faculty at hundreds colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad.
The Reacting Consortium is holding its sixth Winter Conference as a virtual event hosted by the University of Georgia, January 14-16, 2022. The Conference includes a course design workshop, opportunities to experience one of five Reacting games, and keynote sessions.
If you’re interested in learning more about RTTP, and whether it would be a good addition to your course, register for the Winter Conference now.