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Life is Improvisation, so why don't we teach it?

Life is Improv, why don’t we teach it?

Last night my daughter transformed a rolled up oven sheet into a broomstick. I said "yes", rolled up another sheet and went on a short ride through the skies with her. Today that sheet could be a magic carpet, a fan or something I could never dream of concocting. She goes out of her way to do something different with what she has. My strategy has been to enquire about her passions and provide the means to fuel them.

I am very lucky that she goes to a small country school with great progressive teachers. I trust them to provide that space for her to imagine. On her first day of Senior Infants the room wasn’t left in a sterile tidy state but was festooned with balloons and bricks. The invitation to each child coming through the door was to make what they wanted from the materials. They could sit where they wanted. There were even tents on the floor for children to curl up with a book.

The Irish school curriculum is changing and more emphasis is being placed on creativity. We recognize that a knowledge economy’s primary currency is information that is being discovered. Therefore, we have to teach people how to discover. It is no longer acceptable that we learn information off by heart and selectively reproduce it in a 3 hour exam. The disconnect between this and a third level system which asks us to think for ourselves is obvious.

There is science behind teaching. Pedagogy informs our teacher trainers of what has worked and what no longer works. Improv is a relatively new kid on the block in terms of teacher aids. Papers on the topic don't stretch back beyond 20 years. Drama of course has been proven as a learning tool. Improv still seems shrouded in mystery and cynicism. I have written a few papers(link to my papers here|) on the topic, because I am an advocate for more widespread use of the tool. There is some research to show that teaching teachers improv improves their teaching confidence (link to self efficacy article)

Surely though, in a society where we need quick thinkers, people who will question the status quo, innovators, team players and good communicators, we should teach improv? Improv provides a quick and easy forum to maintain that young inquisitive mind that re-imagines a boring old kitchen object. In addition to teaching the young bloods at Universities, as it the case in many colleges in the US, surely it is an easier task to preserve the curious and unconstrained young minds that start school already creative. Just a thought......

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