Contemporary Approaches to Teaching Panel Q &A response

This is the fourth in a series of articles following our recent event Contemporary Approaches to Teaching –December 10th responding to questions raised by participants.

While the panel was able to respond to some of the questions on the day, there wasn’t time to address them all.  To enable all questions to receive a response we will be posting them on the blog over the coming weeks.

We would be really interested in receiving your comments and feedback about the questions, the panel responses and your own experience.

This week’s question:

“Stanley Pogrow (2009) suggests that teachers should try ‘teaching content outrageously’.

The idea is that teachers grab students attention (“what’s going on here!?”) then deliver the key messages through outrageousness. This can involve the use of props, teaching in character (e.g. “second-hand car salesman”), improvised drama/accents and humour.  Pogrow’s avant-garde methods are real ‘Marmite’ stuff; you either love them or hate them according to reviewers. They are also for teaching at school level (US grades 7-12).

Is there a place for Pogrow’s methods in higher education?”

A response to this question was provided by: Graham Holden – University Head of Learning, Brian Irwin – Head of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) and  Eddie Mighten – Principal lecturer in Health and Wellbeing


from SHU photo library

So the answer has to be that, providing ‘teaching content outrageously’ is conducted in the right (professional) way, then there is a place for this in the classroom as part a carefully designed and planned learning experience.  If we are to create a challenging and stimulating learning and teaching environment then we must focus on the quality (what we do in the class room) not just the quantity (the fact that you are there) of contact time.  We need to think differently about how we interact with our students both in and out the classroom, designing and delivering learning experiences that challenge and stimulate our students.  Bringing in actors, role playing, simulation or games (my more moderate view of teaching outrageously – sorry but I have a responsibility for quality as well as teaching) all of which challenge students to engage with a situation, concept from a different perspective, are just some of the ways we can achieve this.”

Brian agreed that there may be a place for these methods “I believe students value teaching that mirrors the lecturer’s personality. I’ve heard of some teachers doing fairly unusual things that students loved but equally I could see they would find it quite annoying with a different lecturer.  Students have expressed to us that they appreciate variety in lectures – different ways of presenting the lecture, engaging students with it and getting across the key content are valuable.  However more important than that is lecturers they can make a connection with, who they feel really care about them.  So yes there is a place for Pogrow’s methods in higher education but this is largely dependent on the lecturer themselves, their comfort level with it and their personality.”

Eddie said “Sounds like Stanley might have a career in entertainment but teaching is a little bit more complex than being outrageous.   Having worked in a number of industries I would say teaching is one of the quintessential crafts that needs to be developed and honed.

None of us own any ideas but in order to engage our students we have to stay true to ourselves and stay true to the profession which is about learning.”



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