I’m delighted to report that my latest book has just been published: Structure and Improvisation in Creative Teaching, by Cambridge University Press. I edited the book; each chapter is by a different scholar who is using improvisation to improve teaching. I first started working on this in about 2004, after I kept meeting teacher educators who were using improv techniques. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to bring all of these people together and share this exciting approach with everyone?
The key idea is that good teaching involves both structures and improvisation, both advance planning and adaptability. Expert teachers know how to use structures (lesson plans, activities, techniques to discipline unruly students) in an improvisational way that’s customized and targeted to each class and each student. This is what “creative teaching” really is: it’s not a flaky, New Age performance artist who mesmerizes the students. It’s an expert with a deep knowledge of the craft of teaching, and of the subject being taught, and an expert who can use that to orchestrate valuable learning activities among the students. A creative teacher is one who, once the learning is done, the learners say “we did it ourselves.” (To paraphrase the Tao Te Ching)