Documentation:CTLT programs/Living Lab

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Living Lab

Between 2009 and 2012, the Centre of Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) offered the Living Lab program to facilitate conversations about how to make our classroom experiences more inclusive, respectful, and meaningful. The Living Lab program provided groups of diverse UBC students with interactive theatre training to develop theatre sketches based on the students’ lived experiences. The sketches illustrated how issues of privilege, power, oppression, and diversity play out to create heated moments in diverse and multicultural teaching and learning environments.

Over the three years, the program had over 20 troupe members and offered 25 performances to teaching and learning communities across the campus. Living Lab performances invited the audiences to conversations about the complexities and challenges underlying in classroom climate at UBC and how we could interrupt a troubling classroom moment and transform it into a learning opportunity.

Fall 2012 marked the end of this program supported through CTLT. Although we currently do not offer programming related to interactive theatre techniques, we do see the value in this work and support others who have taken on this work, such as the Changing the Lens: a UBC Forum Theatre project.

As a centre committed to advancing scholarly and innovative approaches to teaching, learning, curriculum and educational technology practices, we are currently exploring strategic ways to approach intercultural understanding addressed in Place and Promise: The UBC Plan. We have formed the CTLT Intercultural Working Group. Our exploration includes ways to:

  • utilize our experiences with the theatre technique developed through Living Lab in our future programming and services;
  • integrate Indigenous cultures and histories into our programs, services, and resources that aim to promote intercultural understanding; and
  • enhance our collaborations with other university units in order to weave the conversations on intercultural understanding through teaching and learning practices across disciplines.

We welcome your input to the development of our work in this area, and please contact Classroom Climate and Educational Resources Developer, Hanae Tsukada at hanae.tsukada@ubc.ca with any suggestions or questions.

In the meantime, please join the on-going Classroom Climate Series and check out our resources by Aboriginal Initiatives at CTLT in order to explore the complexities underlying class discussions at UBC around Aboriginal and other socially contentious issues.

Living Lab developed and performed short interactive theatre sketches that involved members of the UBC community in conversations about the complexities and challenges in diverse and multicultural teaching and learning environments.

The overall objectives of the program were (a) to support the University of British Columbia to create a respectful environment in which students and faculty from all backgrounds could succeed, (b) to build a network of UBC students, faculty and staff committed to improving educational equity in the classroom and beyond, and (c) to model such practices in the Living Lab Program.

Project goals included:

  • Promoting awareness and disseminating information about equity and diversity in teaching and learning issues, based on research as well as student experiences, to students, faculty and staff
  • Engaging audiences in interactive learning through theatre
  • Focusing on solutions more than problems
  • Adapting to the particular needs and concerns of the audiences
  • Addressing issues that shape classroom dynamics and student behaviours
  • Promoting awareness and developing skills of student actors involved in the Living Lab Troupe

What happened at a performance?

General workshop description: How do we create learning environments that meet everyone’s needs? How do students shape our curricular and pedagogical choices? And what can we do, as instructors and students, when things don’t go the way we hoped? In this hands-on session, you will have the opportunity to develop strategies, hone your skills, and ‘rehearse’ for future classroom situations related to diversity, civility and inclusion using interactive theatre.

Living Lab plays were only about five minutes long… but the total length of an interactive performance was about 60 to 90 minutes per session. At a performance, audience experienced:

  • An introduction and warm-up
  • The first performance of our short play
  • A second performance of the play, with the opportunity for the audience to interrupt and intervene, try new strategies, and ‘rehearse for the future.’ This section takes the bulk of the session time.
  • Final discussion and debriefing.


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What were the plays about?

The troupe developed and performed the following three plays:

All three plays deal with the broad theme of "Diversity, Civility and Inclusion in the Classroom," and here are the synopses of the plays:

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns: In a class discussion on a novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” stereotypes associated with the context of the story come up. A student is put on the spot…
  • Brangelina: Communication is lost in a diverse classroom. A student doesn’t understand a culturally-specific referral; another is not happy with the instructor’s accented English; and another just doesn’t want to care…
  • Date Rape: A student presents rape issues in Canadian campuses. The class discussion gets heated between a student who is a strong advocate for women’s issues and a student who is resistant to those issues…

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Living Lab composed of enthusiastic undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of departments and Faculties, with a wide range of cultural backgrounds and life experiences. We visited departments, units or training sessions to engage UBC teaching audiences in exploring challenging classroom situations related to inclusivity, diversity and civility.

Living Lab was developed by Yael Harlap and Judy Chan in Fall 2009 with contribution from Nihan Sevinc and Hanae Tsukada in subsequent years. The Living Lab was inspired by similar, successful programs at the Universities of Michigan and Missouri, and funded by the Equity Enhancement Fund at UBC.

Living Lab Troupe

The Living Lab Troupe consisted of UBC students who developed and performed short **interactive** theatre sketches that involved members of the UBC community in conversations about heated moments in teaching and learning environments.

Our student troupe members were:

• Undergraduate students & graduate students

• International students & domestic students

• From any Faculty or School

• Different cultural, ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds

• All sexual orientations and genders

• Diverse worldviews and perspectives

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By participating in the Living Lab Troupe, students developed the following skills:

• Develop critical thinking and reflection skills

• Develop leadership and interpersonal skills

• Develop an analysis of equity and diversity issues in classroom and community

• Develop skills to recognize and interrupt discrimination and harassment

• Increase commitment to take action on issues and be an engaged citizen

• Gain confidence in public speaking and stand up for your beliefs

• Learn to work with and learn from diverse people

• Recognize that you can make a valuable contribution to others’ learning

• Contribute to making a difference at UBC


“Living Lab has offered me insight into the ability I possess to partake in socially just practices in everyday life on campus. […] It has opened my eyes to the complexity of classroom communication and the responsibility of teachers and students to ensure that everyone can be included in the learning process.”

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The troupe members:

• Committed 3 hours per week, plus performances throughout the semester

• Engaged in a collaborative process with a diverse group of students to devise interactive theatre sketches about challenging situations in the classroom

• Performed sketches for the UBC teaching and learning community – faculty, grad student TAs, students, and others

• Had dialogue with audiences about the complexities and challenges in diverse and multicultural teaching and learning environments

• Became part of a tight community of students: shared their stories, learned from others, developed skills and expertise

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Past Performances

Living Lab visited departments, units or training sessions to engage UBC teaching audiences in exploring challenging classroom situations related to inclusivity, diversity and civility.

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Since the program started in fall 2009, we have offered workshop/performances at:

  • The 2009 UBC Learning Conference
  • Winter 2010 and Summer 2010 New Faculty/Staff Orientation
  • Educational Developers’ Conference, Kamloops
  • Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology
  • TA training in English, Statistics, Teacher Education and other Departments

We also performed at events such as:

  • TA training sessions
  • Orientations for graduate students or faculty
  • Departmental meetings or brown bags
  • Departmental teaching workshops
  • Conferences
  • And more!

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