Teaching Commons > Events > Teaching & Learning Conference > Teaching as an Act of Body and Brain (2011)
The theme of this conference focused on teaching as an act of body and brain. We encouraged presenters and attendees to consider the ways in which an awareness of the body and the physical space of the classroom can influence teaching and learning. To what extent can the relationship between body and brain help us engage students in person or online?
As teachers, we often focus solely on the content of our subject matter and leave the quality of our presentations to chance. After a class we may wonder, "Did they get it? Am I doing everything I can to get this point across?" Nancy Houfek's keynote presentation, The Act of Teaching, gave us some specific skills used in the theatre to become more effective, whether in a large lecture hall or a small seminar. Our students will receive us better if we consider gesture, body language and vocal use as important and often neglected aspects of communication, skills that actors are trained in. We examined how a playwright might approach creating a lecture. We learned how to use our lecture notes in the way an actor uses a script. We explored physical metaphors as a way to illuminate complex and important concepts as a director might stage a text. If the various learning modes of our students can be opened to our passion for our material when we bring a variety of theatre techniques to classrooms, ultimately our students will learn better.
Nancy Houfek is Head of Voice & Speech for the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University, where she teaches vocal production, coaches the professional acting company, and administers the M.F.A. in voice training pedagogy. A stage director, award-winning actor, and nationally recognized theatre educator, she brings over 30 years of working with performers, educators, and public speakers to her teaching. Nancy has presented workshops for the Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning, the Harvard Medical School, the Kennedy School of Government, the Radcliffe Fellows program, and the Harvard School of Public Health, as well as for universities, academic organizations and private sector clients throughout the country. The Derek Bok Center has filmed her work with Harvard Faculty; "The Act of Teaching" has been distributed to faculty development centers nationwide.