Travel Grant 2015-16: Margarita Ochoa

Margarita Ochoa, History

Reacting to the Past 15th Annual Faculty Institute
June 11-14, 2015
Barnard College
New York City, NY

Nature/Type of the Event

Involvement in the Event, and Expected Learning as Outcome

The 15th Annual Faculty Institute on RTTP brought together faculty and administrators from all around the nation to learn about, engage with, and share experiences with "reacting to the past" experiential education. The goal of the Institute was to promote, through intensive workshops on 12 different games, the efficacy of role-playing historical figures in eliciting students' deeper understanding of historical contexts and concepts. The Institute also offered concurrent sessions that explored issues related to teaching and learning RTTP.

Travel Report

As a Historian and specialist on Latin America, I chose to participate in two games:

  • Mexico in Revolution, 1912-1920
  • Constantine and the Council of Nicea, 325 CE: Defining Orthodoxy and Heresy in Christianity

I enjoyed role-playing in each of the games and, by the end of the Institute, developed a greater appreciation for reacting games in the classroom. I plan to incorporate a modified version of "Mexico in Revolution, 1912-1920," that limits students from diverging too far from historical realities. I agree with the RTTP consortium's pedagogy that students learn skills (speaking, writing, problem solving, leadership, and teamwork) by taking on roles set in the past. But, are they learning history? Through continued discussions with the Mexico game developers, I plan to modify their game in length (from 5 weeks to 2 weeks duration) and regulations (no rewards for creating counter-historical moments). I want to encourage students to creatively role-play while also adhering to their characters' historical contexts and philosophical/intellectual beliefs. In this manner, students will also learn to think critically about why historical actors made certain decisions and embarked on particular paths.

In all, reacting games are a great tool for teaching content, especially in lower-division courses, and can potentially be adapted to teach critical concepts in upper-division history and humanities courses. I think more workshops to disseminate ideas and experiences with RTTP in the classroom would be beneficial to LMU, especially for faculty seeking to add Core flags to their courses or interested in different teaching tools for increasing student engagement in the classroom.