The Spark of Learning

Since its inception four years ago, the Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology has worked to enhance student learning by creatively connecting instructors and administrators across traditional institutional boundaries. For a second time, the OTLT Center for Teaching has partnered with Hancher and the Cashore Marionettes to create a special opportunity for faculty members who seek to consider how emotion factors into learning and imaginatively weave the performing arts into their courses.


To aid this exploration, the Center has launched a multi-disciplinary Faculty Learning Community (FLC) related to the performing arts and how they illuminate teaching and learning. This year’s FLC members hail from four different colleges, Liberal Arts & Sciences, Nursing, Tippie, and Education. During the month of October, members of the FLC are reading and discussing The Spark of Learning:  Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotions, by Sarah Rose Cavanaugh.  Cavanaugh presents evidence from psychology and neuroscience that underscores the potential power of emotion to inspire and fuel learning.  Building on the reading and peer discussions, members of the FLC also will attend a Hancher performance of Simple Gifts, by the Cashore Marionettes.


Simple Gifts is a series of touching portrayals and poignant scenes from everyday life. Through a combination of engineering genius, virtuoso manipulation, beautiful music, theatrical illusion, and artistic insight, the vignettes provide an extraordinary and sensitive vision of what it means to be human.


As part of their October 24 to 28 Hancher residency, the marionettes and their creator, Joseph Cashore, will join the members of the FLC for a special conversation about Cashore’s work and why he chooses such evocative themes. The group also will share ideas about how emotion—either positive or negative—factors into various contexts of learning (performance, classrooms, experiential learning, etc.). 


OTLT hopes to continue supporting projects on campus that connect teaching, learning, and the performing arts. Last April, OTLT partnered with Hancher and the Executive Leadership Academy (ELA) to sponsor The Largest Classroom on Campus—Connecting Hancher Across the Disciplines. Click here to read more:


If you are interested in learning more about how emotion factors into learning, or how to incorporate the performing arts into your courses, please contact the Center for Teaching at