The Worldbuilding Workshop
Teaching Critical Thinking Through World Modeling, Simulations, and Play
Invitation to Participate
In this book, we will be including case studies across different academic disciplines to prove the efficacy of using worldbuilding projects as a way to leverage deeper learning for our students. This page provides the broad concepts and the approach behind our worldbuilding methodology, but we cover many of the same points in the below video if you prefer viewing to reading.
We are looking for professors such as yourself who would be open to running a worldbuilding assignment, unit, or course, ranging from 4 weeks to an entire semester-long project either in fall 2022 or spring 2023, with a short case study of a few typed pages to be submitted by mid-May 2023. While we can't say for certain how many case studies will be included in the book, we plan on making all case studies available on the book's website. The publisher has asked for the case studies in the book to demonstrate a wide range of disciplines, institutions, and different lengths and types of projects in order to showcase the flexibility of this instructional approach. The case studies will be short, no more than a few typed pages, and ask for an honest reflection on the benefits, and possibly limitations, of the worldbuilding project compared to other types of work you've assigned in the past.
We want this to be a light lift for interested participants. In the link to a form at the bottom of the page, we ask you to provide the type and length of worldbuilding project you would like to incorporate into your class and we would offer advice on tailoring the assignments to specific learning outcomes, scheduling, assessment, and provide other tips and suggestions based on our decade-long experience designing worldbuilding projects for the classroom. We want to stress that this is not a trial approach; we have plenty of success stories and one of our chief aims of this book is to explain the constructionist learning theory at the methodology's core that ensures a positive experience for you and your students.
DEFINING WORLDS and WORLDBUILDING
All participants would need to agree to design their worldbuilding project around a set of core principles and consistent grammar when talking about worlds and worldbuilding in terms of its scope, sequence, and perspective. In a nutshell, we describe a "world" as a specific place at a specific point in time that has fuzzy borders for both physical/geographic territory (scope) as well as temporal ones (sequence), for example "the world of the Aztec empire in the 1400s" or "the world of Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s." When we talk about "worldbuilding," we mean our attempt to represent what daily life would be like in this world in terms of its governance, economics, the make-up of its society, and its prominent cultural influences, and to consider how this world would be experienced differently by individuals throughout the society (perspective).
Hopefully you can see how scope, sequence, and perspective can be used in combination to identify a specific place and time and identify different questions, events, or problems through a variety of different subject positions. These can range from being very specific with a tight scope and sequence (Redlining and segregating Chicago in the 1930s) to much broader ones (the decline and economic collapse of the Qing Dynasty from 1636 to 1912). The latter example would rely on broad and slow social changes experienced over decades, whereas the former would focus on specific policies and their outcomes. For social sciences and STEM disciplines, worldbuilding could focus on public policy impacts over time, or how human interventions can solve or exacerbate challenging environmental conditions.
SIMULATIONS and PLAY
While student-centered worldbuilding projects are powerful in themselves, we will also help interested participants in designing simulations and role-play experiences that allow students to take an active role in the world they've helped to create. Simulations usually "put the world into motion" so to speak, and ask students to think about likely outcomes based on changing conditions, whereas role-play provides students a change to experience the world from an individual embodied subject position. Steve and I have plenty of experience with these game-based approaches too, and can help you design meaningful assignments and exercises of varying lengths.
The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as "the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action." In the book, we will argue that a well-designed worldbuilding project with simulation or role-play components can help hone students' critical thinking ability, regardless of the discipline. We hope you will agree!
If you'd like to learn more, ask questions, or sign up to do a case study, please fill out this form:
Thanks so much and we hope to hear from you.
Trent Hergenrader and Stephen Slota