#LTHEchat 175: Teaching as performance: performative aspects of teaching in higher education with guest host Dr Richard Bale @RichBale

When you are teaching, to what extent do you feel like you are performing, acting, or entertaining your students? What inspiration might we draw from the skills and techniques of actors, singers, dancers, stand-up comedians, improv troupes, and other performing artists? These are some of the questions that we will explore in this LTHEchat.

In some educational contexts and cultures, teaching as performance is well established as a way of thinking about the performative aspects of a teacher’s role. In North America, for example, colleagues seem accustomed to reflecting on their vulnerabilities as teachers, and on how their teaching role relates to the performer’s craft. See Sarah Rose Cavanagh’s piece All the Classroom’s a Stage for an illuminating reflection on this topic. 

In the training of primary and secondary school teachers, there are often courses exploring the links between teaching and performance. During my own PGCE in Secondary Modern Languages, for example, we had input from actors and singers to help with confidence when speaking and presenting, and to practise breathing techniques and voice projection. This seems to be less the case in the higher education context, though some universities offer one-off sessions in performance as part of professional development for staff. In my previous role working with Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs), I developed a course called ‘Performative Aspects of Teaching’, in which participants explored their own feelings of ‘stage fright’ and aspects of their teaching performance. With yoga mats, breathing and relaxation exercises, and wacky activities inspired by acting and improvisation, this course provided a different way for participants – STEMM doctoral researchers – to think about their teaching role.

I hope this LTHEchat will spark some interesting discussions, both from those who are sceptical of viewing teaching as performance as well as from those who have experience of applying creative, performative approaches to teaching in higher education.

Photograph of Richard Bales


Richard Bale is a Senior Teaching Fellow in Educational Development at the Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship, Imperial College London, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA). He has a PhD in corpus linguistics, translation and interpreting, and is the author of Teaching with Confidence in Higher Education: Applying Strategies from the Performing Arts.

See the Wakelet for this chat: https://wakelet.com/wake/HVNo5hYk5-sfAuvOZjzWC

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2 Responses to #LTHEchat 175: Teaching as performance: performative aspects of teaching in higher education with guest host Dr Richard Bale @RichBale

  1. Nice encouragement for creativity Richard.
    My teaching at university often invokes my knowledge and experience in musical theatre. it became my signature of conference presentation by presenting my work in cabaret.
    Keep encouraging the ideas and creativity will take hold of academic writing.
    Dr Geof Hill ( previously Birmingham City University now Australia)


  2. Pingback: #LTHEchat 2019-20 round up | #LTHEchat

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