Reacting to the Past Pedagogy
[Music] So the students are given each of them particular roles to play. Those roles are belonging to actual historical personages of a certain period of time. They have to play out what this character is likely to do but they are not given any kind of script, so they are not told what to say or exactly what they should decide or propose or how they should act or how they should interact with others. So they have to actually do quite a lot of thinking in the whole process in order to be able to formulate a particular point of view within the game. My role was Yi Won Gung, a loyal servant to the King’s father. In other words, he was supportive of the King’s father, Tae Won Gun, regardless of what he said or decided. He was a member of the royal family, meaning that he’s one of those who might be got rid of during the reform. My role was mainly a businessman who also belonged to the royal family. I was a soft liner. I didn’t have any political affiliations. So I could choose freely which party I wanted to follow. As a moderator, I needed to jot down what everyone had said and think through the points they had delivered before I could make a summary. Many a time, my classmates were not quite sure what they were talking about or what they said was rather abstract and sometimes even self-contradictory. When I came across anything contradictory, I had to explain to them immediately how such contradictions should have been avoided. That’s because a certain character would only be able to deliver a specific point of view in a specific historical context. So that’s the biggest challenge for a moderator. So all the roles are assigned by me. I don’t assign them randomly. In the weeks before the game I make sure to get to know each of the students as individually as I can. I can see how they regularly perform in the classroom and how their personalities seem to operate so that I can make as suitable of an assignment as possible. Now what I mean by “suitable” is not necessarily that I will assign someone to what I think is most natural to them or what they are already good at. In fact, I’m often trying to make an assignment that will push the student beyond their normal abilities. This approach allows us to better understand the entire historical context. By playing my character, I could truly understand why a certain event had happened and the reasons behind every decision. I think I’ve grabbed a deeper knowledge of this historical event. Although we needed to attend every class and read a lot of reference materials and do a lot of research, I do find this way of learning more interesting and challenging. People taking part in it were very attentive and willing to speak the whole time. Our professor wasn’t the only one who’s doing the talking. We as students would discuss among ourselves and our professor would join in. The discussion was led by students and our professor would only give comments. She’s not the only one to talk in the class. I guess what I’ve learnt is… sometimes if you insist on something but people are saying something entirely different, you’ll begin to reflect on yourself and may even find out they are actually right. Sometimes, when I insist myself, I may be blinded by my own thoughts. Like [during the game] I insisted on implementing a certain policy, but others didn’t think that’s the way it should be. Not until that moment did I realize I could treat the situation differently. People might possibly have other concerns which I should have taken into consideration. So during the game I’ve learnt to think from multiple perspectives. During the game, you’d face lots of new and unpredictable challenges or problems. You had to overcome them and solve them immediately. That’s in other words a good way to learn. All liberal arts institutions have in common the goal to produce critical thinkers, people who are able to make informed decisions in a wide variety of arenas no matter what their particular major field of study is. I think this method is especially useful from that point of view. So I’m working on how to identify the elements within the method and be able to extract them from the method so that they can be applicable to a wide variety of classroom situations. When we are able to have this regional conference in 2020, we’re hoping also that the different Asian liberal arts institutions can share what might be [the] special challenges involved in using this method with an Asian student population because this method is from the United States. So maybe there’s adaptability issues that we can help each other with in the Asian context.