Archive for January, 2009

On Improvisation

I’ve been thinking about improvisation a lot lately. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the increasing number of headlines about the economy encouraging us to make due with what we have.  Perhaps it’s my theatrical training trying to find an outlet in the quantitative and largely deterministic paradigm of my research.  Then again, it could be a desire to learn to think better on my feet, or a yearning to push the learning experiences in my classroom to another level, or a desire to experience and enjoy my academic writing in a more fluid, personal, and perhaps human, manner. 

And then quotes like the following get me thinking that perhaps I should be researching and teaching principles related to improvisation to my students:

“Everyone is at a loss, this is the start of a period of huge improvisation. There is no longer any best practice around to refer to,” says Victor Halberstadt, professor of economics at Leiden [in a WSJ.com article on the attitude at the Davos conference]

I think learning to improvise — to follow general principles with available though admittedly imperfect or incomplete resources in an environment of uncertainty — is an increasingly important skill to develop. I’m also trying to figure out how to align my work with principles such as

“teach [others] correct principles and [let them] govern themselves” (Joseph Smith, Jr.)


“Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.” (D&C 84:85). 

As I start identifying the connections between improvisation and my research and teaching, I’ll likely post more here.  If you have any suggestions, please feel free to share.

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