French courses at Luther use a participatory pedagogy called Reacting to the Past (RTTP) which involves role-playing simulations, set in the past, in the Francophone world. Class sessions are run entirely in French 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, language, and academic skills.
This pedagogy provides an opportunity for students to improve their French proficiency in a supportive environment. The requirements of the lower division classes (grammar, vocabulary, and basic communication) give way to the more advanced learning outcomes of actual conversation, more spontaneous discussion, improved pronunciation, and better writing, listening, and reading comprehension.
This participatory pedagogy encourages growth as a linguist by providing in-depth immersion experiences in the classroom. Students are not in Decorah, Iowa. Rather, they are in 1791 Paris (France) or 1994 Kigali (Rwanda). Simulations require a significant level of student interaction within and outside of the classroom and thus also encourage community-building. Fulfilling objectives in the game requires active participation in simulations and heavy use of research for primary sources. This fosters artistic creativity, as well as creative thinking strategies. The debates, collaboration, and even plotting, are intense and the level of interest increases exponentially as the game progresses. The students become more invested in their newly assumed personae and their simulation objectives of converting others to their beliefs through debate, discussion, and any other means of influence, all en français. This results in the students’ increased confidence in their own language skills. And it’s a lot of fun!
"Students and teachers deserve an academic world that is as exciting as intercollegiate football, as enchanting as World of Warcraft, as subversive as illegal boozing, and as absurd as fraternity initiations." —Mark C. Carnes, Professor of History at Columbia and creator of RTTP
"I love RTTP games! Being in an RTTP game was extremely helpful for me, because it forced me to interact with people in a more conversational way rather than preparing a script for the day or memorizing vocabulary to use. It was definitely competitive, because meeting objectives was fun, and it also helped to create a community in the classroom. I had never met the people in my group before, and after the game, I could consider them to be friends." —Desiree Bradshaw '18
"I like the RTTP games because it brings a fun, different perspective into the classroom. I feel that I learn more and improve my language more while doing the games, than in a regular class. RTTP games spark creativity, and requires you to communicate with your classmates more than you might in a regular class. It has definitely helped me build relationships with people I wouldn't necessarily have if I wasn't playing the RTTP game with them." —Kyla Grau '17