Facing the Elephant”: Overcoming Faculty Fears of Active Learning and Game Playing. Dr. Mark Higbee, Professor of History, Eastern Michigan University, firstname.lastname@example.org Dr. John M Burney, VPAA and Professor of History, Doane College (NE), email@example.com
Faculty Fears Reformers in Higher Education urge faculty to adopt more active learning strategies. But like the pioneers on the Oregon Trail, some faculty fear getting lost and stranded in the desert of new pedagogies and “seeing the elephant” (a chaotic classroom and bad evaluations) they turn back and give up.
Yet, individual instructors Are frustrated with the learning in our own classrooms.
Context: LEAP Effective Educational Practices • Writing Intensive Courses • Collaborative Projects • Diversity/Global Learning • Active Learning/Experiential Learning • Civic Knowledge and Engagement Look at your own mission statement – phrases like civic responsibility, engaged citizens, ethical decision makers…
Context = Mission + LEAP Need for • Pedagogies that integrate learning. • Messy problems without defined solutions that give students the chance to practice critical thinking, persuasion, teamwork, and problem-solving. • Creative ways to engage in civic issues, ethics, and diverse cultures in the classroom – creating responsible global citizens.
Integration in the Classroom D. Bok: Students often flounder when given “messy, unstructured problems” with no clear answer, and need to move beyond relativism to be convinced that critical thinking and reasoned arguments are “of genuine use” in solving and acting upon these types of problems. LEAP Report: : “In a world of daunting complexity, all students need practice in integrating and applying their learning to challenging questions and real-world problems in a way that leads students to ask “not just ‘how do we get this done’ but also ‘what is most worth doing?’”
One Solution: Role Playing Games • Reacting to the Past – published games plus collaborative development of games made available over the web.
General Method, Reacting to the Past is: • Neither lecture, nor traditional Socratic method • Role Playing in elaborate games • In 3-4 class sessions instructor provides guidance on issues or historical context with preliminary discussions of sources and texts. • By third week students are in their roles and factions, with students running class periods (frequently assembly debates) as students try to accomplish victory objectives. • After 7-8 “Reacting” role playing sessions (3-4 weeks given hour and 15 minute classes) the game ends and the instructor spends 2-3 class periods in a post-mortem over the game and roles.
Students Face Challenging Questions • The Threshold of Democracy: Athens 403 B.C.(2005), Athens is at the end of the long struggle with Sparta in the Peloponnesian War. The Athenian Assembly must decide: will Athens return to a form of democracy or to oligarchy? • In Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791students as members of the French National Assembly or the Paris Crowd two years into the revolution, Louis XVI having just been captured after an attempt to flee France. Now the deputies must reconsider all the basic philosophical and political assumptions of their constitutional monarchy. • In Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945students fulfill the roles of various Indian political and religious groups who meet at Simla to try to write a constitution for an independent India, one that will hold Muslims and Hindus together in one state.
Students Assume Roles: India 1945: Indian National Congress, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, Sikh, Untouchable, Communist, Allies of Gandhi South Africa 1993: African National Congress, National Party, Inkhatha Freedom Party, Ciskei, Afrikaner Volksunie, Conservative Party, AZAPO, Pan-African Congress, South African Communist Party, Democratic Party, COSATU, Indian National Congress
The heart of a Reacting game is Persuasion: • Students have to use classic texts (by Plato, Rousseau, Gandhi) to construct arguments both orally and in writing. • Minimum of 12 pages of writing in many games; shared by the whole class so that students can respond to each others arguments – posted on a Blackboard/CMS web-site for all students to read. Thus students are not just talking off the top of their heads in class they are having to craft arguments with evidence that they know will be questioned by the class. • Class sessions with both formal oral presentations and informal debates. • Victory bonus provides extra incentive.
“Indeterminates:” • Most students have political or philosophical positions assigned by roles. • Indeterminates are students who have not been assigned a specific point of view, but they do develop a sketch of themselves as a historical character. • Factions must persuade indeterminates in order to achieve victory objectives through voting in the Assembly/Conference. • Thus students are writing to persuade other students, knowing that their work may also be criticized by other students,not just to appease an instructor.
Student responsibility: • Need to do more than skim texts in order to provide evidence and counter critiques of other factions. • Need to integrate different types of sources and communicate to varied audiences. • Need to provide work on time (defend Louis XVI before he loses his head).
