Kirsten McCrossan’s university dissertation on running drama workshops (2006)
I recently found my university dissertation on drama in education and drama workshops written in 2006 as part of my BA (Hons) Drama at The University of Sunderland. My ideas and opinions have completely evolved since writing this paper eight years ago; but I still feel as passionate about the subjects I was writing about and found my younger-self’s musings to be pretty interesting!
Here it is:
You can’t be involved in education without noticing that teachers, like most other people, must engage with the problems of societal flux and shift… What am I (the teacher) doing at this present moment within my society which is of any use? How will what happens in this time contribute to this individual, this group of people, my community, my nation, the world of people and objects?
Heathcote: 1984, p171
As Dorothy Heathcote has expressed in the above quotation, educators should be aware of the power they have to contribute to individuals and society. In this dissertation I intend to explore this statement and find out how drama can be used effectively to enhance the lives of the participants in a drama workshop. I wish to find out what constitutes a beneficial drama workshop and how I as a teacher can make this positive contribution.
As an adult looking back to childhood, I can appreciate the benefits of being involved in drama. It may be thought that the main benefit would be the gaining of skills: learning how to use the voice, body and mind. However, the most valuable gain has been of life skills: self-confidence, self-esteem, motivation, self-belief and the vital skill of communication.
I also recall being continually reprimanded by school teachers for being ‘easily distracted’ and ‘talkative’. Looking back at this I can appreciate the common struggle of a kinaesthetic learner being bored by the traditional classroom set-up of pupils sitting in silence and listening to a lifeless teacher. I had an energetic and vivacious personality as a teenager and found school highly uninspiring. My energy would erupt in class through talking to friends, joking and challenging teachers. This behaviour was unacceptable within the institution of the school, and I was constantly being disciplined for my ‘bad’ behaviour. At school I had been labelled as a pupil who would never fulfil her potential. However, when I was introduced to youth theatre, I had entered a community where my energy was needed, my humour was appreciated and my debating praised. I experienced a similar experience to Cecilly O’Neill’s claim when she said: ‘drama provides a release from the strait-jacket of academic learning’. (O’Neill: 1983, p26) Theatre became my outlet. Without this passion, which was enabling me to channel my energy and creativity, I know that I would not be as driven and successful as I am today. I would have been expected to fail in life. It is this, my own personal experience which has drawn me to Drama in Education.
Having such a positive experience of drama in my youth has led me to my current occupation of drama workshop directing. This involves leading workshops in primary and secondary schools, community groups, and stage schools. Different companies and schools have different expectations of what a drama workshop should entail. Although I wish to be versatile in my profession, I want to be able to offer something unique which is purposeful and inspiring. It essential to me that I am not merely running a basic workshop or teaching a mediocre class, but that like Dorothy Heathcote I am striving to make positive change in people.
While studying Drama in Education, I have been drawn towards its benefits within the primary school. The primary school is the most important learning centre for a child. It is within the primary school that we learn the basic tools which will equip us with the basis of our working lives: how to read, how to write and how to use mathematics. There are strict curriculum guidelines concerning these imperative areas, and these skills are generally taught in a traditional classroom manner, the traditional manner being where the pupils are seated in the classroom listening, while the teacher will dictate and explain how things should be done. ‘In drama the curriculum is problematic rather then given, pedagogy is viewed as negotiable rather than imposed, and evaluation is viewed as individual rather than comparative.’ (O’Neill: 1983, p25) The fact that drama is ‘problematic’ drives primary teachers from teaching the subject. There is a common fear in teachers to embrace drama within their classroom as it takes the teacher from their comfort zone, but it must be noted that no matter how competent people are at reading, writing and counting, life would be exceedingly dull if this was the extent of our skills. It is imperative that the right hemisphere of the brain is also being stimulated, this being our harbour for creativity, intuition and subjectivity. Therefore, as well as teaching numeric and literacy skills, it is important that the creative arts are not ignored within this crucial stage of development. I shall be focusing my train of thought on drama workshops for the primary school.
