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Thursday, June 19 • 3:00pm - 3:50pm
CON7.08 – A Relational Perspective: Using Drama Theory to Transform Instructor-Student Engagement (Room A333)

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Technology and transmission-based mass learning may take us away from the opportunity for empathetic and engaged learning. One aim of this workshop is to attempt to regain some insight into a less performative and more communicative teaching style. While theatre may be called performance art, an engaged audience is understood to be a product of the actors’ engagement with the material, their co-actors, and their audience (Fancy, 2007) on a level that transcends a declarative performance style.

In this session, we focus on a “relational perspective” (Trigwell, Prosser, & Waterhouse, 1999, p. 409) to examine the classroom interactions between instructor and students. Drawing on exercises and principles from drama theory (Murray, 2010), we will explore increased engagement through instructor-student interactions. Our thesis is that the instructor’s authentic ‘activity’ or engagement is what will move passive students to become active learners.

For example, Trigwell, Prosser, and Waterhouse (1999) showed that students choose their approach to learning (deep or surface) according to the instructor’s approach to teaching; students thus vary their learning approaches across courses. The authors note “the results complete a chain of relations from teacher thinking to the outcomes of student learning” (p. 57). Transmission teaching is more likely, the authors find, to result in surface learning approaches, while “conceptual change/student-focused” teaching is more likely to encourage students to take more deeply engaged approaches to learning. 

Specifically, we will apply three principles from dramatic arts theory (Murray, 2010) that can be used to increase instructor engagement in teaching, leading to transformed student engagement. We draw on the notions of lightness, or movement and intent rather than emotion and content; le jeu, or playfulness, intellectual and otherwise; and complicité, or the unseen but critical connections between and amongst the instructor and class participants. Lightness is hindered by tensions in the body and mind; play helps us move beyond these tensions. Complicité takes those impulses and translates them into moments of connection. The resulting dynamic has the potential to transform the classroom and its teaching-learning interactions.

Following a short theory explanation, we will engage in large group activities to invite participants to experience and explore lightness, le jeu, and complicité, (one example is ‘quiet energy ball’). Whether your context is small or large class settings, you will come to see that simply choosing to be engaged can in turn result in authentic engagement – for both you and your students. You will experience greater insight about your limitless capacity to grow engagement: with your students, the material, and with yourself.

Thursday June 19, 2014 3:00pm - 3:50pm EDT
A333 McArthur Hall

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