• Learning Critical Thinking Through Reacting to the Past

      Hughes, Sakina M.
      Reacting to the Past (RTTP) is an innovative pedagogical technique that encourages deep understanding of course material. It targets critical thinking, speaking, and writing skills. RTTP is a versatile pedagogical tool and may be utilized in all levels of university teaching, from entry-level courses to upper-level, advanced courses. Since RTTP deals with the history of ideas, it may be used in many different disciplines, including history, philosophy, math, sciences, and psychology. The ideal number of students is fifteen to thirty. RTTP consists of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts. Class sessions are run entirely by students; instructors advise and guide students and grade their oral and written work. It seeks to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and improve intellectual and academic skills. In most classes students learn by receiving ideas and information from instructors and texts, or they discuss such materials in seminars. In RTTP, students learn by taking on roles, informed by classic texts, in elaborate games set in the past; they learn skills—speaking, writing, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, and teamwork—in order to prevail in difficult and complicated situations. That is because Reacting roles, unlike those in a play, do not have a fixed script and outcome. While students must adhere to the philosophical and intellectual beliefs of the historical figures they have been assigned, they must devise their own means of expressing those ideas persuasively, in papers, speeches or other public presentations; and students must also pursue a course of action they think will help them win the game. The classes in which I have taught RTTP have been not only a joy to teach, but I have seen students drastically improve their writing, speaking and critical thinking.