Image caption: Faculty of Humanities’ 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award Mike Griffin addressed graduates during Brock’s 113th Convocation on Friday, June 16.
FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 2023 | by Gillian Minaker
Mike Griffin finds one of the most rewarding parts of teaching is watching his Brock Dramatic Arts (DART) students’ confidence soar on the stage and behind the scenes.
The DART Lecturer received the Faculty of Humanities’ 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award in recognition of his efforts to help Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts students discover their creative voices.
Griffin understands first-hand the importance of student-centred learning.
“In my journey teaching university thus far, I have realized that teaching is not just about imparting knowledge, it is about connecting with students through collaborative relationships and theatrical exploration. I approach my teaching style from a mentorship perspective, centring the voices of students,” said Griffin.
He encourages students to come at their work as artists, prompting them with questions meant to spur creative growth and develop their creative practice.
Taking the time to get to know students’ personal interests is integral to the theatre educator and director’s pedagogy. Building on that foundation, Griffin gives students agency within the teaching and learning relationship by offers choice in content and assessment.
Themes related to Universal Design for Learning, which considers all students as individuals coming from different perspectives, are central to Griffin’s ongoing research. This philosophy is a foundational part of the experiential learning that DART offers.
Constantly reflecting on his own teaching practice, Griffin aims to make his classroom more inclusive and equitable. Through developing lessons and assignments that can be accessed by all students, including those with physical restrictions, he is driven to meet the diverse needs of the student community and create a comfortable environment where creativity can blossom.
Griffin is currently working on the creation of an original new play for DART’s 2024 winter Mainstage performance. Entitled The Mysterious Mind of Molly McGillicuddy, the character mask and physical theatre play explores mild traumatic brain injury and related mental health issues. Inspired and informed by his personal experience, Griffin is employing expressionistic techniques to “make an invisible injury visible.”
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and post-restriction social landscape, Griffin is driven by the need for human connection, underscoring the significance of humanities and the arts.
“It is our job in humanities to reflect on life and share our stories and perspectives,” he said. “Study dramatic arts not just for your love of theatre, but for your love and interest in humanity.”
Jennifer Roberts-Smith, Professor and Chair of Dramatic Arts, said Griffin’s commitment and effectiveness as an educator extends to colleagues as well as students.
“He inspires other instructors to explore and improve our pedagogy across the dramatic arts curriculum,” she said. “This well-deserved award recognizes the contribution Mike has made to generations of DART students and to the department as a whole.”