New take on an old subject

UWL first-year student Zack Krings, left, takes advice from Associate History Professor James Longhurst, right, during a simulation set in Ancient Greece. The simulation is part of Longhurst’s high impact teaching style called “Reacting to the Past.”

History professor brings history to life in class by “Reacting to the Past”

Zack Krings had expectations of college classes when he started his first semester at UWL. All of that changed when Associate History Professor James Longhurst introduced his class to his general education class.

For two weeks in the Global Transition and Change History class, Krings took on the role of Miltiades, an Ancient Greek, as he and his classmates reenacted the fall and rise of democracy. “You’re not just reciting facts, you feel like you’re in that time period,” says Krings.

Each student took on a unique role in the time period with their own goals and objectives to complete.

The teaching style, called Reacting to the Past, was recently adopted by Longhurst. He runs two simulations in his general education class — one in Greece and one in Imperial China. Longhurst says historians originally designed the program to make books have meaning and now it’s being adopted by more disciplines, including science and technology. “Beyond researching and learning about the time period, students are practicing public speaking, leadership, critical thinking and judgment skills,” says Longhurst.

High impact practices like this are being encouraged across campus as Transformational Education is one of the four pillars in UWL’s strategic plan. “High impact classes like this, especially at the 100 level, make the students more interested in talking to professors and more likely to stay at UWL,” says Longhurst.

And it ensures students like Krings look forward to going to class. “I’m kind of shy, so at first I was leery,” he says. “But once we got going you’re always on your feet moving and you feel welcome.”