Eastern Michigan University
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A history of RTTP

Democracy in action. A vote goes a team's way during an EMU Red Clay game in 2008.

Democracy in action. A vote goes a team's way during an
EMU Red Clay game in 2008.

Reacting to the Past (RTTP) is an innovative pedagogy developed by Mark Carnes at Barnard College during the mid-1990s. RTTP has spread to many other colleges and universities and is supported by the RTTP Consortium to which EMU belongs. The consortium seeks to facilitate further development of games, to implement and assess the effectiveness of the RTTP pedagogy, and to assist faculty in integrating the RTTP pedagogy into their college or university curriculum.

Mark Carnes was the EMU McAndless Visiting Professor for the 2010-2011 academic year.

The Reacting to the Past pedagogy uses elaborate games, always set in a historical context. Students assume the roles of historical characters which are informed by the classic texts in the history of ideas. Students organize, lead, and run each class session during the game. Teachers are there to advise and offer guidance if needed. Instructors assess student performance through oral and written work. The pedagogy seeks to engage students in historical debates, encourage them to grapple with big ideas, and sharpen their academic and intellectual skills. See also the recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the Reacting method.

While every game is placed in some historical context, these are not "history games." Each game explores social, scientific, or humanistic issues in an engaging and intelligent manner. As such the method transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries and structures.

In addition to the many published games available in the RTTP repertoire, the consortium fosters the creation of new games through faculty workshops, seminars, and conventions. New game designs are constantly being play-tested by faculty of the consortium institutions.

Eastern Michigan University has been particularly active in the consortium, sponsoring regional RTTP convention, and the first-ever RTTP game design workshop during the Summer of 2010, during with about 20 faculty from around the central mid-west region discussed their on-going game designs and worked together refining their ideas, methods, and goals.

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