I personally believe that drama incurs the inherent life skills of communication, empathy, active thinking and team-work. These are skills which can not be taught from a book in the traditional teaching style mentioned previously, but skills that can only be learned through experience, exploration and debate. When we begin to stand things up in a classroom and push the tables to the side of the room, a whole new learning environment is being created and a different type of learner is being catered for. ‘Tell me and I will surely forget. Show me and I might remember. But make me do it, and I will certainly understand.’ (Chinese Proverb). Drama is all about doing, and education is all about understanding.
What is Drama in Education?
It is clearly important to incorporate creativity within the curriculum. This does not necessarily have to be taught through drama, but drama is the perfect vehicle from which to harness creative skills. There is not one clear definition for what drama in the primary school is. There is a deceivingly simple question which is: What is drama in education? Throughout this period of study, I have not been able to produce a concise answer to this question. I feel that in order to achieve my objective of directing drama workshops of the highest standard and with distinct purpose, a deeper understanding of drama in education is crucial. The initial connotations of drama are of plays and the theatre. When I recently worked in St Georges Roman Catholic School in Newcastle, I asked the pupils what they thought drama was and a pupil answered that it was acting something out in front of an audience. I agreed and praised the pupil, however now that I have forced myself to dissect my work, I wish to be certain that this was in fact the correct answer. This is the most common answer I have received from primary school pupils and within the school this could incorporate the Christmas Nativity, School Assemblies and musicals. Are these activities ‘drama’?
I spoke at length with Chris Bostock, a story-teller and former teacher of drama on the subject of drama in schools. He had been speaking for around thirty minutes and I realised that there had been no mention whatsoever of performance. Mr Bostock was very clear when he explained to me that ‘drama is for self’ and ‘theatre is for an audience’. In my quest for an answer to my question of ‘What is Drama in Education’, I found this confusing. I had agreed with the pupil who raised his hand and said that drama was about acting something out. Surely the audience would be a vital part of this process? The drama that Mr Bostock spoke of was of entering an exploratory world. Being liberated and free to make decisions, to be creative and question the world. This drama that he was speaking of sounded not only exciting, but it seemed to cover what was needed from drama in education: freedom of creativity and expression and encouragement of independent thinking. Taking the audience out of the equation makes sense, as then a drama lesson can focus on personal growth and learning rather than putting pressure on pupils to perform and to gear all of their work towards satisfying an audience with the possibility of not satisfying their own needs and curiosities.
I was easily swayed by Mr Bostock’s passionate explanation and I began to think that this was the true definition of how drama could be educational and most beneficial to children. But what is education? Education is to teach someone something. In Mr Bostock’s definition, nothing was being formally taught, pupils were being allowed to be explorative and creative, but drama is a subject in itself and surely this has to be taught at some point? There is such a great wealth of knowledge waiting to be taught: Greek theatre, Shakespeare, stagecraft and characterisation to name a few. If this knowledge is being overlooked in favour of a more reflective approach, then it could be said that this is in fact not drama, that it is merely an extended form of play. I noted here that drama is a subject as is history, maths or geography, and I find it difficult to comprehend how it can be justified teaching drama without giving away any facts. However, how beneficial are facts and figures to a child? ‘Drama education does much more than put the names of great dramatic writers, directors and actors in the heads of students.’ (Heath: 2005, p5) As Shirley Brice Heath states, there is far more to drama education than these facts, and I agree. The dogmatic learning of dates and names, is exactly the type of learning that drama can liberate a pupil from, and by resorting to teaching the facts of drama the subject, pupils are being robbed of their opportunity to be freely creative. Previously I have believed that it is intrinsic to a child’s learning to gain knowledge and facts to enable a greater understanding of drama, but if Chris Bostock is correct when he claims that ‘drama is for self’, then personal growth should be the main aim of a drama session, not learning about the theatre.
