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Teaching as a Performing Art?

Chapter in Faculty Development in a Time of Retrenchment (written on behalf of the Group for Human Development in Higher Education, of which the author was a member; published by Change Magazine Press)

A professor who remarks of a colleague that he or she is a "performer" rarely intends the remark as a compliment. On the academic scene the word mainly suggests a striving for flashy effects rather than for truth, a display of oneself at the expense of the subject, or a pandering to the presumed taste of late adolescents. Most professors are eager to avoid the charge of flashiness, preferring to think of themselves as transmitters of knowledge and skills, as people with material to be got through, ground to cover, points to convey. They also dislike the imputation that they are merely "performing" a script written out in advance. They want to respond sensitively to student questions and contributions during classes. Taken either way, most professors do not want to be regarded as performers.


Nonetheless, teaching can be seen as a performing art. Like drama or the dance, it happens and then, except in memory, is gone. This has very far-reaching consequences...

New York Times story on this report


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