Reacting to the Past
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.
The Reacting Consortium (RC) is an alliance of colleges, universities, and individual faculty committed to developing and publishing the Reacting to the Past series of role playing games for higher education and providing programs for faculty development and curricular change to implement the games. The RC is governed by the Reacting Consortium Board (RC Board,) composed of 15 members including the Executive Director and Administrative Director ex officio, the Chair elected from the members, and ten additional members who are drawn from affiliated faculty with experience in game or course development or administrators drawn from participating institutions.
Pioneered in the late 1990s by Mark C. Carnes, Professor of History at Barnard College, RTTP has undergone considerable development and expansion. In addition to the eight games currently published by Pearson Education, another twelve games are being developed by teams of faculty from across the nation.
All of the games are set in the past, and thus might be regarded as history, but each game also explores multiple additional disciplines. Part of the intellectual appeal of RTTP is that it transcends disciplinary structures. In addition to games currently published in the RTTP Series, the Reacting Consortium Board seeks to expand the curriculum by supporting faculty workshops and collaboration on new game designs that explore a variety of historical moments in the humanities and sciences.
Between 2001-2002, Barnard College, Loras College, Queens College, Smith College, Trinity College, and Pace University collaborated to develop, implement, and assess the RTTP pedagogy with a grant from FIPSE, U.S. Department of Education. The current Reacting Consortium (RC) grew out of these initial efforts. The RC Board, the Consortium's governing body, is composed of 15 members including the Executive Director and Administrative Officer ex-officio, the Chair elected from amongst the members, as well as others drawn from senior scholars and administrators from institutions located throughout the United States. For those interested in developing their own games, the Consortium also has an Editorial Board that provides guidance and oversight during the game development process from concept to official designation and publication. Through the main program office at Barnard, the Consortium provides faculty development support through an interactive web site, regional workshops, social media, and an annual conference to introduce the pedagogy to new faculty and to build a network of scholar-teachers.
RTTP was honored with the 2004 Theodore Hesburgh Award for pedagogical innovation. The project has received developmental support from the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, Teagle Foundation, and FIPSE, U.S. Department of Education. RTTP has also been featured in Change magazine, the Chronicle Review, the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Christian Science Monitor; and elsewhere.