Change in Faculty role: • Game master and Facilitator • Faction Adviser • Emperor of Austria, Prime Minister of Britain (i.e. represents outside powers to whom students may appeal for support). • Writing and Speaking Advisories • Extensive E-mail and face-to-face out of class contact while students control the in-class interaction • Improviser, fate (die rolls to determine outcomes of strikes, wars) and final judge • Post-mortem both on skills and content • Instill confidence and manage emotions of students
The Keys 1) Get students to push other students (by critiques in debate, by counter-arguments in newspapers, by example, by violence) to support their arguments with evidence and engage more deeply with the primary texts. 2) Be ready to release control of the classroom to students (as assembly presidents, judges), and accept uncertainty about what will happen in class on any particular day. 3)Prepare to take advantage of the learning generated by the methodology from team-work, experience with leadership roles, negotiation, etc.
Liminality Normal rules are suspended and students find a world characterized by “uncertainty and emotional intensity, by the inversion of status and social hierarchies, and by imaginative expressiveness.” (Mark Carnes, Chronicle) The classroom becomes a liminal setting where classes provoke an emotional response and thus an intellectual engagement beyond the limits of the traditional lecture hall.
Example of a Reacting Classroom Video from an Eastern Michigan Classroom
One Minute Paper Having seen Reacting, write 2-3 sentences about the biggest challenges or problems that you face on your campus in getting faculty to adopt this kind of active-learning pedagogy?
Getting Faculty Engaged Demonstrated Impact of Reacting to the Past at a State University: Improved Student Engagement and Retention --- the EMU Experience
EMU: Demonstrate to Faculty the Success of Reacting 1) improving student retention compared to students in other sections of the same courses; and 2) producing higher than usual levels of student social & intellectual engagement.
Success at EMU • students and faculty alike find Reacting to be fun and exciting, rather than boring. • Teaching with RTTP is best understood as an enhancement for faculty member’s work life, not an extra burden added to it.
Success at EMU Engaging the Administration and the faculty in a larger curriculum commitment.
Success at Loras and Drake • Fulfilled a mission driven curricular need tied to faculty generated learning outcomes: Loras – Democracy and Global diversity Drake – The Engaged Citizen Experience • An extension of active learning and student engagement after the first year seminar, • Provided multiple opportunities to develop and practice critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills, to sequence development of skills • Provided students the opportunity to explore “messy” problems and critical issues that will face citizens
Faculty Development Keys • Identify space (courses) where faculty can explore pedagogy without threat against promotion or tenure (FYS, Honors) • Provide access to workshops where the method is modeled in enough depth that faculty learn the student experience of the pedagogy and have some confidence in the method • Provide a reward (workshop or course development stipend, travel money, release time) for first adopters to create champions of the methods on campus • Support the first time – teaching circles, paired faculty
Provide Evidence on Student LearningFIPSE Evaluation – Students Demonstrated • An elevated self-esteem. Reacting students both showed a higher self-esteem compared to students in non-Reacting sections and a higher level of self-esteem at the end of the semester compared to the beginning of the semester. • An increase in empathy – compared to a decrease for students in the control sections • More external locus of control, i.e. level of belief that outcomes often are determined by forces that are external to self. • Greater endorsement of the belief that human beings are malleable, contributing to a belief in the possibility of incremental change, that people can change over time and across contexts. • Enhanced verbal and rhetorical skills – Reacting students demonstrated a greater ability to make an oral argument. S. Stroessner, L. Susser Beckerman, and A. Whittaker, Journal of Educational Psychology (2009).
Evidence: Teagle Report – Faculty Responses to Reacting 94% indicate that Reacting is highly effective/effective pedagogy 100% agree the games are academically challenging Burney Survey 2009 for Teagle report, N=55
Faculty find Reacting is Effective/Very Effective in producing student learning in these LEAP skills • 96.2% Inquiry and Analysis • 96.1% Critical Thinking • 96.1% Oral Communication • 92.4% Integrative Learning • 90.6% Teamwork • 88.7% Knowledge of Human Cultures • 86.7% Written Communication • 86.5% Civic Knowledge/of Democracy • 75.5% Ethical Reasoning
Faculty Responses to Reacting and LEAP Authentic Experiences Top ways Reacting engages students in learning • Providing academic challenge • Connecting knowledge with choices or actions • Engaging with "Big Questions" • Teaching the art of inquiry • Developing students ability to apply learning to complex problems • Fostering Civic Learning
Faculty Comments • Students in role-playing situations tend to see the explorative side of learning more acutely. They are less invested in determining the "right" answer or limiting their thinking to what they perceive as the right answer because clearly there is no single "right" answer. As a result, they are more able to grasp the complexity of information provided in the games. For example, in the India game, they quickly realized that what seemed "right" ideologically to one group was not right to others. • This was probably the best teaching experience I have ever had, and a number of my students said it was the best class they had ever taken. This is the first time I have had students take their learning outside of the classroom voluntarily, and it created permanent bonds among many of the students who worked together.
