The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Setting Students’ Minds on Fire” Features Two Pace Professors

“Learning should be more than active. And it can be, as some professors and students are discovering in a particularly compelling classroom competition.”
Two Pace professors, Nancy Reagin and Martha Driver, were featured in an article by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Reagin and Driver have found that Reacting to the Past games that they have been teaching together at Pace have been a huge hit among students and the sense of competition has actually increased the students’ level of learning.
(Left) “Ann Boleyn” (Mara Berkoff) Toasted by the “Berkshire Knight” (Bethany Salzano) at the party that the Knight gave honoring Boleyn’s marriage to Henry VIII.

Ann Boleyn (Mara Berkoff) Toasted by the Berkshire Knight (Bethany Salzano) at the party that the Berkshire Knight gave honoring the marriage of Henry VIII to Ann Boleyn.
The beginning of the royal invitation for a feast in the Pace dorms from the Henry VIII reacting game in 2008.

From the article:

“Nancy Reagin and Martha W. Driver, professors at Pace University, had a similar experience. Their students played a Reacting to the Past game set in Puritan-era Boston. One day Reagin received an e-mail from a resident assistant: “Can you please pour some cold water on these students? All they talk about is this game.” The dorm was becoming “obsessed” with it. Students debated late into the night whether Anne Hutchinson was a heretic. The students seemed to enjoy the nonstop discussion, “but it’s driving everyone else on the floor nuts,” the RA reported. How do you party when half the dorm is talking Puritanism?

“For the next game, Reagin’s class took on Henry VIII and the Reformation Parliament. “You will not believe the number of postings our class had” on the course Web site, she said. Access was restricted to the 25 members of the class, but “over the course of three weeks, we had 618 posts and 13,998 hits.” That’s more than 500 hits per student.

“When absorbed in intellectual games of this nature, students find the customary diversions of college-beer pong, World of Warcraft, Facebook, fraternity hijinks-less compelling. The ideas, texts, and historical moments on which academic discourse depends become a part of their lives, and the friendships they forge in the heat of prolonged competition can transform their class into a community.

“Active learning is one of those academic buzzwords whose meaning has been dulled from overuse. (Some professors even regard taking notes as active learning.) But research shows that the strongest gains come from pedagogies that feature teamwork and problem solving. Experience also suggests that teams work harder when they’re competing against one another, and that students learn more when they’re obliged to think in unfamiliar ways. Money alone won’t improve graduation rates. After students make it past the bursar, they need to attend classes that set their minds on fire.”

Read the full article in The Chronicle of Higher Education

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