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Chapter 3: The Atlanta Compromise, Reacting to the Past (review by Emily Esten)

Part of the Collaborative Book Review of Structuring Equality: Handbook for Student-Centered Learning. The book is available here. This post reviews Chapter 3, "The Atlanta Compromise, Reacting to the Past" by Iris Finkel.

In its efforts to center student learning, Finkel’s chapter argues that the “Reacting to the Past” (RTTP) game framework encourages student participation and reflection while engaging with history. Pioneered at Barnard College, RTTP pedagogy gives students control of the classroom, taking on assigned roles in historical events Through their participatory model, RTTP games offer a mode for students to improve their persuasive oral and written communications skills. Using the Atlanta Compromise as the premise for this particular assignment, Finkel brings a new entrance to exploring historical motivations regarding important moments in African American history. Finkel provides a sample instructor guide for the Atlanta Compromise Game, including a curricular schedule and suggested reading list to illuminate the pedagogy she employed.

As Finkel notes, the topic of counterfactual gameplay is integral to the concept of structuring equity in the classroom through pedagogy. However, its application to intersectional histories or events seems equally important to educational innovation. The chapter leaves open the questions of retention and historical thinking: are students engaging with the historical content and embracing historical thinking of members of the Atlanta Compromise? And though Finkel discusses how RTTP games strengthen historical empathy for events of the past, the chapter lacks detail on why this model is particularly relevant for tackling African American history.

Still, Finkel’s argument for pedagogical gameplay is value to tackling the flipped classroom, and even more so for breaking the single-narratives of history. Restructuring education for gameplay can drive students to not only improve individually as valued participants in the classroom, but ask them to think of historical events as conscious decisions. While the gamemaster position of the teacher still implies some level of authority, students have the power to change the narrative and direct coursework by identifying motivations, objectives, and strategies of the past. RTTP prioritizes reflection and comprehension throughout the process, making experiential learning a path to structural equity.



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