James, Michael Parry (2020) Watching the Higher Education (HE) Lecture: Could the Repertoire of the HE Lecturer be Enriched Through an Understanding of a Notion of Performance? Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Predicated upon the contention that higher education (HE) lecturers perform in their classrooms in ways which have similarities with the performances that theatrical performers give for their audiences; this research set out to observe, listen to, understand, interpret and then represent in text the meaning an aesthetic conception of performance has for a small number of teacher-performers in a single UK HE institution. Whilst classroom performances differ in content, presentation and delivery there is a fundamental commonality of purpose; each performance is given with the intention of establishing change in the student audience - broadly defined as learning. Learning may not be the declared intention of performance outside of the classroom; however, theatrical performers use language, movement and other expressive devices to engage and influence their audiences. Their performances therefore also change the audience; whilst the audience may not feel they have learned anything through a traditional understanding of learning, they often leave performances, in some respect, different. The aim of this research has been to seek out and examine similarities between the HE lecture - one of the “forbidden pedagogies” according to Burgan (2006, p. 31) - and a notion of performance developed for this research, and to explore whether an understanding of any such similarities might enrich the repertoire of the HE lecturer.

There are significant volumes of literature available which refer, separately, to teaching and learning in HE and theatrical performance. However, a dearth of literature exists where those domains interact. This work identifies that gap in the literature and plays a part in addressing it.

This two-phase research has been undertaken in a single UK HE institution, using a descriptive case study approach in the second phase of the work (Yin, 2014). The first phase of data collection involved twelve overt and non-participatory classroom observations each with a different participant. Fifteen overt and non-participatory observations were conducted in the first element of the second phase – three with each of five cases who are subsequently referred to as the players. The second element of data collection in the case study phase involved a single semi-structured interview with each of the players. A further single, semi-structured interview – outside of the case study – was conducted with Serena. Serena is a senior member of academic staff who also performs at Bright Club venues – where academic research is ‘performed’ in a comedy club environment to audiences made up of academics, students and the general public looking for a ‘good night out’.

Data analysis has been undertaken using Template Analysis (TA); utilising NVivo software for the classroom observations in the first phase and a hand-coded approach for the analysis of the observations and the semi-structured interview transcripts in the case study phase.

The research offers three conclusions; founded upon notions of similarity, collaboration and liaison. The research has concluded that there is evidence to demonstrate a significant number of points of similarity between classroom and theatrical performance. The presence of such similarity should therefore encourage collaborations between teacher-performers and colleagues experienced in performance practice from both within and without the HE academy. Such collaborations, in contributing to both initial teacher preparation and continuing professional development activities, have significant potential to enrich the performance repertoire of the HE lecturer. The final conclusion is that improved liaison of, to use the performance vernacular, an ensemblic nature - between teacher-performers and those in the HE institution who play key roles in designing, developing, allocating and resourcing spaces used for classroom performance - offers potential to improve the spaces in which the HE lecture is delivered and, through that, to enhance the classroom experience of HE students.

FINAL THESIS - James.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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