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Roleplay Activities for Teaching Later modern French history

Author: Joan Tumblety

Type: Case Study

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The project involved an element of role-play introduced into the seminar teaching of undergraduates in History at the University of Southampton. Two lecturers (one teaching medieval European history and one later modern French history) have devised one role-play topic as part of the seminar programme for their respective Year 1 and Year 2 undergraduate courses. Role-play is a common enough teaching tool for History in the school sector, perhaps mostly as an exercise in encouraging empathy, but it is relatively uncommon in higher education. Asking students to recreate an event or episode from the past can increase their seminar participation, focus their attention on primary sources, and foster a micro-historical approach that shifts the basis of their interpretation 'from facts to factors'. What evidence is there, however, that such an approach is effective as a teaching tool? Does it help to achieve learning outcomes more efficiently and enjoyably? Do some historical episodes lend themselves better than others to role-play? How well can role-play render the complexity of the past? This research into the effectiveness of role-play in History teaching raises just such questions and problems and seeks to compare a role-play cohort with a non-role-play cohort in drawing its conclusions.