Dorothy Heathcote states: ‘educational drama is a process, a mode of learning, an agent which brings about change.’ (Heathcote: 1984, p112) again, here is a definition of drama which has no mention of theatre or performance. In my quest to discover what constitutes a successful drama workshop, should I disregard any form of performance? ‘Dramatic activity is concerned with the ability of humans to ‘become someone else’, to ‘see how it feels’… ‘Put yourself in my shoes’ is a readily understood request.’ (Heathcote: 1984, p54) Dramatic activity then, from what Heathcote here states, is becoming someone else or taking on a character. This allows the person engaging in drama to see things from a different perspective. So as the pupil from St Georges School answered: drama is about acting as a character. However, in order for the drama to be successful, and by successful I mean enabling the pupil to experience another person’s experience or point of view, there is no need to perform this experience to an audience. The experience of doing is where the learning occurs, not in the experience of showing. A clear definition between drama and theatre is now evident. If I am to make a successful contribution to the children I am working with, I have to be able to judge whether they will benefit mostly from theatre training or engagement in dramatic activity and as the workshop leader I must understand the distinct difference between the two modes.
Drama in Education does not necessarily mean the teaching of drama, but the use of drama within education. It is not about how we can educate children about drama, but how we can use drama to educate. Thinking of Drama in Education in this way makes it more logical that we do not have to divulge too much about the history and knowledge of drama itself. If we simply take drama as a tool: being able to place yourself in different situations, it can be used across the curriculum in order to bring other subjects to life. For example hot-seating could be used within a history class to explore the thoughts and feelings of King Harold preceding the Battle of Hastings. However, when we are using drama merely as a tool, is it still drama? Or is it simply a method of active learning? To take one aspect of the subject in isolation surely is not giving a good overview of drama as a subject. I have stated that a pupil’s learning occurs through the act of doing, however if we wish pupils to learn about theatrical performance, then indeed the learning would come from rehearsal, taking direction and performing to an audience.
In conclusion to this question, drama in education I believe is using drama as a tool which has the potential for pupils to take on different roles and encourages children to see the world from other angles than their own. Drama in education is not ‘drama’ and it is certainly not ‘theatre’, it is a mode of learning which can be used to enhance any subject across the curriculum. Patrice Baldwin speaks of ‘Drama in education practitioners’ and ‘theatre practitioners’ and I take note that these are two different types of expert. If I am to contribute positively to the groups that I work with, I believe that I should align myself with one area or the other as each camp focus on very different aims.
Drama: Process or Product?
Drama is a world of theatre, playwrights, actors, directors and staging, and drama in education is the use of dramatic techniques to see things from different perspectives. However, there are expectations of drama of any form, and people generally expect some type of performance. This leads me to my next question: in a drama workshop, should I be focusing on process or product?
When a child hangs a painting on a classroom wall, he is not only sharing it with others, but sharing it with himself. What was originally an experience of a process from the inside has become an experience of a product from the outside.’
Bolton: 1986, p47
I want to discover what the most beneficial method of conducting a drama workshop is in order to give the participants the most rewarding experience possible. From what I have discovered so far, it should be about encouraging pupils to explore viewpoints of society and people and allowing pupils to create their own opinions and have a better understanding of the world around them. All of these points add to making a contribution to not only the individuals, but to the world. However, I am still concerned as to where the drama is. ‘Theatre practitioners who are performance focussed are not happy that drama in education is being referred to as ‘drama’, they focus on developing theatrical skills for performance to an audience.’ (Baldwin: 2004, p6) At this stage, I find myself relating to the theatre practitioners that Patrice Baldwin speaks of. She states that process based drama in the past was giving ‘little attention… to the theatrical elements and form in terms of quality during drama-in-education experiences… Performance was almost a dirty word and audience was an irrelevance.’ (Baldwin: 2004, p5) What concerns me about this statement is that there was little attention to quality, as the focus was on the process the pupils was encountering from within. This brings me back to Bolton’s analogy of the pupil’s painting. If the pupil had thought long and hard about the process of painting but was given no guidance on how to paint, then his finished product may be substandard. It is a natural instinct to want to do well and to try to excel oneself, and it seems criminal that a teacher, someone who is paid to educate and inspire, could not wish this exertion of their pupils’ skill. If a teacher is going to teach drama, then I believe that they should be working their hardest to allow their pupils to maximise their full potential. As I have discussed previously, I was inspired to enter drama in education through my own participation of drama as a youngster. Every dramatic workshop which I participated in had an element of sharing or performing. A full theatrical production gave me an enormous sense of achievement and self-worth. This is why I find it difficult to comprehend how these attributes can be excluded from a pupil’s experience of drama.
