In traditional classes, students learn by receiving ideas and information from instructors and texts, or they discuss such materials in seminars.
“Reacting to the Past” courses employ a different pedagogy. Students learn by:
- taking on historical roles informed by classic texts
- making decisions in a historical role in elaborate games set in the past
- developing skills such as speaking, writing, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, and teamwork
- working to prevail (win the game) in difficult and complicated situations.
Reacting to the Past was pioneered in the late 1990s by Mark C. Carnes, Professor of History at Barnard College. Since then, the RTTP curriculum has been implemented by faculty at hundreds colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad since dissemination began in 2001. See our Staff page for more information about the people that make RTTP possible.
RTTP was honored with the 2004 Theodore Hesburgh Award for pedagogical innovation. The project has received developmental support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, Spencer Foundation,National Science 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.
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 roles, unlike those in a play, do not have a fixed script and outcome, so while students will be obliged to adhere to the philosophical and intellectual beliefs of the historical figures they have been assigned to play, they must devise their own means of expressing those ideas persuasively, in papers, speeches, or other public presentations; and students must also pursue a course of action they think will help them win the game.
Regardless of the subject matter or level of development, every RTTP game includes the following components:
- A student game book, which outlines the historical context, game premise, central debates, and rules;
- An instructor's manual with complete instructions on running the game on a day-to-day basis, complete with course handouts;
- A packet of role sheets to be distributed to students with instructions on their individual goals and strategies for game play;
- A variety of companion texts / primary source readings (which may also be included as appendices to the student game book).
Additionally, different games have various additional pieces, ranging from financial documents to balloting sheets to optional modules that complicate and enrich the standard game rules.
Reacting Consortium: Financial Picture for 2020 and Budget for 2021
In April of 2020, the Covid pandemic forced the cancellation of all of the Reacting Consortium's in-person faculty training workshops for the remainder of the year, including the Summer Institute at Barnard. This resulted in a major loss of income. The online faculty training workshops during the summer and fall succeeded in recovering about 25% of the lost revenue, but the Consortium would have finished the year with a $47,000 loss for the year. Fortunately, the Teagle Foundation awarded the Reacting Consortium an emergency $50,000 grant which balanced the books: for 2020, the Reacting Consortium received $209,720 in income, and had expenses of 206,670.
The budget for 2021 (bottom two bars) reflects the continuing challenge of the pandemic. All in-person workshops were cancelled, including the Winter Conference and the Summer Institute. The Consortium’s budget consequently projects a $44,000 deficit for the year, with $146,000 in income and $190,000 in expenditures.
The Reacting Consortium is a continuation of the Reacting to the Past Institute, originally developed by Dr. Mark Carnes and supported in its first decade by Barnard College, with major grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (U.S. Department of Education), the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Teagle Foundation. The Reacting Advisory Board determined in 2012 to develop and charter a membership organization, housed at Barnard College, to expand instructional support and development opportunities for affiliated faculty.
The mission of the Reacting Consortium is to promote imagination, inquiry, and engagement as foundational features of teaching and student learning in higher education through the development and dissemination of Reacting to the Past role playing games.
We've moved to a new registration platform!
Individual Membership: https://reactingconsortium.wildapricot.org/join
We continue to offer individual membership on sliding scale. We have added 5 Year Membership and Lifetime Individual Membership options. Also, individual memberships will now be on a yearly basis from registration date (rather than calendar year).
Institutional Membership: https://reactingconsortium.wildapricot.org/Institutional
If your school is interested in multi-year institutional membership, please contact Maddie Provo (email@example.com).
Members whose membership is due for renewal at the end of this year will soon receive renewal reminder emails. As always, contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!
The Reacting Consortium develops Reacting to the Past (RTTP) role playing games to inform and transform student learning in American higher education. These games effectively support the achievement of critical thinking, historical and intercultural knowledge, empathy, leadership, integrative learning, effective communication skills, and intellectual curiosity among students. They promote innovative teaching by faculty and administrators of higher education.
The Consortium develops Reacting to the Past (RTTP) games for publication through a partnership with an established publisher. It provides faculty with opportunities to learn the highly interactive RTTP pedagogy and to join a community of practice in the support of undergraduate teaching and learning. It provides institutions with effective programs of faculty development and with tools for innovation in curriculum design to encourage advanced accomplishment across both disciplinary and interdisciplinary programs.
The Reacting Consortium Board, in its sole and absolute discretion, reserves the right to bar any person from the Reacting Faculty Lounge on Facebook and from participation in any RTTP event, including, but not limited to, the annual Summer Institute at Barnard College.
STUDENTS & PROFESSORS RESPOND TO REACTING
"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 will revitalize your classroom, change you and your students—whatever you teach."
—José Bowen, Professor of Music and President of Goucher College
"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
"Once I overcame some initial anxiety and reluctance to step into my assigned role, I was swept into it by the energy of my fellow participants, by the fascinating nature of the problem we were trying to solve, and by the learning I had begun to experience long before the game started."
—James Lang, professor of English and the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College
If you have additional questions about the Reacting Consortium please send an email to email@example.com.
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