Improv Workshops

Are you looking to develop your communication skills – both in general and for teaching situations? Would you like strategies for dealing with public speaking anxiety and unexpected questions in class? Join Jake Livengood, Senior Assistant Director of Graduate Student Career Services, for Improv Workshops tailored for teaching assistants and future faculty.

The 90-minute workshops are highly interactive and participatory. The workshop begins with improv warm-up activities that emphasize verbal, vocal and visual forms of communication and speaking with confidence in an uncertain environment. Participants continue to prepare for the unexpected by drawing a slip of paper describing a classroom scenario from a bowl and role-playing how they would respond to it. What do you do when

  • a student challenges your authority in class?
  • a very eager student wants to answer all questions posed?
  • students are hesitant to participate in class?
  • a student saying something controversial?

A discussion with the entire group then follows to generate additional ideas of how to handle it. This supportive environment encourages attendees to learn from one another.

Jake has developed the EXPERT method for reacting to unexpected questions:

  • Expect that an unexpected question or situation will arise. This puts you in the mindset to expect uncomfortable situations and leads to a greater chance of adapting when circumstances arise.
  • Prepare ahead of time for those potential situations. This can include reflection about how to handle common scenarios or practicing through improv activities.
  • Evaluate the uncomfortable situation. How does this situation make you feel? Do you change facial expressions or body posture? Does your communication convey doubt?
  • Respond to the student with confidence. Be comfortable with what you know and what you don't know.
  • Talk with a trusted person (peer, advisor, others). It is important to process uncomfortable classroom experiences with trusted mentors and colleagues. This provides an opportunity for growth as an instructor. 

For additional tips and information for dealing with public speaking anxiety in teaching situations, see this handout.