Teaching Through Performing Arts in Higher Education: Examples in Engineering and Psychology


  • Laure Kloetzer University of Neuchâtel
  • Simon Henein Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • Ramiro Tau University of Neuchâtel, University of Geneva
  • Susanne Martin Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
  • Joëlle Valterio Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne




Performing arts, Higher education, Engineering, Psychology, Improgineering, Teaching through performing arts


This paper introduces two courses making use of performing arts at university level. The first course, taught by Prof. Simon Henein and his colleagues, called Improgineering, aims to teach collective creation through improvisation to master’s degree students in engineering at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland). The second course, taught by Prof. Laure Kloetzer and her colleagues, aims to introduce the Psychology of Migration via a sociocultural approach to bachelor’s degree students in psychology and education at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland). After briefly introducing the topic of performing arts in higher education (section 1), the paper offers a description of the two courses (sections 2 and 3). These are complemented by teachers’ and students’ impressions of the course, as analyzed from individual interviews, focus groups and students’ learning diary entries (section 4). The conclusion presents some reflections on the convergences of the pedagogical designs of the courses, drafting a pedagogical model for using performing arts within higher education (section 5).

Author Biographies

Laure Kloetzer, University of Neuchâtel

Laure Kloetzer is Assistant Professor in Sociocultural Psychology at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Her research focuses on how psychology can contribute to social change by applying developmental and participatory approaches inspired by the seminal works of Vygotsky. Alongside her academic activities, Laure Kloetzer is a fiction writer, having co-authored two science fiction books, which have received prestigious prizes (CLEER: Une fantaisie corporate, Prix Planète-SF 2011; Anamnèse de Lady Star, Prix Rosny-Aîné 2014, Grand Prix de la Science Fiction Française 2014 and Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire 2014). She is leading the research project ASCOPET on Performing Arts in Higher Education.

Simon Henein, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Simon Henein is Associate Professor at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Head of the Micromechanical and Horological Design Laboratory (INSTANT-LAB), Institute of Microengineering. Currently, he is Visiting Professor at the Centre for Theatre Studies (CET), Faculty of Arts, University of Lausanne. His field of expertise covers the design of high-precision mechanisms dedicated to mechanical horology, surgical instruments, and aerospace applications. His related undergraduate and graduate teachings focus on micromechanical design, with an emphasis on the creative process. Since 2017 he has been teaching a course entitled Improgineering that familiarizes engineering students with the improvised performing arts.

Ramiro Tau, University of Neuchâtel, University of Geneva

Ramiro Tau obtained his doctorate at the National University of La Plata, Argentina, with a thesis on the development of children’s understanding of death. In 2012 he was appointed Associated Professor of Genetic Psychology (UNLP) and since 2018 he has been conducting research at the universities of Neuchâtel and Geneva, Switzerland. Since 2020 he has served as a board member of the Jean Piaget Foundation and professor at the Open University of Catalonia, Spain. He is interested in the uses of performing arts in educational contexts, development of social notions and history of psychology .

Susanne Martin, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Susanne Martin is a Berlin-based choreographer, performer, researcher, and teacher in the field of contemporary dance and theatre. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Her artistic practice and research focus on dance improvisation, critical narrations of the age(ing) body, artistic research methods, and improvisation-based approaches to learning, knowledge production and knowledge dissemination. Within the interdisciplinary ASCOPET research project (EPFL/UNINE) she explores how artistic research can contribute to understanding and making understood the potential dance improvisation practice holds for a technical university. www.susannemartin.de

Joëlle Valterio, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Joëlle Valterio is a freelance performance artist, holding a Master in Contemporary Arts Practice from the Bern University of Arts, a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Dramaturgy and a Master in Information and Documentation from the Haute Ecole de Gestion in Geneva. She is founder and director of UTP (Unwrap The Present) and member of PANCH (Performance Art Network CH) and of SSA (Swiss Society of Authors). Since 2017, she has been Construction Assistant at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne where she assists in the development and teaching of the course Improgineering and contributes to the research project ASCOPET.


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