Dr. Mellors teaches HST 380, where she engages students in early Asian civilization using a role-playing game called Reacting to the Past. Students view historical events through the eyes of historical characters and then have opportunities to contribute in ways they may not have done so in a traditional classroom. In the game, students determine courses of action in addressing policy issues that were real policy issues facing the Ming dynasty. In doing so, students feel making history more real by allowing them to playout historical events without risk of any real crisis or embarrassment. Student feedback suggests that they “truly deeply learned” — fostering historical accuracy, but also demonstrating that our present society is a result of choices rather than inevitable outcomes.
Sarah used this exercise to help students connect with Confucianism in a way that makes distant historical ideas and also to think about different ways of being right. Confucianism can be adapted to different circumstances and the game helps them see that one can be Confucian and be a good ruler, which is applicable to students understanding their roles and responsibilities as citizens. In this game, students play historical figures such as the Emperor and his advisors who determine courses of action in addressing policy issues that were real policy issues facing the Ming dynasty. Historians across the country use these games to teach historical empathy and to build the skills students bring to their roles in contemporary society. An activity requires students to make oral presentations and write letters using Confucius’ writings to make their arguments. This fosters historical accuracy but also demonstrates that our present society in a result is result of choices rather than inevitable outcomes. Student feedback suggests that they learned more in the game and felt that they would remember the process and ideas of the game–one student commenting that he/she/they “truly deeply learned.” Faculty who use these games also note the intense preparation they require but the hands-on learning makes it worthwhile and offers different students’ opportunities to shine whose contributions are not always apparent in traditional classrooms.