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The Concept

Classroom Exercise

"Reacting was completely unique in my college experience.... The words of Gandhi, Socrates, and other historical figures became mine, transcending the academic distance to which I had grown accustomed... Their thoughts, their histories, their biographies are real and alive in my mind."
—Amanda Houle, Barnard College alumna

Reacting to the Past (RTTP) consists of elaborate games, set in the past, 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. It seeks to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and improve intellectual and academic skills. Reacting to the Past was honored with the 2004 Theodore Hesburgh Award (TIAA-CREF) for outstanding innovation in higher education. 

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The Faculty Network

Faculty Workshop

"I have never seen students this engaged. They write more than the assignments require; everyone, shy or not, participates vigorously in the debates. They read important texts with real understanding, making complex arguments and ideas their own." 
—Larry Carver, Director of the Liberal Arts Honors Programs, University of Texas at Austin

Pioneered by historian Mark C. Carnes, Reacting to the Past (RTTP) has been implemented at over 300 colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. The initiative is sustained by the Reacting Consortium, an alliance of colleges and universities that promotes imagination, inquiry, and engagement as foundational features of teaching and learning in higher education. The Consortium provides programs for faculty development and curricular change, including a regular series of conferences and workshops, online instructor resources, and consulting services.