USING "THEATER" AS A COLLABORATIVE LEARNING EXPERIENCE IN AN INTRODUCTORY EARTH SCIENCE COURSE
In my introductory courses, I enhance the lecture material with a semester-long group activity where students use theater (drama, comedy, song, dance, etc) to teach the class specified topics in earth science. Each group is required to: 1) record meeting minutes; 2) research and select the topic; 3) decide the roles and responsibilities of each group member (researchers, writers, performers, set designers, props, costume preparation, stage management); 4) prepare a working script using a prescribed format; 5) conduct a dress rehearsal of the presentation with the instructor; and 6) perform the presentation and conduct a review of the topic with the class. The content and creativity of the presentation is evaluated by the instructor and by students visiting from another class. Group members evaluate themselves and others in the group using a confidential self-evaluation form.
This type of collaborative learning activity goes beyond a standard research paper and/or class presentation by challenging the group to communicate scientific concepts using both creative and intellectual skills. It also creates a memorable learning experience that more effectively resonates with students more than the standard lecture format as evidenced by the increase in attendance, interest, and involvement in my courses.