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History simulations have been shown to promote student learning in classrooms throughout higher education. In an undergraduate course on the New Testament and early Christianity, we sought to foster student learning by having students participate in history simulations that involved the use of fictitious personas known as avatars. In this paper we describe the avatar activities in these simulations, and we examine the effects of our simulations on students’ abilities in “historical thinking”: that is, engaging in the interpretive practices that historians use to reconstruct the past. We argue that our avatar simulations helped our students build upon, refine, and deepen their abilities in historical thinking in small but perceptible ways. We end by noting the extent to which our findings align with research on the use of history simulations and by identifying ways to develop our project moving forward.
The Wabash Center Journal on Teaching is published pursuant to a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License (CC-BY-NC).