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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Becoming a member of the RC is simple and comes with many benefits unavailable to the general public. The institutional membership program was launched in Spring 2013, and the individual membership program in the Spring of 2015. Benefits of membership in each category include:
$75.00 per annum
- Full access to the web-site and online Faculty Forum;
- Access to conference proceedings and presentations;
- A triannual electronic newsletter;
- Post-publication updates of instructor manuals;
- A discount on registration rates for RC-sponsored workshops and conferences;
- Support in game and course development ;
- Access to a mentor the first semester teaching a game.
$750.00 per annum (Now prorated for remainder of 2019 calendar year)
All of the benefits listed above, plus:
- Full access to the RTTP Game Library, online resources, and other list-servs for up to ten faculty or administrators;
- Member discounts on RC Conference registration for up to ten faculty or administrators;
- Discount of 20% over non-members for RC campus workshops;
- Consultation on course or curriculum design and grant applications; and
- Opportunities to participate in the RC Board, assessment initiatives, and planning for the development of future games or pedagogy workshops.
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.
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR CONSORTIUM MEMBERSHIP OR RENEW EXISTING OR LAPSED MEMBERSHIP