Prof. Daniela Kempf’s First Year Seminar class was the focus of a recent USA Today multimedia feature, highlighting Prof. Mark Carnes’ groundbreaking “Reacting to the Past” (RTTP) curriculum. RTTP is an innovative pedagogy in which students, through elaborate role-playing games, immerse themselves in scenarios informed by real historical events and classic texts. Through RTTP classes, students exercise a variety of skills – speaking, writing, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork – to prevail in difficult and complicated situations.

In this particular class session, Prof. Kempf’s students reenacted the trial of the Greek philosopher Socrates. Watch a video below:



Beyond providing students an unusual alternative to traditional college courses, and enriching their public speaking, teamwork, and critical thinking skills, RTTP courses have been linked with increased student engagement. The article reads, “Reacting students report better – in some cases perfect – class attendance, fewer students dropping or failing classes and engagement that’s often stratospheric. ‘What everyone says about Reacting classes is they don’t know what’s going to happen that day. They don’t know who’s going to win a particular debate, what sort of thing is going to occur, and there is an element, in these worlds, of drama, which is true of any good competition.’”

Read the full USA Today story.

Last year, Prof. Carnes released his latest book, Minds on Fire: How Role-Immersion Games Transform College, in which he demonstrates how role-immersion games channel students’ competitive impulses into productive learning experiences. Learn more about Minds on Fire.

Prof. Carnes joined Barnard’s faculty in 1982. His academic specialty is modern American history. His courses include The United States: 1940-1975 and several versions of the Reacting to the Past program, which he initiated in 1995. Prof. Carnes served as general co-editor of the 24-volume American National Biography. He is also Executive Secretary of the Society of American Historians.

In addition to this First Year Seminar class, Prof. Kempf teaches Public Speaking and Rhetorical Choices in the English department. She also runs faculty workshops and manages the Speaking Program at Barnard College. She has taught speech, debate, leadership, and professional communication courses and workshops in the U.S. and across Europe and Asia.