Students love improvisation and for that very reason, the faculty must discount improvisation as the domain of the unrehearsed, the imperfect and the consequential shortcut. 

The reason students love the idea of improvisation is because they believe it is unstructured and they can make it up as they go along.

That is why improvisation is dangerous in its core to learning:  There are no rules, foundation or context to help the students learn something memeingful and precise.

Just like anyone who can construct a grocery list believes they are an author; so too, is the misguided student misled to believe improvisation has any meaning beyond the self.

Student improvisation tends to be predictable, unshaped and imitative.  Improvisation does not serve or require creativity or imagination and that is a bad thing.

If the instructor is looking for an easy out in the teaching — then let the students improvise at will.  Everyone will look busy even though nothing is being taught or caught.

Inspiring the imaginative student — by providing strict rules and conditions for the assignment — is precisely the role of the rightful instructor and the only path we must tread if we hope to remove our children from the busywork morass of attempted and failed mind conditioning.


  1. I’m not sure if I’m thinking of the same improvisation as you, but the people who practice improv at places like Upright Citizen’s Brigade do not just do anything without rules: rather, there are many rules involved in theatrical improvisation. It is structured, particularly long-form improvisation:

    long form improv is longer, story-based improvisation focused on developing character and plot so that an audience becomes invested in the work being done on stage. Much of the comedy in long form is from connections made in the story, layers of meaning, and enjoyment of a character.

  2. We are talking about the same sort of improv, Gordon and while there is some structure in the example you provide, the performers always rely on rehearsal and what has come before to “button” the end of their scenes or skits and that mechanizes the very idea of improvisation which makes it not that at all.
    I am reminded of that awful Drew Carey show — “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” — and I shudder at the entire experience of watching just one show.

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