“Now’s The Time”: Improvisation-based Pedagogies and the Creation of Coevalness

David Scott Ross


The term “performance” used to describe learning outcomes in educational settings has little of the richness ascribed by anthropologists. This paper adopts a dynamic sense of performance as shared time, theorized by Johannes Fabian as coevalness and Victor Turner as communitas, to problematize student engagement with pre-structured curricular materials. It contrasts it with alternative participatory frameworks utilizing improvisation. I describe core features of jazz interaction to illustrate how collaborative, context-dependent processes that constitute improvisation may be synthesized into a pedagogical approach; one that enhances student communicative abilities, fosters critical thinking and negotiation skills, and promotes engagement by cultivating temporal awareness. I present Dorothy Heathcote’s “Mantle of the Expert” and “Process Drama” as curricular approaches that employ improvisation and I reflect on how the pedagogical ends they achieve are consonant with the aims of critical pedagogy.



anthropology; coevalness; communitas; education; improvisation

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