Teaching and learning online through performing arts: Puppetry as a pedagogical tool in higher education


  • Laure Kloetzer University of Neuchâtel
  • Ramiro Tau




Puppetry, Higher Education, Adaptative appropriation, Transformative appropriation, Learning dynamics


Due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, a Swiss university course called “Psychology and Migration” had to move online over the Spring semester 2021. In this course, Psychology and Education students learn about the sociocultural considerations of migration, through a theoretical, personal and artistic exploration of the subjective experience of migration, based on performing arts. As part of the main pedagogical strategies, students are invited to collectively create a short theatre play based on some selected literary texts. Under the conditions imposed by the pandemic, puppetry arts were chosen as a new tool for distance-learning. Collaborating with theatre professionals, the students created a short play, and performed it online using sock puppets, image theatre or object theatre. Using data collected during the course (video recordings of online sessions and students’ diaries), this article explores the critical process of reduction and expansion, and the (potentially) productive tensions that the course creates. It analyses two main appropriation modes for course students: in adaptative appropriation, students aim to reduce these tensions by adapting to the perceived expectations of teachers; in transformative appropriation, students creatively use possibilities offered by the course to conduct a personal exploration, integrating theories with their own experiences and questions.

Author Biographies

Laure Kloetzer, University of Neuchâtel

Laure Kloetzer is Full Professor in Sociocultural Psychology at the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Her research focuses on how psychology can contribute to social change, using utopian, developmental and participatory approaches that have been inspired by the seminal works of Vygotsky. She has also published science fiction and fantasy novels. In her teaching, she uses methods that are derived from the performing arts, as well as science fiction writing to explore human-more than human relations. In a recent project with Dr Ramiro Tau, Prof. Simon Henein and Dr Susanne Martin, she has researched the dynamics of using performing arts in higher education. The research findings highlight the need to re-engage the body in higher education.

Ramiro Tau

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.


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