Improvisation (Teaching and Learning)

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Annotated Bibliography

Link to Complete Bibliography
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  • Berk, R. A., & Trieber, R. H. (2009). Whose classroom is it, anyway? improvisation as a teaching tool. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 20(3), 29-60.Permalink.svg Permalink

Improvisational techniques derived from the experiences in improvisational theatre can be adapted for the college classroom to leverage the characteristics of the Net Generation, their multiple intelligences and learning styles, and the variety of collaborative learning activities already in place in a learner-centered environment. When improvisation is reformatted as small-group collaborative learning exercises, it can be a powerful teaching tool to promote deep learning. The authors describe the key features of improvisation along with four generic, easy to execute exercises applied to real course content: "One Word at a Time/One Sentence at a Time," "Speech Tag," "Freeze Tag," and "Gibberish Expert Interview." An evaluation scale to measure the effectiveness of classroom applications is also included.

  • Bytwerk, R. L. (1985). Impromptu speaking exercises. Communication Education, 34(2), 148-49. Permalink.svg Permalink

Presents six impromptu speaking exercises suitable for developing a variety of speaking skills.

  • Hannigan, S., & University of, S. M. (1996). "Presenting yourself" (in front of others).Permalink.svg Permalink

This curriculum guide contains lesson plans and students handouts for a 12-week (24-class) course on presentation skills. The course has the following objectives: encourage nonnative English speakers to become more expressive and persuasive in their communication; empower students to set and achieve goals; enhance students' ability to convey information, opinions, and feelings; and motivate students to become more achievement-oriented. Lesson plans cover these topics: communication, self-esteem, vocal warm-ups, voice qualities, camera and video operation, body language, styles in public speaking, and improvisations.

  • Martin, R. (1994). Improvisation as a tool for education. Kamehameha Journal of Education, 5, 169-76.Permalink.svg Permalink

Improvisation teaches students that they have the power to create. Drama can be a rehearsal for life, where students learn from successes and mistakes. Topics for improvisation can relate directly to class work or stimulate discussion of new topics. The article examines three steps for teaching improvisation (verbalization, visualization, and actualization).

  • Sawyer, R. K. (2004). Creative teaching: Collaborative discussion as disciplined improvisation. Educational Researcher, 33(2), 12-20.Ubc-elink.png

Teaching has often been thought of as a creative performance. Although comparisons with performance were originally intended to emphasize teacher creativity, they have become associated instead with contemporary reform efforts toward scripted instruction that deny the creativity of teachers. Scripted instruction is opposed to constructivist, inquiry-based, and dialogic teaching methods that emphasize classroom collaboration. To provide insight into these methods, the "teaching as performance" metaphor must be modified: Teaching is improvisational performance. Conceiving of teaching as improvisation highlights the collaborative and emergent nature of effective classroom practice, helps us to understand how curriculum materials relate to classroom practice, and shows why teaching is a creative art.

  • Shem-Tov, N. (2011). Improvisational teaching as mode of knowing. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 45(3), 103-113.Ubc-elink.png

Theatrical improvisation is a joyful, creative, and playful activity of discovery and a spontaneous process. It seems to be the opposite of teaching, which requires proper planning and advance thinking and seems a very "serious business" that deals with values and knowledge. Improvisation is shaped by flexibility and by transformative and equal relations among the participants. In this article, the author tries to describe improvisation as a practical device and mode of knowing for improving teaching. First, he conceptualizes his theoretical framework, which is based on the concepts of aesthetic and theatrical knowledge and theatrical events. Second, he elaborates on theatrical improvisation and its principles. In the last part of this article, he presents the case of a student who taught a movement and drama lesson using, in her teaching, principles of improvisation to manage unexpected situations that took place in the classroom.

  • Sullivan, K. (2010). Improvisation: Not just for kids. Inquiry, 15(1), 67-79.Permalink.svg Permalink

Today education is in crisis. Citizens and institutions alike are demanding that classroom instruction dramatically increase learning effectiveness. Especially in higher education, instructors must expand their repertoires to include active learning approaches that challenge students to function as adult learners who take responsibility for their learning. So how can community college faculty encourage students to participate in their own education? One proven way is to bring theatre into the classroom. Theatre techniques, particularly those structures used in improvisation, are an effective way to get students to connect actively with each other and engage more fully with the material they need to learn. These exercises are simple, and neither professors nor their students need to have a degree in theatre to engage in them fully. In this article, the author offers simple suggestions and activities that have worked in her classes, and that may also help other teachers to engage their students on a more active level. She focuses on three areas: creating the space, involving students physically, and involving students vocally.

  • Waisanen, D. J., & Reynolds, R. A. (2008). "Side-coaching" the public speech: Toward improvisational delivery adjustments "in the moment". Communication Teacher, 22(1), 18-21.Permalink.svg Permalink

A post-speech evaluation, suggesting improvements for future presentations, is typical in the public speaking course. Moreover, while most public speaking courses emphasize "thinking" about better delivery, little attention is given to what better delivery "feels" like. If the goal is to cultivate a generation of truly extemporaneous speakers, then it is imperative to guide students toward more "improvisational" speech delivery. The first author took a class in improvisation (improv) with a theater group in Los Angeles. To teach the rules of improv, the instructor interjected comments "during" the students' improvised scenes, in addition to debriefing the class afterward. After a few of these "side-coaching" sessions, students started making the adjustments automatically. As speech teachers, the authors realized this "side-coaching" could also be effective in public speaking pedagogy. This article discusses how side-coaching during an in-class public speaking exercise may bring additional positive outcomes.

  • Yucha, C. B. (1996). Interactive distance education: Improvisation helps bridge the gap. Journal of Biocommunication (JBC), 23(1), 2-5.Permalink.svg Permalink

Describes distance learning through the use of interactive duplex video and audio. Improvisation techniques force active participation by students. Addresses faculty concerns about the interrelationships between instructor and students and among students in distance education environments.


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