21 June 2023 • 7 Mins Read

Overcoming the Challenges of Teaching Lighting & Sound Design

BTEC, GCSE and A-Level Drama and Performing Arts curriculums offer students a broad education around practical, theoretical and real-world applications for lessons learned in the classroom. 

Aside from the external image of acting, writing and devising, exam boards design programmes bringing in aspects of working in the industry, as well as learning around production fields such as lighting and sound design.

But while a more rounded curriculum is great for a broader demographic of students, it also brings along its own challenges for teachers, schools and colleges.

Teaching Lighting and Sound Design

So what do the exam boards say? Well they want students to develop a clear understanding of the fundamentals of lighting and sound production. This includes being able to answer questions such as:

  • What does theatre lighting and sound do?
  • What are the different styles of theatre lighting and sound?
  • What decisions do lighting and sound designers make?
  • What challenges do lighting and sound engineers face?

There is a plethora of amazing resources available off- and online to help teachers and students navigate the technicalities of lighting and sound design. Exam boards such as OCR and Edexcel offer official learning resources and course outlines for students and teachers, but there are many other places to find useful information to deliver performing arts courses for all levels of education.

Practical Tasks for Teaching Lighting and Sound Design 

As with all education, any level of practical grounding of theoretical knowledge will enhance your students’ learning opportunities. 

Learning about playwriting? Do some creative writing!

Analysing live performances? Do some performing!

Delving into directing? Do some directing!

In an ideal world learning objectives would flow from the curriculum like Chekhov’s Gun; “if it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there”.

However we know the practicality of delivering optimum learning opportunities across a technologically-demanding subject area such as Drama and the Performing Arts is going to bring many challenges to institutions.

BTEC, GCSE and A-Level curriculums demand knowledge of not only creative theory but the practical application of theatre lighting and sound design in real-world settings, as well as within the context of their own devised theatre pieces.

This presents the obvious challenge for teachers to enhance their students’ ability to visualise their theatre lighting and sound effects without allowing them to get hands on.

Some schools and educational institutions are lucky to have lighting and sound equipment (as old and dusty as some of these may be!), however limitations in set-ups will always impede somewhat in the quality of performing arts learning.

So what to do?

Lighting and Sound Design Workshops

If fantastic learning opportunities are what you’re after, lighting and sound design workshops are the ticket to engaging your students practically in this part of the curriculum.

But what’s so good about external lightning and sound engineering workshops?

Firstly, theatre workshops across acting, dance through to production, lighting and sound give your students access to experienced tutors and leaders whose external expertise will ground lessons from within the classroom, develop your students’ character as individuals and strengthen their understanding of the wider industry.

The major benefit for schools and students of external lighting and sound design workshops over performance-based sessions is the chance to use superior equipment. This not only gives more for students to write about in coursework and examinations, but again strengthens educational and personal development.