Higher Education

Students Need to Practice & Perform to Learn

A short video clip on the importance of audience for student learning

Practicing and then performing for an audience is a critical step in the learning process, according to Derek Bruff, Ph.D. 

Watch the full webinar here.


Derek Bruff:

So another element that I think is often important is having a sense of audience for students, who are they producing this work for? I took this picture in Boston a few years ago, and this street performer was doing some really cool acrobatics for a real audience here, and I imagine he had to hang out in the gym a lot, kind of practicing all of these different moves he did, but he didn’t just stay in the gym. He actually went out to an audience and got some oohs and ahs and some financial contributions.

I think often we have our students in the gym all the time, where they’re only practicing and they’re never getting to perform, in a sense, for real audiences. And so it could be other student audiences. I found this textbook by Brian Lower at Ohio State, who is having his students write parts of the textbook for future students, which I think is a really interesting model and a much more authentic approach to doing this type of writing. Or in my own class, I do a podcast assignment. My old essay assignment has turned into a podcast assignment, where students get to kind of tap into their interests and try to do the storytelling and technical communication in another form, but for potential audiences out there, I tell my students, each episode gets hundreds of downloads. There will be people out there listening to your work.

Randy Bass and Heidi Elmendorf call this social pedagogies. “We define social pedagogies as design approaches for teaching and learning that engage students with an authentic audience other than the teacher, where the representation of knowledge for an audience is absolutely central to the construction of knowledge in a course.” There’s something about representing your knowledge, communicating in a way that someone else can understand that helps you develop that knowledge to begin with. And as you develop that knowledge, you’re better at representing it. And so there’s a really nice feedback loop with audience here.