I believe in a student-centered learning environment. I have taught plenty of classes that were instructor/material centered and I find that students are more successful when they have ownership of their education. I support the students within my classroom to make choices and do their own research. I have found that some students prefer exams or long papers, but information retention is not as strong in those cases as they are in a student learning classroom. Shaping the classroom for more student engagement and discussion actually creates a more joyful and challenging learning experience. My role is to recognize and accommodate different learning modalities, encourage and facilitate learners’ shared decision making, and help learners’ work through difficulties by asking open-ended questions and allowing them to arrive at a conclusion that is satisfactory for them. I have absorbed from my years in the classroom that there is more than one way to arrive at an answer, and the process is just as important as the outcome. In such the students have the opportunity to make choices about their own learning and contribute to the design of learning experiences.
Most of the courses I teach in theatre are student-centered due to the nature of the work. The craft has many different techniques that a student will learn over time, but they are just a tool in their toolbox. Through my approach, I hope that the student will then know how to utilize those tools in an effective way that works best for them.
Second, I believe theatre is not a hobby or a pass time. I believe I am teaching a craft and skill to future specialists in a concrete profession. I take pride in my responsibility to shape the next generation of working actors, directors, designers, stage management, etc. For too long our profession has been viewed as a pass time and not as one of the major entertainment markets of our day. As such, all that I do in class, workshops, and directing is held to professional standards. Teaching theatre is about helping those within the craft be able to tap into their creative side, to understand and define their compassion and sensitivity, and to empathize with mankind. The only way to do that is to make sure the students understand that theatre is: critical thinking, science, mathematical, historical, physical, technological, and a business. Making sure the students are aware of what is expected of them outside the classroom in the market today I believe truly prepares them to be a lifelong theatre professionals.