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Carleton University professor and Chair in Teaching Innovation is seeking to partner with faculty, instructors and extracurricular groups across campus to incorporate performance arts into the curricula of diverse courses and extracurricular activities.


In August 2020, James McGowan, associate professor of music and supervisor of performance studies, was named the 2020 Carleton University Chair in Teaching Innovation. The purpose of this award is to provide grant funding to support projects that advance the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and student success at Carleton.

Recognizing the role that performing arts play in promoting mental health and well-being, nurturing communities of support, building a sense of connection and supporting student success and retention, McGowan plans to use the award to create and support a network of like-minded instructors, students and staff using the principles of Performative Learning and Artistic Communities of Engagement (PLACE).

The network will identify opportunities for performative learning, exploring experiential arts-based approaches to engage students in a variety of disciplines and create artistic communities of engagement that allow students to find means of expression beyond course work.

In particular, McGowan is hoping to work with faculty to integrate performance arts into diverse courses, either as a part of the formal curricula or as part of extra-credit projects. McGowan is also looking to connect with extracurricular groups on campus to develop out-of-classroom opportunities for students to experience and engage with performance arts.

“It seems more than ever that we as a university community want to grow in ways that create meaningful, exciting and safe experiences to challenge students to thrive and engage artistically with communities on campus.”

Professor James McGowan, 2020 Carleton University Chair in Teaching Innovation

We Have…

Professor McGowan has the expertise to develop in-class and extracurricular programming to help students engage with the arts. He is available to connect with extracurricular groups and with faculty and instructors to provide guidance and suggestions on how to best incorporate the arts into diverse courses.

He has also engaged a network of professional arts facilitators to work with faculty to develop and guide classroom arts experiences, including music performance and song writing, drama and dance. This group of arts facilitators includes former student, Angelique Francis. Angelique, who is now an international songwriter and performer, is available to work with faculty to develop and guide classroom experiences.

We Need…

Professor McGowan is seeking faculty and instructors, who are already engaged with the arts or attuned to how the arts can impact their work, to participate in the program. Similarly, he is seeking to connect with contacts from extracurricular groups that may be able to and interested in integrating artistic opportunities into their activities in a virtual environment.

In addition to the program itself, McGowan is planning to conduct research to document how these artistic performative experiences impact students’ learning.

Anyone involved with teaching or facilitating courses, clubs or programs on campus is invited to collaborate on such research by joining the PLACE Research Group.

The Impact

The performative learning program centres on creating cross-disciplinary (and sometimes unexpected) experiential learning moments—for example, writing a song in a French class or acting out a piece of literature in a Greek Classics course. This cross-disciplinary teaching allows students to engage in topics in new, more in-depth and memorable ways that may deepen students’ understanding and recollection of information.

The program therefore presents an opportunity to enrich the student experience at Carleton, promote student engagement within the community, build cross-disciplinary connections between diverse departments and support teaching staff in developing innovation educations strategies.

As the initiative progresses into future phases, there are plans to develop opportunities to strengthen the University’s ties with the arts community in Ottawa.

Looking Ahead

Online or on-campus programming (in-class and extracurricular) will take place during the Fall 2020 and Winter and Summer 2021 terms.

In the future, Professor McGowan plans to expand the PLACE network outside of the University and will be seeking community partners.

If you are a community partner looking to get involved, stay tuned for future phases of this work, or reach out to start a conversation today.

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