The dynamic classroom: using ‘Reacting to the Past’ in active interdisciplinary courses
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Citation (published version)K. LaMontagne. 2020. "The Dynamic Classroom: Using ‘Reacting to the Past’ in Active Interdisciplinary Courses." Impact: The Journal of the Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching & Learning, Volume 9, Issue 2,
Imagine a classroom where a trumpet-playing student leads a march through the halls of their academic building while playing the “Internationale,” or the class walls are covered with student-created propaganda advocating for women’s suffrage. This same classroom will be the site of weeks of debate, laughter, and dismay as students take part in the gamified role-playing pedagogy of Reacting to the Past (RTTP). Reacting to the Past was developed at Barnard by Mark Carnes in the late 1990s and has slowly grown in practice to over 400 campuses with a game library spanning hundreds of years and topics. This pedagogy employs a number of learning styles such as lecture (passive), role-playing (active), creative (active), and speeches (active/rhetorical). A dynamic hybrid (and ‘flipped’) classroom can be achieved using RTTP with careful planning, ‘character’ assignments, and creating student buy-in. In this article, I begin by outlining how the pedagogy itself works and current scholarship on RTTP. Then drawing on my past experience teaching introductory, interdisciplinary general studies (core program) courses (history/political science with a British Atlantic scope), I will recount how I integrated numerous expected learning outcomes for assessment using RTTP, and most specifically Mary Jane Treacy’s exceptional game, Greenwich Village, 1913: Suffrage, Labor, and the New Woman (2015). I will revisit how myself and others have used experiential education as part of this work. Further, I will outline the successes and drawbacks of the RTTP pedagogy in a general studies introductory classes across the social sciences (which focus on history, politics, economics, sociology) and make suggestions for adopting the methodology in existing academic curriculum. In doing so, I will recount the moments of synergy and synthesis in RTTP that create a provocative, active student-centered classroom.
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