There are some things you can’t learn from just reading a book. Rather, it’s the experience a person encounters that leaves them stronger and wiser. For James Wilson, setting the scene can prove crucial when time is of the essence. James is a lecturer in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Southampton. With over 20 years of experience working in the field and teaching in the classroom, he’s knowledgeable with instructing student nurses on the information they need to know to succeed in future health care endeavours . Keeping that in mind, he’s pioneered mental health learning with a unique approach.

Back in 2004, James transformed the classroom into a ‘clickers theatre’. This interactive learning experience provides students with the stage to rehearse their future roles in caring for vulnerable people with an emphasis on enhancing empathy, understanding, dignity and respect. Some of the students will act out a scenario in which the audience will choose the best level of care for the particular situation by answering with TurningPoint software and a student response system.  ‘The evaluation by the participants has been overwhelmingly positive,’ stated James. Students are more involved in the lesson now and able to vote in deciding which actions actors will take as events unfold. And the data is there to back up James’ intuition. The project revealed high levels of active learning and engagement. To date, his methods have directly benefitted more than 10,500 students.

As a result, the spotlight is shining brighter than ever on James’ stage. He has been shortlisted for the ‘Most Innovative Teacher of the Year 2016’ award by the 2016 Times Higher Education Panel, one of the most prestigious teaching honours in the UK. As James states, ‘Education should be about empowering students to ask the difficult questions while creating an experience in the classroom that is meaningful and prepares them for their careers facing the challenges of professional practice.’