Classroom in Crisis: Inequalities and Immersive Historical Role-Playing Games in the College Classroom

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Academic Freedom and the OAH Committee on Teaching

Friday, March 31, 2023, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Politics; Race; Teaching and Pedagogy


History faculty from various career stages and institution types discuss advantages and potential limitations of teaching through immersive historical role-playing. Amid public health and political crises, we ask: What can this innovative pedagogy offer students confronting disparities in education, home, and health? How can it build stronger classroom communities? To what extent can it help mitigate resource gaps among institutions? Help students develop skills to assess and make nuanced arguments, negotiate difficult conversations, and build coalitions? We critically examine the ethical considerations of role-playing across social identities, consider role-playing’s capacity to foster empathetic reasoning and collaboration, and discuss inherent challenges.

Session Participants

Chair and Panelist: Elizabeth Bryant Denham, Houston Community College
Elizabeth Bryant Denham is a Professor in the History Department at Houston Community College in Houston, Texas. Dr. Bryant spent two years in Poland, under the auspices of a Fulbright Grant, researching Nazi-deemed homosexuals in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Currently, Dr. Bryant is working on a monograph about New York based Rabbi Stephen S. Wise’s influence on policies of rescue and relief of European Jews during the Roosevelt administration.

Panelist: Dorothea Browder, Western Kentucky University History Department
Dorothea Browder is an associate professor of History at Western Kentucky University and is completing a book manuscript, Laboring Women, Race, and Coalition in the Young Women’s Christian Association, 1908-1950, that examines coalition-building among racial justice, peace, transnational labor, Social Gospel, and radical social work efforts in the early to mid-twentieth century through the YWCA Industrial Program. She uses immersive role-playing a number of classes and redesigned her general education world history course around Reacting to the Past.

Panelist: Mark D. Higbee, Eastern Michigan University
Mark Higbee is professor of history at Eastern Michigan University, and is the author of "Frederick Douglass, Slavery, and the Constitution 1845". (Norton 2019), a Reacting to the Past book.

Panelist: Tamara Venit-Shelton, Claremont McKenna College
Tamara Venit-Shelton is a professor of history at Claremont McKenna College and author of two books, A Squatter’s Republic: Land and the Politics of Monopoly in California, 1850-1900 and Herbs and Roots: A History of Chinese Doctors in the American Medical Marketplace, which won the Phi Alpha Theta Best Subsequent Book Prize in 2020.