“Reacting to the Past:” How to Use and Assess Role Playing Games in American History

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Hanley, Jennifer
Evidence and Argument; American History; Role Playing Games; United States History
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Reacting to the Past is a series of games developed by Mark Carnes at Harvard University that are designed to encourage students to get excited about history and to help them develop important academic skills such as reading and thinking critically, conducting historical research, and public speaking. (More information on this can be found at https://reacting.barnard.edu/) Reacting to the Past games can either be played over the course of an entire semester or condensed into mini games to allow students to explore an important historical moment or figure in great detail. My goal is to implement Reacting to the Past into my American history courses-- mini games for my survey courses and a full semester game for an upper division topics course.Learning Outcomes Students will understand how to use historical evidence to construct an argument that they will present in both written and oral formats. Students will develop their writing and critical thinking skills through a series of classroom debates, discussions, and round tables. Students will understand how the intersection of various historical phenomena especially, but not limited to, race, class, and gender, influenced the outcome of major historical events. Students will develop an understanding of how people in the past, especially those who were often excluded from formal politics, played a critical role in the shaping the outcome of major historical events. Students will develop their ability to critically assess an argument and identify its strengths and weaknesses and respond/challenge an argument using their own historical knowledge. Students will be able to apply their skills in using evidence to construct arguments to persuade their fellow classmates to support their perspectives and thus win the game.