Faculty Comments • Reacting has completely transformed my approach to teaching. I find that it forces me as an instructor to be much more invested in my students… outreach to students and connecting with them personally is a key factor in the success of the game! I have rethought my role as a teacher: I no longer try to cover "everything" in lectures, but rather I see myself as a coach in helping students navigate through the exciting avalanche of information that is available. • For me as an instructor, it's made teaching fun again. I've begun to revise all my courses around either Reacting games or simplified versions. …Students regularly tell me that they learn more preparing for the simulations than they would sitting through traditional lectures. • Reacting gets students over the hurdle of saying and writing something that their classmates might not agree with…The taciturn speak. The shrinking assert themselves. And the forward find that they are confronted with actual challenge rather than simply an uncontested field,
Discussion: Back to Your Challenges Have we answered the concerns from the one-minute papers? Given the tactics suggested what would work or not work at your institution? What questions do you still have?
Published games - Pearson Athens in 403 B.C.Confucianism, 1587Defining a Nation: India, 1945Henry VIII & the Reformation ParliamentRousseau, Burke & Revolution in FranceTrial of Anne HutchinsonTrial of Galileo, 1616-33Darwin & the Rise of Naturalism Patriots, Loyalists & Revolution in NYC
Games in Development – available through Reacting Faculty Forum Beware the Ides...: Rome, 44 BCECollapse of Apartheid in South Africa Constantine & the Council of NicaeaForest Diplomacy, 1756-57Greenwich Village, 1913Evolution in Kansas, 1999Marlowe and Shakespeare, 1592Second Crusade: Acre, 1148 Struggle for Civil Rights, 1963-66Trial of Antonio Gramsci
Games in development: Petrograd 1917 Kentucky 1861: A Nation in the Balance 1688: Revolution, Coup or Royal Renegotiation America’s Founding: The Constitutional Convention of 1787 Modernism Vs. Traditionalism: Art in Paris, 1888-89 The English Civil War: 1647-1652 Defining the Mind: The APA in the 1970s Red Clay 1835: Cherokee Removal The Josianic Reform: Deuteronomy, Prophecy, and Israelite Religion Acid Rain in Europe, 1979-1989
More Information? Reacting to the Past: http://www.barnard.edu/reacting • AAC&U/Liberal Education & America’s Promise, College Learning for the New Global Century, 2007. • Derek Bok, Our Underachieving Colleges (2006) • Mark Carnes, “The Liminal Classroom,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 8, 2004. • Mark Carnes, “Inciting Speech” Change (March/April 2005): 6-11. • Mark D, Higbee, “How Reacting to the Past Games ‘Made Me Want to Come to Class and Learn’: An Assessment of the Reacting Pedagogy at EMU, 2007-2008.” In Making Learning Visible: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at EMU, ed. by Jeffrey L. Bernstein (Ypsilanti, Michigan, 2008): 41-74. • Tracy Lightcap, “Creating Political Order: Maintaining Student Engagement through Reacting to the Past,” PS (January 2009): 175-179. • Adam L. Porter, “Role-Playing and Religion: Using Games to Educate Millenials,” Teaching Theology and Religion: Using Games to Educate Millenials Vol. 11 No. 4 (2008): 230-235. • Richard Powers, John M. Burney, Mark Carnes, et al, “Reacting to the Past: A New Approach to Student Engagement and to Enhancing General Education,” Teagle Foundation White Paper Report, http://www.teaglefoundation.org/learning/pdf/2009_barnard_whitepaper.pdf. • Steven J. Stroessner, Laurie Susser Beckerman, and Alexis Whittaker “All the World’s a Stage? Consequences of a Role-Playing Pedagogy on Psychological Factors and Writing and Rhetorical Skill in College Undergraduates,” Journal of Educational Psychology (2009).