Reacting to the Past is a pedagogical approach pioneered by Columbia University professor, Mark Carnes, in his teaching position at Barnard College. Reacting’s approach to teaching and learning consists of elaborate games in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas. Class sessions are run entirely by students; instructors advise and guide students and grade their oral and written work as well as participation. In drawing students into the past, Reacting instructors promote engagement with big ideas, and improve intellectual and academic skills. (Adapted from http://reacting.barnard.edu)
This workshop will be both informative as well as interactive. The session will begin by introducing the general approach of Reacting’s pedagogy, transition to research findings that support the methodology, and provide an overview of current game offerings.
In the hopes of moving beyond the implied suitability of the pedagogy for the humanities (i.e. History, English, Classics, Philosophy, etc.), the interactive portion of the workshop will have participants adopt an assigned role, meet with their faction, and offer a defense of their position based on interpreting two documents—they will see the game from the students’ perspective. Again, to challenge the perception that Reacting is solely a humanities-based teaching/learning strategy, we will “drop in” to a session of the Darwin game (Charles Darwin, the Copley Medal and the Rise of Naturalism, 1861-64). For biologists to zoologists, ecologists and medical ethicists, this game and the like could liberate instructors previously held captive by the traditional lecture or lab sessions. Additionally, the Reacting editorial board’s new relationship with W.W. Norton Press is preparing an expansion of game offerings—games covering topics that could be adopted in the “hard sciences.” This exciting expansion will create new opportunities for interdisciplinary conversations on critical-thinking, student-centered/differentiated learning, and innovative methods for creating individualized, motivated learning experiences.