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Watching Theatre Education in Action Transforms Learning for Art of Theatre Classes

Posted Oct. 4, 2010

Department of Theatre professor Dr. Yuko Kurahashi has successfully put a Transformative Learning Grant to use to streamline and add a visual element to coursework to bolster student learning. Kurahashi's objective was to streamline the classes that were being taught by a large number of different professors, each of whom emphasized different aspects of theatre education. The Transformative Learning Grant Art of Theatre team helped alter the way the classes run to ensure more consistent and effective course content.

profiles yuko inverse
Yuko Kurahashi

The Transformative Learning Grant aims to change the way a classroom runs by giving instructors the opportunity to revamp their technology and teaching techniques. It is an extension of the National Center for Academic Transformation.

After reviewing surveys and statistics about the high rate of failure in college freshman courses, the center identified the nationwide need for academic improvement to stem those loses. According to the National Center for Academic Transformation website, the group worked with 30 colleges between 1999 and 2004 to redesign college courses, and 25 of those 30 projects showed significant increases in student learning.

Last year, Dr. Jon Secaur of the Department of Physics (link to former story) used the grant to transform the Planetarium into a more student-friendly environment, complete with a new projector for the dome, a zoom camera and two 50-inch plasma screens.

With the grant's help, Kurahashi trimmed down the textbook into a smaller, more affordable and efficient work as a way to emphasize the performance and practice aspects of theatre.

"We changed what the textbook should be without creating a new textbook," says Kurahashi.

The team also worked with Teleproductions to create videos of rehearsals, performances and backstage procedures. The videos give the viewer a look into the world of costume design, set design and more. Kurahashi says giving students an inside look into the world of theatre helps them better appreciate the hard work and detail that goes into a production.

"Details are very important to learning," she says as she queues up a colorful and appealing film titled Backstage Secrets. The film, used in The Art of Theatre Kent Core course, was created by Kurahashi's partner Nicole Perrone along with Mark Monday and Raynette Smith and Teleproductions staff.

The greatest strides, however, involve the creation of an online section of the Art of the Theatre course. In January 2010, Kurahashi and Perrone received a Summer Distance Education Course Development Grant from the Office of Continuing and Distance Education. The School of Theatre and Dance, with help from Associate Educational Technology Designer Phil Nelson, created a new online section, which she says is "very student-centered."

The team focused on the goal of a "student-engaged online learning paradigm," meaning that they strove to make the online classroom interactive and interesting so that students appreciate theatre as an engaging and dynamic activity.

"Students now have access to visually captivating PowerPoint presentations with voice-overs, video clips and hyperlinks that incorporate both visual and audio elements to create a more appealing learning experience," Kurahashi says.

For more information about the Transformative Learning Grants, contact the Office of the Provost at 330-672-2220 or go to http://www.kent.edu/aqip/index.cfm .

By Erin Dwinnells