Teaching Shakespeare

7 February 2012

Royal Shakespeare Company and the University of Warwick join forces to deliver a groundbreaking online professional development platform for teachers of Shakespeare

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and University of Warwick join forces to offer teachers a new professional development route to help them transform the classroom experience of Shakespeare for young people across the world. Teaching Shakespeare is a groundbreaking online professional development platform for teachers which launches online at teachingshakespeare.ac.uk on 7 February 2012. Teachers can register from April and the first set of courses and resources will be available in October 2012.

Teaching Shakespeare blends the RSC's playful, creative and rigorous approaches to teaching and learning, inspired by its rehearsal room practice, with the world-leading business, teaching and research practices of the University of Warwick. At the heart of Teaching Shakespeare is a specially-created set of online resources offering teachers unique access to an active approach to teaching Shakespeare inspired by the RSC's rehearsal room practice.

Education specialists, Rachel Gartside (RSC), Professor Jonothan Neelands (University of Warwick) and world-renowned Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro are filmed working with students in UK and US classrooms, introducing them to one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, Romeo and Juliet.

Teaching Shakespeare also features exclusive podcasts and interviews with internationally renowned artists and directors as well as a range of specialist academics and teachers. For example, the RSC's legendary Voice Director Cicely Berry, actors David Oyelowo (Henry VI for the RSC and most recently in Planet of the Apes) and directors Rupert Goold, Roxana Silbert, and Michael Boyd all provide insights into their working practices and show how Shakespeare is a writer uniquely placed to speak to the cares and concerns of young people today.

The online learning platform provides two pathways for teachers. Firstly, they can access the films and accompanying materials, including the RSC Shakespeare Toolkit for Teachers, as a stand-alone set of resources.. Secondly, the learning platform offers a qualification route for teachers combining academic study, practical classroom tasks, assessed teaching assignments and connections to a community of tutors and fellow students. This course includes formal assessment of work and leads to a Post Graduate Award in the Teaching of Shakespeare. The graduate-level programme offers a route to achieve an MA in the Advanced Teaching of Shakespeare.

Jacqui O'Hanlon, the RSC's Director of Education, said:

'50% of schoolchildren in the world study Shakespeare and that extraordinary fact has led us develop Teaching Shakespeare, a new education partnership between the RSC and the University of Warwick that uses the latest technologies to connect us with teachers nationally and internationally.

'We believe that young people get the most out of Shakespeare's plays when they approach them in the way that RSC actors do: on their feet, actively exploring the text and unlocking its meaning. Teaching Shakespeare brings together an astonishing range of voices, experiences and insights from the worlds of professional theatre and education that explore the impact of these kinds of approaches on actors and students alike.

'This rich array of materials will now be available to teachers anywhere in the world, thanks to the online platform and expertise provided by Warwick Business School.'

Professor Mark Taylor, the Dean of Warwick Business School, said:

'This partnership brings together two leading organisations located in Shakespeare's Warwickshire to help teachers around the globe provide young people with richly resourced and inspirational lessons on Shakespeare in performance.

'Warwick Business School's business acumen and experience at delivering high quality online materials and distance learning to tens of thousands people world-wide will be used to open the RSC's decades of content and practical experience of the performance of Shakespeare to support the teaching of Shakespeare in schools.'

Teaching Shakespeare has grown out of an existing collaboration between the RSC and the University of Warwick, which focused on teacher professional development. In 2006 / 2007, the Creativity and Performance in Teaching and Learning (CAPITAL) Centre enabled the launch of the Learning and Performance Network (LPN)  and the creation of a set of post-graduate qualifications for teachers.

In 2008, the RSC launched its Stand Up For Shakespeare campaign and, in 2010, published the RSC Shakespeare Toolkit for Teachers. Running alongside these milestones has been a research programme led by the University of Warwick exploring the impact of RSC teaching approaches on pupil attitudes to Shakespeare and attainment. The establishment of Teaching Shakespeare is a natural evolution of the commitment both organisations have made to the professional development needs of teachers.

The aims of Teaching Shakespeare are:

  • To develop an international standard of practice for the teaching of Shakespeare in partnership with teachers nationally and internationally.
  • To provide teachers with the skills and knowledge to apply playful, rigorous and ensemble based approaches to teaching Shakespeare in the classroom.
  • Teach in active ways that transform the experiences, expectations and connections students make with Shakespeare's plays and language
  • Enable more students to make their own life-long connections with Shakespeare

Teaching Shakespeare is particularly relevant for teachers of students aged 8 to 16. It is for teachers of Shakespeare in any part of the world, teaching in English. It will be initially targeted to teachers in the UK and USA.

The resources are principally for Primary and Secondary school teachers and theatre practitioners working with young people,. In particular, Teaching Shakespeare programmes will appeal to specialist English and language arts teachers, drama and theatre teachers and primary teachers with a specialism in literacy and language development.

There will be a charge for the courses and resources and any profit will be ploughed back into the RSC's education programmes and used to support the charitable purposes of both the RSC and University of Warwick.

For further information please contact Nada Zakula in the Royal Shakespeare Company Press Office on 01789 412622 or nada.zakula@rsc.org.uk

Or Vin Hammersley, Director of Communications, Warwick Business School
+44 (0) 2476 524124

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Teaching Shakespeare