Case study: Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance: Research, innovation and the Performing Arts
Rose Bruford College is placing itself at the cutting edge of research in learning and teaching in the performing arts –and it has been able to do this in the last ten years with the HEA’s support. The passion within the College for developing research stems from the fact that teaching in the performing arts attracts people who are committed to an art form and to creating better art.
Professor Kathy Dacre, Director of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum Development says, “One thing about teachers in the performing arts, whether in acting, scenic design or stage management, they are all passionate about the art form and about training outstanding practitioners who will create great theatre. Because of that they want to teach in the best way possible…. creating a learning environment for our students that will make them the best practising artists.”
Funding from the HEA has allowed Rose Bruford to realise its ambition of being at the forefront of performing arts research. Tutors have taken part in peer-learning and assessment workshops, looked at innovative forms of assessment in the performing arts, considered questions of assessment parity and were involved as dissemination partners in the Group Practice in the Performing Arts project
Rose Bruford has gone on to develop best practice by making the aim of having a funded research project in an aspect of pedagogy in progress each year a part of its Learning and Teaching Strategy. Funded projects have included: Assessing Assessment in the Performing Arts Curriculum; Being Inclusive in the Creative and Performing Arts; The Assessment of Reflective Practice in the Rehearsal Room; Teaching Stanislavski and the Into The Scene DVD for the Arts Council England project on Inclusive Teaching Practice in Theatre led by GRAEae Theatre Company was directed and filmed at Rose Bruford. A series of research symposia within the college focusing upon the diversity of UK theatre has enabled internal projects such as Developing a Diverse Curriculum.
More recently, work has focused on the development of a virtual learning environment, opening up access to the college’s opera and theatre studies courses to distance learners. This is a bold step as there is an assumption that performing arts programmes can only be taught face-to-face. The college has secured funding, to create and develop an Open Educational On Line Resource ‘Reflecting on Learning and Teaching in the Performing Arts’ www.rltperfomingarts.org and has concurrently worked with the HEA to develop an accredited Post-Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Theatre and Performing Arts.
The college now runs full-time, distance learning and blended learning programmes using its VLE. Some of these programmes are delivered entirely online. Content is streamed and live discussions can take place with tutors and other students. For full-time students, course materials such as curriculum and assessment details, timetables and programmes and subject forums are on the site.
All this research and activity has had a profound effect. It has led to the rewriting of curricula across the College and the engagement of students in the curriculum design process. The College degree programmes now exemplify best practice in learning and teaching in the performing arts and respond to current industry practice. . The College has one of its research centres specifically focussing on learning and teaching in the performing arts. There has been a change in culture; so that the nurturing of reflective practice has become embedded in each degree and in student thinking. As Professor Dacre comments, “Students now talk and think about reflective practice as a matter of course”.