Reacting to the Past is an innovative teaching pedagogy developed by Mark Carnes of Barnard College, the women’s college associated with Columbia University (see www.reacting.barnard.edu). This approach uses unscripted role playing games set in the past, initially to teach history, but now encompassing other disciplines such as the sciences. Reacting engages students in an unprecedented manner, and they become motivated to spend hours outside of class, working with and discussing primary texts in order to “win” the game while also developing key skills and deep and lasting friendships which connect students to each other and the university, thus aiding in retention.
The first objective for the FLC is for members to provide support for one another as they implement Reacting games and concepts into their courses. This technique is very different, and implementing it takes courage and, in some aspects, turning one’s normal way of thinking about students upside down. For this reason, it is important for faculty to come together to talk about issues with their particular situations, even if it is just a bit of anxiety. It is also useful to discuss things that one could have done better or things that worked really well. Through this process, I am hoping that we can establish a system of mentoring and supporting others through their first Reacting games in the future.
Another key goal of the FLC will be to carefully read and discuss literature on RTTP and other similar programs. This will include the book, Setting Minds on Fire, by Mark Carnes which will be out in the fall (for samples of others sources, see the “Selected Publications” section on www.reacting.barnard.edu). In doing this, I believe that we will be able to look closely at MTSU and similar institutions that have used this pedagogy across the United States. We will discuss how this program can be implemented into a regional state university and the issues involved. The FLC will work towards producing an article dealing with these issues.
A third objective for the FLC will be to propose assessment tools for evaluating the effectiveness of RTTP pedagogy at MTSU. How to assess RTTP effectively in institutions such as ours is something that the Reacting Consortium is still attempting to address. I believe that our group, with the experiences that many of us bring into this discussion, could work towards developing something beneficial not only to our university but maybe others as well. I also would like for us to lay the foundations for a substantial grant proposal to fund the implementation of an assessment plan for this program at MTSU.
In order to accomplish our goals, this FLC will meet once per month (and maybe more often during the latter parts of the spring and fall semesters when faculty are likely to be running Reacting games). In September-October we will conduct a review of the literature and discuss implementation at MTSU. In November-December, we will focus on support for Reacting games. In the spring we will use what we have learned from the fall semester and will begin to discuss issues concerning Reacting at MTSU and will begin to flesh out an article as well as a proposal for assessment. We will also begin to identify sources where we might be able to seek funding to implement this plan.
Faculty members must have attended the Summer Institute and/or the MTSU Reacting workshop and plan to indirectly or directly implement this pedagogy into one or more of their classes in the 2014-2015 academic year.