Simon Fraser University

Curtain rises for teaching players

Jul 11, 2002 , vol. 24, no. 6

By Julie Ovenell-Carter
The Teaching and Learning Players are: (clockwise from the bottom) Adrienne Wong, Melanie Yeats, Vic Ustare, Jesai Jayhmes, Peter Abrams and Nneka Croal. The troupe uses drama to explore controversial issues that arise in the university community.

It's showtime at SFU's learning and instructional development centre (LIDC).

At the International E-learning Summer Institute held at SFU at the end of June, the centre raised the curtain on the Teaching and Learning (TL) Players, a troupe of actors who use drama - and sometimes humour - to explore controversial issues that arise in the university community.

The TL Players is directed by Jesai Jayhmes, a European-trained actor who began teaching at SFU's school for the contemporary arts in 1995. Three years later, Jayhmes introduced a voice workshop for instructors through the former centre for university teaching (now under the LIDC umbrella).

Jayhmes says the popular voice and effective speaking techniques course “helps instructors appreciate that it's their passion for their subject that engages students, not the information itself. The TL Players aims to bring out that passion dramatically. There has been so much emphasis on high-tech in the classroom. We deliver the high-touch element. We are looking through the cracks in the ivory tower to show the emotion, the passion and the human drama of academic life - all the stuff that's not addressed in the course structure.”

The company of five actors - all SFU alumni - will perform by invitation at conferences, seminars, and workshops to stimulate discussion about teaching and learning challenges. Their current repertoire includes a scene that highlights the difference between lecturing and facilitating a discussion; a scene that explores diversity and gender issues; and a scene that focuses on effective teaching with technology. But Jayhmes says that with enough advance notice, “we'd be happy to write scenes around any issue surrounding university life.”

In addition to their live work, the TL Players are preparing a series of video episodes for release on the LIDC website early this fall.

“The idea is anyone with an interest in improving the educational experience will be able to watch an episode and then follow it up with a bulletin board chat about what they've just seen,” says Jayhmes. He says the services of the TL Players are available to everyone at SFU - and will happily be extended to any educational conference or institution - on a cost-recovery basis.

“There's no one else in the country taking this approach. If someone out there feels that a dramatic re-enactment of their particular teaching or learning issue would help to generate discussion in a safe, non-confrontational way, we're the place to come,” says Jayhmes.
Jayhmes can be reached at jayhmes