Teaching for creativity


Earlier this summer I attended a workshop on Open-Space Learning – delivered by IATL. Inspired I took what I had learnt from this session and together with a colleague in another department we put into practice some of the techniques suggested. (I will blog more about this experience soon!) Since then I have been inspired to develop the concept of theatre and experiential learning within some of the sessions that I teach.

The Globe theatre - not quite what we were up to but could not find any free images of forum theatre in action! Photo by CyberSlayer, available under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

‘Teaching for Creativity’

Keen to learn more I signed up to a two-day workshop entitled “Teaching for Creativity’ that took place at work but was facilitated by a London-based theatre company  – Cardboard Citizens. The workshop was intended to demonstrate some of the methods from the theatre world that could potentially be used in teaching and learning. Cardboard Citizens are an organisastion that works with homeless people using the medium of theatre to help explore some of the obstacles experienced and suggest ways to move forward in their lives.

The workshop was facilitated by one of their directors  and the day consisted of a number of different theatre activities, opportunities for debate on issues such as obstacles to creativity and how we can change space to change the direction of the learning experience. The idea of a spectrum was used to evoke conversations around the role of the teacher/facilitator in inspiring creativity. There were a few moments where I wondered what I was doing there – for example running around trying to avoid a ‘bomb’ (a colleague who represented danger) in one exercise and making shapes to represent various words. How on earth would these tools work in my teaching? OK so I could be pushed out of my comfort zone and into the all-important ‘stretch’ zone – but what was I learning? I also became aware of my own need to understand what I was doing – what the point of it was – in order to gain an insight into the significance of the method.

However there were important key moments in the two days where things did make sense – I felt energised and working with colleagues from a variety of different departments and learnt a lot more about what creativity was taking place in the classroom and how sessions like this one would/could impact on future practice. One interesting element of the two days was the idea of Forum theatre and how this could be used to initiate debate.

Forum Theatre

The idea behind Forum Theatre was first introduced by Augusto Baul in the 1960’s. He believed that theatre could work as a forum where people could consider scenarios and discover possible problems, solutions etc. The idea is that a sketch is played out to an audience and the audience are encouraged to participate in discussion and role-play taking on characters to demonstrate and share experiences. In the work we did we explored issues relating to certain barriers to creativity, presented a scene to colleagues and then re-performed the scene enabling colleagues to stop the performance at any moment and join in, becoming the main character and demonstrating how the situation could be changed with a different approach to that scene. The whole performance is facilitated by the ‘Joker’ who is an independent person that helps the situation flow.

This was a really interesting concept but I am aware of some difficulties with this approach including time to develop scenes. However it could be useful to develop ideas and debate – such as around historical perspectives, issues of ethics, literacy and language etc. I can see how this could work with diversity teaching – creating scenes and provoking discussion. One example from Brunel University demonstrates how this method has been used with primary school teacher trainees in developing their ideas around classroom situations.

I did find the black and white nature of the debates and performances hard to accept but this form of theatre was not to provide concrete answers – more to raise possible suggestions and get you to think about the situation.

So overall I learnt a lot during the two days – both about my learning preferences and also about possible techniques that could be transferred from the theatre to the classroom. Whilst lots of questions remain – including some areas I would have liked to have explored further such as creativity in spaces that can be restrictive e.g. lecture theatres, small rooms. I would also be really interested to hear from teachers who have used this approach and what impact it had on their teaching. I am even more enthused to develop my practice and knowledge of OSL approaches. Half-way through the course I did question what the relevance would be – but it was one of those situations whereby I needed time to reflect – I feel inspired to continue developing my own practice, enter that stretch zone and learn more. 🙂 Now just need to consider how and if I can implement any of the suggested theatre methods into my own teaching practice… More reflection needed methinks…


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