This article examines the significance of place and space from a Performance Studies and Social Studies perspective. In terms of the social sciences, I draw upon the formal, symbolic and marginal articulation of place. Hetherington suggests that certain places act as focal point for the establishment of social identities, citing city-centre landmarks and shopping malls. Similarly, children attach all kinds of values to the formal spaces they occupy. As one example of this point, I examine the child’s relationship to the school hall. From the perspective of performance, I examine a project undertaken at a junior school in Stoke-on-Trent, inspired by the site work of Wrights & Sites. As a critical lens, I adopt Boal’s understanding of the oneiric dimension. The oneiric dimension is particularly relevant in performance work as these are the moments when we (as performers and spectators) are pulled into the action. In these instances, the physical space simply disappears, imagination replaces actuality and the desire to believe outweighs the reality of the present.
“The value of Engagement is no longer questioned” (Trowler & Trowler, 2010, p.9) Trowler & Trowler, in their 2010 report for the HEA’s Student Engagement Project, note that studies have consistently shown associations between student engagement and improvements in identified desired outcomes, including cognitive development, critical thinking skills, practical competence, and skills transferability. They also note that there are specific features of engagement which improve outcomes, including student-staff contact, active learning, and cooperation amongst students such as group work and peer support. Trowler & Trowler found that interacting with staff has been shown to have a powerful impact on learning, especially when it takes place outside the classroom and responds to individual student needs. The NUS 2012 Student Experience Survey supports Trowler & Trowler’s findings. The purpose of the study was to understand student expectations of a university experience. Teaching quality was cited as the most important factor in what makes a good learning experience. Students want more engaging teaching styles that are interactive, use technology & props to make the subject more accessible and interesting. This paper will consider student engagement through collaborative teaching and learning practices I have developed within a series of bookbinding workshops away from the studio environment in which I develop new skills alongside my students. In this way students are not being ‘instructed’ by a skilled specialist but rather collaborating with a committed enthusiast.
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