Role-playing Games in the Literature Classroom

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Diana Solomon, Department of English

Project team: Dr. David Eick, Grand Valley State University, and David Weston, research assistant

Timeframe: May 2017 to April 2018

Funding: $6000

Course addressed: ENGL – 398

Final report: View Diana Solomon's final report (PDF)

Description: I want to find out if using historical simulation games promotes student motivation and engagement to master early modern and eighteenth-century literature. There are two motivations behind this. One is that students often complain that literature written hundreds of years ago bears no relevance to their contemporary lives. The second is a history of getting “split-personality” teaching evaluations: evaluations where the students’ ratings of the course material is lower than their ratings of the instructor. I would like to see if using simulation games promotes students’ level of engagement with the course literature. Ultimately I am wondering whether participation in the simulation leads students to report that they were more engaged in learning course concepts as compared to courses where more traditional methods were used.

Questions addressed:

  • Was student engagement relatively uniform across the class?
  • Do students report that they were more engaged in learning in this course compared to courses that take a more traditional approach? If yes, what do they attribute this to?
  • Did students spend time out of class preparing for class? Did they prepare with other students?
  • What are the instructor’s impressions of class engagement over the semester?
  • Do students report that they are more invested in persuasive essay-writing because they know that they have to present such writing orally in order to “win” the game compared to courses that take a more traditional approach?
  • Is students’ learning of course concepts demonstrated?

Knowledge sharing: I am dedicated to using RTTP in my classroom and allowing the experience to inform my pedagogical approach. In the future I would like to design a course entitled “Eighteenth-Century Revolutions” where students would play the American Revolution game (entitled “Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-6”) followed by the French Revolution game (“Rousseau, Burke, and the Revolution in France”). I am also seeking invitations from other departments and universities where I can run mini-games for instructors interested in adopting the pedagogy.

Solomon, D. (2018, March). Top ten tips for first-time reacting to the past instructors. Workshop delivered at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) Conference, Orlando, FL.

Keywords: game; gamification; role-play; simulation; student motivation; role-playing games; Reacting to the Past; French Revolution; Marlowe and Shakespeare; Learning by Doing