As teachers we are performers. It can’t just be performance – there needs to be content (A wise comment from Simon Bates). I had the opportunity to watch Aaron teach once and he is quite the performer. If you get a chance to observe his class do it. Watching the performance is a good way to think about how you may perform.

I have always thought of performance as part of my teaching.


Aaron is a performer. Here are some things I noticed about his delivery:

  • Humour (but not insulting)
  • Storytelling
  • Audience engagement
  • Talking directly to us directly
  • Demonstration

Reasons to be a Performer:

Student engagement: Students like to be entertained.

Self-preservation: The more uncomfortable we are as a presenter the less effective the delivery of content is.


Finding your voice as a performer is important. It helps you connect and capture the attention of a group. Projecting is important, but so is the tone of your voice and level of enthusiasm. Voice is one of the first things I worked on as a YouTuber. It takes time to get comfortable with your voice.

Being quiet is also a strategy that Aaron uses to get the attention of the room. Learning how to mange your voice in different room sizes is a skill that takes some time and practice to hone.

Eye Contact

Moving around the room is something that Aaron does to improve how much eye contact he gives to his students in an equitable way. It helps him read the room. I have seen him do this in action.

Audience Involvement

There are a variety of strategies one can use here. Involving people in “the show.” The technique helps educators take a break and improve connection with the audience. Aaron demonstrated how he sorts people by asking people from the audience to be actors. Doing that helps students remember the activity and pay attention. Creative thinking about how we can involve our students in creative ways is a good idea.

Pop Culture

Bringing recent examples into the classroom is a good strategy as well. It makes content more meaningful. Universal examples also work. I use an onion for describing phenomenology – he uses it for computer science layers. Sidney and I ask the audience for suggestions for class themes, which I have found helpful.


As a defense mechanism Aaron started working on improve skills. He makes fun of himself before students have a chance to, which helps the discussion move forward. Being ready to demonstrate quick-thinking by being calm actually helps to show humanness and engage learners.


Be cautious is his advice. Aaron and I use humour as a core strategy of our engagement. However, careful and quick thinking is important to make sure the classroom remains focused on content and inclusive. He says it may be the hardest strategy for other faculty to adopt.


Swearing is something I have noticed some educators do in their classes that I do not do. Aaron finds swearing a good strategy to capture the attention of his audience but cautions that it may not work for all student groups. In nursing, I feel it is not a good thing to have as part of the performance. We teach students not to swear so it would be a bad example to do so in class.


Aaron says he has different personas. He transforms into a game show host when doing a Kahoot. I never thought of it before but I think I do something similar intuitively. Being an engaging game show host is a very effective strategy in my course as well.

He has exam mode, game mode and lecture mode. I don’t know what mine are yet. This may be a good reflection idea for the future.

Be Unusual

In the middle of an exam he does a silly game to relieve tension. This is a tip I can work on.

Where to start?

Meme it up!

Remember that Content matters!

You need to be familiar with content first. When you are good at content it can help engagement.

How do you know it works?

Knowing what works is tricky. How do you know people are learning. For people like Aaron that use a lot of engagement strategies it is hard to isolate and measure what is working. Anecdotal evidence is the best he can give. Simon suggests using validated measures to assess it. He uses the FCI in Physics. What a good scholarly project to undertake (I will add it to the list). Also, performance is part of the educator component of the 21st century educator model.


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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