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MFA in Performance Pedagogy

What is the MFA in Performance Pedagogy?

Designed to equip working, professional actors with the tools to expand their employment opportunities in teaching at the college and university level, the MFA in Performance Pedagogy at the University of Pittsburgh offers a dynamic synthesis of teaching, practice, and scholarship.

This program is based on the premise that the professional actor has already gained a level of craft and broad experience that can become the foundation for solid teaching skills. Therefore, emphasis is placed on exploration and strengthening of pedagogical techniques as related to areas of acting and performance training.

Each student is given the mentorship of an experienced teacher of performance and works closely with the mentor to create opportunities for independent studies in pedagogy and curriculum development. Students gain experience applying theory to the practice of teaching acting and performance classes every semester, creating a course, conducting master class workshops, working on production assignments, and coaching or advising undergraduate students as needed. Students are encouraged to develop an area of specialty and to develop other areas of training in order to broaden their knowledge and remain competitive in the academic market.

How long is the program?

The MFA in Performance Pedagogy is a full-time program designed to be completed in two years.  The program includes practical and supervised experience in teaching throughout the period of study, culminating in a thesis class of the candidate’s specialty. MFA candidates are also given the opportunities to be involved in productions as a performer or part of the creative team at UP Stages, for which credit is given. Credit may also be given for work on productions at outside professional theaters in the summer or during the school year (pending academic duties and in consultation with the advisor). It is our expectation that teachers of performance will continue to practice their craft to enhance their own pedagogy as well as to model examples for other students.

Who is eligible to apply?

The MFA in Performance Pedagogy is open to all qualified applicants who have completed an undergraduate degree (or who will complete one prior to registration), along with an expectation of five or more years of professional theater experience. 

Successful applicants will be seasoned professional actors willing to make a full commitment of time and energy to the program. Although it is possible—and encouraged—for the actor to continue commercial, voice-over, industrial, and some film work in Pittsburgh, longer-term professional engagements cannot be accommodated within the structure of the program.  We recommend that you explore the Graduate section of our site and read the online Graduate Handbook (PDF) before applying. For more information about applying to our program, visit our application page.

Overview

The curriculum for the MFA degree in Performance Pedagogy centers around three focus areas:

1. Pedagogical Study

2. History/Literature/Criticism

3. Other Electives.

Each semester students are expected to carry a 15-credit load in addition to teaching two performance classes. Classroom teaching serves as fulfillment of the student’s work obligation to the university in addition to providing a laboratory for applying the pedagogical ideas under study.

*Please note, this information may change before the program admits new students for the class of 2014-2016. 

Degree Requirements

1. PERFORMANCE PEDAGOGY  

 

The bulk of a student’s course of study centers on learning to teach.  This work is carefully sequenced and culminates in the creation of a course of the student’s choosing.

Directed Study Pedagogy

3 credits
Student serves as assistant to a faculty member for a performance class.  This class occurs the first semester of the program.

Techniques in Performance Pedagogy

3 credits

A graduate level investigation of teaching methods and common practices currently used in undergraduate performance classes. This class occurs second semester of the program.

Production Mentorship

6 credits

Student serves as actor, director or coach in two productions in the Pitt Repertory season. Emphasis is placed on using the academic production as a teaching environment. The class can occur during any semester in the program. Rehearsal time functions as class time and credits may be adjusted for specific production requirements.

Course Development

3 credits

Student researches and designs a course that is then used as the classroom laboratory for the written thesis. This class occurs in the second year of the program.

Thesis Preparation 

6 credits

Student synthesizes classroom experience into a written document. This document is directly connected to the created course. This class occurs during either semester in the second year of the program and requires no classroom time.

Secondary Emphasis 

6 credits

These classes provide the opportunity for the student to develop a secondary area of specialization. Most commonly classes in the secondary emphasis are resourced outside of the department. Students are encouraged to use the summer break to fulfill all or part of this requirement.

Professional Experience

3-6 credits

Students are given credit for previous professional experience when appropriate. No classroom time is required. These credits may be granted in any semester.

Pedagogy Electives

6 credits

Students may select the course of their choice (with approval).  These electives are designed to supplement the development of the secondary emphasis or area of specialization but may be used for other pedagogical pursuits.

TOTAL  PEDAGOGY

36-39 credits

 

2. HISTORY/LITERATURE/CRITICISM

 

Courses in this area round out the MFA degree and provide a firm grounding in graduate-level work in theater history, literature, and/or dramatic criticism.

Materials and Methods

3 credits

Materials and Methods aims to introduce the research methods and tools appropriate for scholarly work in theatre and performance studies. Throughout the semester, students will be introduced to several of the primary genres of scholarly writing in the field and significant theoretical orientations current and controversial.

World Theatre 2205, 2206, 2207

9 credits

This three-course theater history sequence is designed to explore the development of dramatic forms and theatre practices from the 5th century B.C.E. to 1970.

Seminars

3 credits

 Students are required to take two literature/criticism seminars, and at least one must be at the graduate level (2000 or higher) within or outside the department.  Offerings and topics vary by semester.

