We study the method and practice of teaching languages—theoretically, conceptually, and as an academic subject. A key aspect of our research involves thinking about performance.
While the scientific approach to teaching has long dominated educational thought, we have finally reached a point at which the arts also serve as models for educational practice. The term “performative” awakens a vision of pedagogy that is inspired by the arts, particularly the theatrical arts. This practice, known as performative pedagogy, is interdisciplinary; it facilitates the transition from the prevailing cognitive orientation in education toward a holistic understanding of teaching, learning, and research.
Techniques used in theater and drama have a long history in critical pedagogy and therapy. Because they engage students physically, they lower speaking barriers, promote empathy and expression, and foster interpersonal and intercultural understanding. These techniques have been highly recommended by foreign language teachers and researchers for the same reasons. They tend to improve motivation while integrating kinesthetic learning styles and personalizing content. They encourage genuine contexts for speaking, resulting in improved accuracy, fluency, and complexity while drawing attention to gaps between interlanguage and target language structures. For an example of teaching methods attentive to the performative dimension of language learning, see the European DICE project.
Through publications, conference panels, and projects, members of Germanic Studies investigate the transition from passive and receptive modes of learning towards forms of active and embodied engagement. Professor Susanne Even, coeditor of SCENARIO: Journal of Drama and Theatre in Second and Foreign Language Education, co-organized the SCENARIO Forum International Conference on Performative Teaching, Learning and Research in Cork, Ireland in May/June 2014. The Germanic Studies outreach coordinator, Troy Byler, organizes the annual German Theater Project for High Schools at Indiana University.