Teaching strategies – a compendium

The Group Sculpt!
This idea came from reading Augusto Boal’s book: Theatre of the Oppressed (London: Pluto Press, 1979). He described a technique called Forum Theatre: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forum_theatre
“While practicing earlier in his career, Boal would apply ‘simultaneous dramaturgy’. In this process the actors or audience members could stop a performance, often a short scene in which a character was being oppressed in some way. The audience would suggest different actions for the actors to carry out on-stage in an attempt to change the outcome of what they were seeing. This was an attempt to undo the traditional actor partition and bring audience members into the performance, to have an input into the dramatic action they were watching.” (Wikipedia 2012)I adapted it to become a group sculpt, using a Galleon as my favoured metaphor. Students gather in a group and are given stimuli to represent a galleon (video, music, sounds of the sea, visualisation narrative – I play Pirates of the Carribean clips and sounds of seagulls from desert island discs usually). Once they have taken up the mental picture they are encouraged to place themselves in a part of the ship accoring to their feelings about their journey on the course so far. Guidance can be given by the facilitator to encourage imaginative tableaux. The faclitator then “interviews” individuals.

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you where you are on the ship?
  • Where do you want to be?/Is this the best place for you?
  • How will you get to where you want to be?
  • What help do you need?

Many other questions can work well too. Its a good idea to start with someone who has “got it”, and avoid those who are struggling to find meaning in the activity. They will still benefit from the funny stories, the quiet reflection time and listening to others.

Examples of stories that regularly come up are the drowning man, the shipmate up in the crows nest, the slave in the bowels of the ship rowing like frenzy. the passenger, the stowaway, and the ship’s cook.
The facilitaor then leads a discussion out of the metaphor about the sorts of responses. This can help to reassure students, and to work through ways of gaining another perspective on their course. At worst it is a fun distraction, at its best it can transform the way that students view their journey on the course, empowering them to take charge of their own learning. Let me know if you try it out with your groups. It can be a powerful way to build trust, but needs to be used very carefully!!

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