3S leads new Comedy in the Classroom teaching innovation

DSC00039Award-winning teaching led by 3S members in ENV is the centrepiece of a new website ComedyInTheClassroom.org which raises UEA’s profile as an exemplar of creative and innovative teaching.

Dr Gill Seyfang created the website to showcase an exciting new teaching method which has the potential to transform teaching in higher education. Comedy in the Classroom uses the performing arts as a teaching tool to engage students in active learning, wth semi-improvised comedy performances by lecturers. She launched the website at the Higher Education Academy’s national Social Sciences conference, held in Manchester, Dec 3-4, 2015.

Getting to grips with competing perspectives on society and the environment is particularly challenging for students more used to dealing with ‘facts’ than ‘theories’. By embodying theories as characters who interact (and squabble) with each other, debates and competing views can be literally acted out in an entertaining and memorable format, which really captures students’ imaginations. This is the essence of Theoretical Theatre, a semi-improvised performance/teaching method with wide applicability across the curriculum.

IMG_0305Gill has won two UEA Teaching Excellence Awards (2014, 2015) and currently holds a University Teaching Fellowship for her work leading a team of lecturers, researchers and PhD students to develop the concept and practice. Working with fellow Excellence in Teaching award winner (2015) Dr Tom Hargreaves, and Dr Irene Lorenzoni, they have devised performances for 4 modules so far. These cover all levels of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, with follow-on student activities and performances to consolidate learning

The new ‘Comedy In The Classroom’ website is a resource hub for teachers wanting to experiment with using the performing arts as teaching tools in higher education. There’s an introductory video which explains the idea, and films of the performances are available as inspiration or for others to use elsewhere. To promote the use of this approach in general, the site will be expanded to include transferable ideas for using the method in any discipline, as well as advice, how-to guides, lesson plans and so on.

The aim is to build a learning community of practice, sharing experiences in developing these creative and innovative teaching methods, to achieve the potential for theatre and comedy to play a larger role on the frontiers of teaching in higher education.


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