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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Catherine Graham


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 403

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27665

Office Hours: Wed. 2:00-3:00 or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This course will lead students through the process of working with community organizations to create dramatic performances based on grassroots perceptions and concerns. Working in collaboration with the First Year Transition Program of the Student Success Centre and McMaster Residence Life, students will gather stories and images from fellow McMaster students.  The material will then be used as a basis for proposing scenes for the 2015 version of IRIS, the Welcome Week play that is seen by most incoming first year students.

  • The first objective of this course is to learn creative research techniques that are likely to generate the kind of material needed to create a performance script about the conditions necessary to achieve success as a student at McMaster. 
  • A second, and related, objective is to learn how to record that information in a form that makes it accessible to others and malleable in the script creation process.
  • Thirdly, students will learn an established method for synthesizing images to create new stories, will decide on a dramatic structure that can convey the issues the community as a whole faces around notions of success, and will present draft scenes to community partners. Students will also be asked to reflect on the processes through which we attempt to collaborate among ourselves and with community members and to develop suggestions about best practices for themselves and for the project as a whole.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

All texts are available on Avenue to Learn.

Method of Assessment:

Field Notes from Story and Image Gathering Sessions:                                      35%

  • 5% Class Stories Sept 22
  • 15% on Story Circles Oct. 10
  • 15% on Image Theatre Workshops Nov. 5th

Synthesis of Important Patterns in Stories Oct 20                                               10%

Scene Presentation to Partners Nov. 26                                                                10%

Report on Scene Presentation  Dec 1                                                                   10%

Take Home Exam date TBA                                                                                 25%

Participation and Collaborative Skill                                                                    10%


Story and Image Gathering Workshops and Associated Field Notes

Teams of 2 students will conduct storytelling and image theatre research workshops.  The Student Success Centre will take responsibility for recruiting participants, but students are encouraged to help recruit students from a range of academic, geographic and cultural backgrounds.

Taking accurate and meaningful field notes after each of these sessions will be an important part of the story collection process and students will be expected to share these notes with the class through Avenue. Each set of field notes will include a reflection on what made the workshop process more or less effective.

Synthesis of Important Patterns in the Stories

Using a method that will be demonstrated in class, each student will prepare syntheses of patterns emerging from the stories gathered by all the groups to share with the class.  We will pay particular attention to images and ideas that recur in different places, contradictions between different images of success, and images that are particularly striking or that led to important discussion among research workshop participants.

Scene Presentation:

Following the Image Theatre research workshops, students will be divided into small groups to propose draft scenes that might be used in IRIS 2015 based on the material gathered in both Story Circle and Image Theatre workshops.  Sample versions of these scenes will be presented to the class, to IRIS sponsors, and to any workshop participants who wish to attend in order to reflect with us on the best ways to dramatize the issues that have been raised in the research workshops.

Report on Scene Presentation:

Students will write a 500 word description of the scene they presented, discuss audience reaction to it, and make suggestions for how the scene, or elements of it, might be integrated into IRIS 2015.  These reports will be passed on to the IRIS 2015 production team when it comes together in the spring.

Effective Participation in Collaborative Processes

The class will work collectively to develop effective devising processes that can generate performance texts.  For this reason, attendance at all classes is compulsory unless a medical condition, or the equivalent, prevents you from coming to the university.  Your grade for effective participation in collaborative processes will consider the following: quality of preparation, initiative and engagement in collaborative situations, creation of opportunities for others to participate, contribution to focusing group attention, openness to alternative viewpoints, effective use of feedback, ability to negotiate priorities and commitment to follow-through on agreements. Regular self-assessments and group discussions of collaborative processes will be an important part of the course work. 

Take-Home Exam

The take-home exam will be distributed on Avenue during the exam period.  Students will have 48 hours to complete it and submit on Avenue.  The exam will cover all the work done during the term, including readings, and will give students an opportunity to demonstrate how they might use the skills learned in the class in another setting.

Participation and Collaborative Skills:

Much of the work done in this class is experiential group work, so attendance at all classes and assigned workshops with community members is compulsory.  Contributions made in class and in Avenue discussions will be considered in establishing your grade.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.


All classes are compulsory. Students should expect to receive a grade of F on collaboration for any module in which they miss more than one class.  It will be impossible to complete the Field Notes exercise if you miss the workshops for which you are scheduled, which will lead to a grade of 0 on that exercise.


Written work, submitted after the deadline will be subject to a 2% per day penalty, including Saturdays and Sundays.  Written assignments, including Discussion Log posts, will not be accepted more than 7 days after the due date.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

The course will be divided into three modules:  Story Circles, Image Theatre Workshops, and Creating Draft Scenes.  Each module will involve learning theatrical methods for community-based research, discussing readings relevant to the work, and reflecting on the effectiveness of the methods used and the material created.  Detailed schedules and instructions are available on the course Avenue site.

Other Course Information:


Students must adhere to the Performance Lab Standard Operating Procedures posted on the AVENUE site and inside the lab.  Failure to do so will result in suspension of key privileges for the space.  Students can get a key to the lab from the School of the Arts office (TSH 414) on payment of a deposit. The space may be booked using the online tool on Avenue to rehearse your performances.  Please do not book more space or time than you really need, as students in several classes will be using the lab this term.

NB  All furniture, props etc. must be returned to their storage position before you leave the Lab.


This class will involve movement, so please wear comfortable clothing and footwear in which you can move easily and safely.  Closed-toed shoes with non-slip soles must be worn at all times.  In wet and winter conditions outdoor footwear must be removed and left on the winter mats near the main door. Students must have indoor shoes for working in the space. We will often work on the floor and we need to keep it clean.