The Performance of Teaching: Not Ready For Its Close Up.

Posted on January 4, 2016


Blue and BrutalTeaching, I’ve discovered, is a bit like theatre.

I’ve always known, of course, that performance is an important aspect of effective teaching, especially when the size of the class is more than a handful of students.

I’ve now learned that the kind of performance involved in teaching, like the performance involved in theatre, does not translate directly to video very well.  

I learned this recently while developing a video version of Brains, Minds, and Human Nature, a course I developed and delivered for Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program.  

Originally, I had imagined I would make the video version of the course simply by delivering and recording new lectures using the lecture notes and slides that I used for the class. As soon as I tested the idea, a few weeks ago, I realized it wouldn’t work.

There’s a casualness of speech and tone in classroom teaching, which doesn’t transfer well to the detailed attention of an audiovisual recording. Similarly, audio recordings also require a pace and intensity that would be over the top in the classroom.

Repetition, in order to reinforce key details, is essential in classroom teaching. In an audiovisual recording, which can be stopped and played again immediately, that kind of repetition quickly becomes tiresome.

After a few false starts, I developed a script for the video which is much shorter and much more focussed than I thought it would be, focussing on only a few of the ideas I presented in the course. It will work, I think, but it will be different than a formal course.

Hopefully, it will be ready for sharing fairly soon, depending on the approach I adopt for its visual components. I’m considering a simple approach and a more elaborate approach. I’m inclined to keep it simple, but I won’t know for sure until I get the audio recorded and drop it into a video editor.

If you’d like me to send you a link to the video, when it’s posted, drop me a quick note at or leave a comment below.

Posted in: Teaching