Improv to Improve Teaching and Communication

The Wisconsin STEM Improvisation Institute (Wisconsin STEMprov) is a new initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wisconsin STEMprov offers a graduate practicum, Improv to Improve Teaching and Communication, through the Delta Program. We also offer an annual Instructor Training Institute to to teach future instructors what improvisation is and how it is used to teach positive communication skills, particularly in informal education settings.

Improv to Improve Teaching and Communication graduate practicum

Instructor: Anne Lynn Gillian-Daniel
Credit Information: 1 credit (EPD 690)

Using the storytelling and character-development techniques of theatrical improvisation, participants will build confidence, teamwork, leadership, listening and decision-making skills through the performance of short games and scenes. Participants will be able to better think on their feet, manage a constructivist classroom, and communicate science more effectively to both technical and non-technical audiences. Each session will be comprehensive, diverse, and dynamic (in addition to being a lot of fun), and will build on the skills from the week before. The capstone of the practicum is a Story Maker workshop that brings together community participants (e.g., middle and high school students, young adults, and adult members of civic organizations) and STEM graduate students to co-create and perform a science story.


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Participants in the Spring 2015 Improv to Improve Teaching and Communication practicum.

Instructor Training Institute
Wisconsin STEMprov conducts an annual 3-day Instructor Training Institute to teach future instructors what improvisation is and how it is used to teach positive communication skills, particularly in informal education settings. Faculty and instructional staff from collaborating campuses participate in the institute and then teach the Improv to Improve Teaching and Communication graduate practicum at their home institution. The institute closely mimics the format of the practicum. For example, Institute participants learn how each improvisation activity is done, by first experiencing it as a student. They then engage in a meta-level discussion about how to lead and debrief after each exercise during their own face-to-face version of the course.

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Participants in the August 2016 Instructor Training Institute.

Wisconsin STEMprov is excited to be collaborating with Wisconsin Story Works.
Sponsored by UW–Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies, the newly-founded WSW serves the community by providing courses and workshops that teach story skills and bring together diverse groups to create stories for communication, education, and self-expression.
A major goal of this collaboration is to develop the next generation of scientists who effectively engage with the public and with K–12 audiences regularly as part of their careers. To achieve this, we are using the cutting-edge approach of combining training in improvisational techniques with structured instruction in storytelling in participatory learning environments.