TOTAL  HIST/LIT/CRIT

15 credits

 

3. OTHER ELECTIVES

3-6 credits

 Other elective classes or credit-granting opportunities, inside or outside the department, will be determined on an individual basis.

TOTAL  OTHER

3-6 credits

 

TOTAL FOR DEGREE

60 CREDITS

Thesis

The thesis project is the final requirement for the Performance Pedagogy degree. It is comprised of an original, created course plus a substantial written document that serves as a teaching guidebook for other instructors interested in using the thesis topic in the classroom. The thesis document identifies a pedagogical question, investigates that question through research or classroom work, and then identifies conclusions reached.  Thesis documents should be written in such a way that a performance teacher could use the document as a study guide on the topic in question. Thesis documents typically range from 40-80 pages in length and are directly connected to the created course devised by the student.

Thesis planning occurs in the fall semester of the second year. The thesis document must be completed and approved by a two or three person committee selected by the student. An outline of the thesis proposal and the names of the thesis committee are due at the beginning of the final semester. At least one committee member must be from the performance faculty.  All thesis documents require a committee signature page. The student must submit the final document (after committee approval) by the end of April of the graduating year.  

Common formats for thesis documents include: an introduction that identifies the pedagogical question under study, an overview of supporting research usually gathered during the created course research, course materials from the created course (course description, syllabus, exercises with detailed goals and instructions), an analysis of discoveries while teaching the course, and a conclusion that includes next steps.  Copies of thesis documents from previous students are available for review.

Evaluation Procedures

MFA students are given an advisor from the performance faculty during the first week of their first semester.  They will meet regularly (usually weekly) with this mentor to discuss progress in the program.

The department creates a file for every graduate student. This file contains copies of documents that identify work accomplished during the course of study.

MFA students’ teaching is evaluated several times during the course of the semester. The student’s advisor will visit the class at least twice and another member of the performance faculty will observe the class near the end of the term. Each of these visits results in a written report which will be reviewed by the student and his or her advisor, and become a part of the student’s file. In addition, the University conducts in-class evaluations of everyone teaching a course. These scores become a part of the student’s file as well.

At the end of each semester, MFA candidates meet with the graduate faculty to discuss and evaluate progress in the program.  The advisor provides the student with a written report of his or her progress to date, which becomes a part of his or her departmental file.  A student who does not meet departmental expectations in any area will be put on probation and/or may be asked to leave without notice.

Statute of Limitations

MFA candidates must complete all requirements for the degree within four years of enrollment in the program.  Extensions may be granted by the Graduate Dean only in exceptional cases.

Service

Service is a significant portion of a teaching position at a university. Students may be asked to serve on a committee, assist a production (as a one-time event, not as a coach), serve as tour guide for a prospective student, or teach an Honors Workshop for Introduction to Performance students.  They do not receive credit for these endeavors.  Although they are encouraged to participate when time and experience allow, they may opt out when the work load in a given semester would make such participation a hardship.

Sample Course of Study

Although some courses are fixed and immovable in their sequencing, many are not.  Students will work closely with the advisor to devise a four semester schedule that best suits their needs while accomplishing the requirements for the department.  The following is offered as an example of what to expect but should not serve as the only possible sequencing of course requirements. 

First Year Fall Semester

Classes:

Directed Study Pedagogy (Assisting Aciting 1)

3 credits

World Theater (1) (2205, 2206, 2207) 

3 credits

Materials and Methods

3 credits

1Faculty Development

3 credits

Secondary Emphasis I

3 credits

Total

15 credits

Teaching:

Introduction to Performance (2 sections) 

 

First Year Spring Semester

Classes

Techniques in Performance Pedagogy (2147) 

3 credits

World Theatre (2) (2205, 2206, 2207)

3 credits

2000 Level Seminar

3 credits

Production Mentorship

3 credits

Secondary Emphasis II

3 credits

Total

15 credits

Teaching

Introduction to Performance 

Acting 1

 

Second Year Fall Semester

Classes

Course Development

3 credits

2000 Level Seminar

3 credits

Production Experience

3 credits

World Theatre (3) (2205, 2206, 2207) 

3 credits

Pedagogy Elective

3 credits

Total

15 credits

Teaching

Introduction to Performance 

Acting 1

 

Second Year Spring Semester

Classes

Thesis Preparation (2000) 

6 credits

Production Mentorship II

3 credits

Pedagogy Elective

3 credits

Other Elective

3 credits

Total

15 credits

Teaching

Acting 1

Thesis Course 

*No lower-level undergraduate courses numbered 0001-0999 may be applied toward a graduate degree.

 

Contact

For questions or information regarding the application process, please contact:

Maggie Bupp
Graduate Student Services Administration
maggiebupp@pitt.edu

For questions or information regarding the MFA in Performance Pedagogy Program, please contact:

Dennis Schebetta
Head of MFA Performance Pedagogy
dennis72@pitt.edu