CRLT Players offer lessons through theater
|Members of the CRLT Players theater troupe,
clockwise from top left: Iyobosa Ekhato, Ward Beauchamp, Ron
Dreslinski, James Ingagiola, Omry Maoz and director Jeffrey
Steiger. (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services)
Five faculty members enter a room for their weekly departmental
meeting. The purpose is to evaluate two candidates for a new faculty
position. As the meeting progresses, Marlene, the only female faculty
member, continuously is interrupted or shot down whenever she speaks.
At the same time, a male faculty member is acknowledged and respected
when he makes similar comments or agrees with what Marlene says.
Frustration mounts as two brash male faculty members continuously
interrupt and shoot down others in an effort to get their views
heard, and nobody seems to notice. When an annoyed Marlene asks
the men to stop interrupting as she speaks, the two men exchange
an irritated look.
The interaction is make-believe but the scenario is real. Marlenes
plight is a sketch, performed by the Center for Research on Learning
and Teaching (CRLT) Players, that represents situations female faculty
face within their departments every day. It is part of the ADVANCE
project on women in the sciences.
The CRLT Theater Program explores conflicts such as these that
arise as a result a number of factors, including gender differences,
disability and conflict in the classroom. The skits give the audience
a chance to interact with the actors and to confront the topic in
a way that cannot be done in a classroom setting. These sketches
says Jeffrey Steiger, CRLT Theater Program director, allow
the audience to engage with research as a lived experience and practice
changing the outcomes.
A typical CRLT Theater Program workshop begins with a sketch portraying
a classroom situation. At the end, audience members talk with the
characters. They ask questions about the characters actions
and suggest ways in which the characters could improve their behavior.
The characters then re-enact the situation, incorporating the suggestions
so the audience can see how the new situation works.
As the audience members participate, they are helping to
solve the problem at hand, Steiger says. This in turn may
help them resolve similar issues in the classroom setting.
The idea for the program began four years ago when the Sloan Foundation
grant for Women in Science and Engineering allowed for the development
of a sketch on gender in the classroom. Two years ago, when the
grant expired, CRLT adopted the theater program and developed new
Constance Cook, CRLT director, says that the goal of the program
is to support faculty and graduate student instructors in
efforts to improve teaching. Although other universities have
interactive theater programs for students, the CRLT Players perform
primarily for instructors on topics dealing with learning and teaching.
The goal of each performance is to shape the experience and make
it real for the participants. Feedback from participants in the
program has been positive, Steiger says.
Faculty members have reported changing their syllabi and running
their classrooms differently because of their increased awareness
of the dynamics that exist in the classroom.
The sketch (dis)Ability in the Classroom is scheduled
to be performed 78:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Michigan Room of
the Michigan League, at the upcoming Investing in Abilities program.
For more information about the CRLT Players, call (734) 615-8309.