Auburn's history department integrates live action play and student leadership in their newly adopted approach to teaching.
"Reacting to the Past" or RTTP made its debut on Auburn's campus in Spring 2016 by professor Sarah Hamilton. Hamilton incorporated the technique within her American Environmental History course and after raving to her colleagues, she began its integration into the department.
“After I ranted and raved about how awesome it was, Dr. Craig and Dr. McLean incorporated it the very next semester," Hamilton said. "They heard my students coming by constantly and [noticed] how excited they seemed about class, which went a long way towards convincing them.”
The RTTP technique takes a singular moment in history and assigns roles from that period to students. The intention for the method is class sessions led entirely by students that are guided by their instructors. The method puts a focus on promoting engagement as students bounce from characters with predetermined opinions to those with flexible and interpretive roles.
“To me, one of its greatest features is that it puts students in control of their own educational experience, so that they study and learn not in order to pass a test but because they want to," Hamilton said. "They are genuinely interested in the material and remember it long after the class is over."
Assistant professor Kate Craig, one of Hamilton's colleagues, was among the others in the history department to choose to incorporate RTTP in their own classes.
"A lot of history professors are catching the bug, and I think many more games will be written going forward," Craig said. Craig has written her own game since adopting RTTP in additional efforts for engaging students in instruction.
Anna Riehl Bertolet, an English professor at Auburn, has also been able to implement RTTP into some of her courses.
"The concept at the heart of RTTP games does not limit one to a history course. In the humanities, various fields of knowledge are interconnected, and I see literature and history as natural sister subjects” Bertolet said.
"This particular game was a natural fit for my Shakespeare class," Bertolet said. “It was 'Stages of Power: Marlowe and Shakespeare, 1592.' We played it in my Shakespeare class in fall 2016, and it was a hit."
Board Member for RTTP and professor at Troy Universiy Elizabeth Blum compliments Hamilton's initiative at Auburn, showcased at last year's conference in Montgomery, Alabama.
"I was so impressed with the Auburn students at the conference – they were engaged, excited and making these fantastic big picture connections that professors yearn for," Blum said.
Since Hamilton's incorporation of RTTP back in spring 2016, the method has expanded into the courses of various other Auburn faculty including those of Kate Craig, Eden McLean, Malcolm McLean, Mellissa Blair, Bertolet and Matthew Sparacio.
"As the College of Liberal Arts continues to promote the 'Authentic Liberal Arts' experience with smaller classes and an emphasis on engaged, active learning experiences, I suspect the games will continue to gain popularity," Hamilton said.
Talk and plans of RTTP spreading to other departments on campus outside of history have begun.