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A donation by WIU alumnus Dale R. Johnson has paid for a remodel of a Morgan Hall classroom to better serve the interactive needs of a political science lesson plan.
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WIU Alumnus Donates for Classroom Modifications

February 22, 2019

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MACOMB, IL – A Western Illinois University classroom is being remodeled thanks to a donation by a political science alumnus.

Dale R. Johnson, of Lake Geneva, WI, is a 1971 political science graduate and is a retired vice president at Abbott Laboratories. His wife, Lynn M. Johnson, is a 1971 WIU graduate with a degree in teacher education. Johnson's donation to the WIU Department of Political Science will pay for a classroom remodel inspired by the needs of WIU Political Science Professor Erin Taylor.

Taylor's proposal for an active learning classroom allows for the use of classroom simulations as a pedagogical tool. Through "Reacting to the Past" simulations, which were pioneered at Barnard College in the late 1990s, Taylor said students go through simulations set during pivotal moments in history such as the French Revolution, the Chicago 1968 Democratic National Convention or the post-Apartheid constitution-building process in South Africa.

Through the simulations, Taylor said, students get increased engagement with the course material, heightened classroom participation, improved understanding and performance, enhanced cooperation, interaction and teamwork skills and more meaningful opportunities for developing of critical thinking and rhetorical skills.

Johnson's donation has paved the way for implementation of the program and the adaptation of a classroom to allow for its use.

"The days of static lectures and note taking have been overtaken by the need for interactive learning," said Johnson. "I am proud to sponsor this effort, and to assist WIU, my alma mater. Western was always interactive to me, involving me in politics and local governments, and getting me excited for more."

The "Reacting to the Past" simulators are used on the campuses of more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide, often for first-year or honors seminars. The simulations take about one month and assign students roles, readings in history and philosophy and other tasks that require them to write and publish newspapers and other artifacts, make oral presentations and debate and discuss their positions using the texts they have read as part of the process.

"Students run the class sessions, while the instructor acts as a facilitator, serves as a resource and grades student work," said Taylor.

She added that she has successfully incorporated simulations into two of her political science classes, as well as a general honors course and the donation will allow expansion of the programming's use.

"I now have first-hand experience with the high level of student engagement and learning that 'Reacting to the Past' simulations engender," said Taylor. "I have also attended three specialized trainings to learn how to successfully employ this simulation pedagogy in the classroom."

The renovated classroom is on the third floor of WIU's Morgan Hall and will be shared by the political science and history departments. The new furniture in the room will allow tables and chairs to be moved around and folded up to make rearranging easier.

"Importantly, this equipment also allows for a wide variety of other uses beyond just simulations," said Taylor. "With its rolling tables and chairs, the room can be easy to set up for seminars and meetings, as well as for classes that employ pedagogies other than lectures, such as debates or small group work. The new equipment also enables the room to be arranged more traditionally, with tables and chairs facing neatly to the front for lecture classes."

For more information on the WIU Department of Political Science, visit

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