When analysing the benefits of both process and product, I have come to evaluate my own role as a teacher. It is imperative as a teacher that you put the needs of your class before your own needs as a teacher. This encompasses the occupation of the teacher: to educate others.
If I am to aspire to excellence as a teacher, I must be able to see my pupils as they really are. I mustn’t discourage them – I must accept them. This means adjusting myself to my pupils, and seeing things from another standpoint.
Heathcote: 1984, p18
Of course the key figure in the drama workshop is the teacher or facilitator. As Heathcote has stated, it is essential to create a rapport with a group of children. Not only this, but the facilitator must be aware of the purpose of their workshop. This is what I am striving to define through this study. I always have aims and objectives of what I want the class to have achieved in a session which are always flexible, but in order to grow as a facilitator, there has to be a time when you can define what you yourself stand for and what you can offer a school or group which is something that you firmly believe in, are passionate about and have put much research into. However, different groups will have different expectations of the drama workshop director. This is reflected in the various titles there are for this position: Drama Workshop Director, Drama Tutor, Drama Teacher, Drama Facilitator, Teaching Artist and Director. There are many crossovers within these job titles but also many distinct differences in approach to running a drama workshop. When I worked for Borderline Theatre Company’s Education Department, I was expected to be each of these titles. I had to teach school subjects through drama activities, explore issues through drama, facilitate workshops, direct plays, perform, teach theatre and explore texts with groups. Each of these jobs requires a different type of professional and that is part of my aim, to create a deeper understanding of which role I can best fulfil in order to deliver the most beneficial drama sessions.
Unnecessary focus is placed upon product when there is outside pressure on the teacher to produce a performance of a high standard. From personal experience, I have found that this occurs more in stage school and youth theatre settings than in schools. At a stage school there are high expectations from fee paying parents and management is often anxious to produce a high quality show in order to ensure that people return and continue to pay these often extortionate fees. When there is this pressure on the drama teacher, then unfortunately the students’ needs are overshadowed by those of the management’s. This is when product driven drama becomes unacceptable. Students become almost like puppets in that they are not allowed any of their own creative input to their work. The process becomes a mundane routine of direction. ‘Drama is never a robotic repetition of lines; instead, it is an opportunity to discover the meanings that lie behind words, meanings that affect the lives of human beings.’ (Heath: 2005, p20) I feel that within stage schools, the emphasis lies in trying to create ‘child stars’, trying to produce the product which is a child performer who can be marketed to casting agents, and the ‘discovery’ which Shirley Brice Heath speaks of is overlooked. I do not think that the main emphasis you give a child should be on becoming a professional performer. Encouraging an individual in this way may be contributing to their success as a performer, but if all the vital aspects of drama engagement which I have discussed are being ignored in favour of creating ‘an actor’ then I do not believe that this is contributing to the individual or to society. Of course there is a need for this type of instructor, but I would not like to class myself as an ‘instructor’ as again this is similar to the dogmatic teaching approach which I have previously spoken against.
A new and rapidly expanding drama in education company, Bigfoot Theatre started by Karl Wozny speaks of their own term: ‘organic theatre’:
(Our work can) help children realise their full potential as individuals, developing key life skills and performance skills through the use of ‘devising’ techniques – A term we refer to as Organic Theatre. Through Organic Theatre, our participants contribute their own creative ideas and experiences to their work giving them ownership and helping them to focus on team work, problem solving and risk taking.
Bigfoot Theatre: www.bigfoot-theatre.co.uk
The aspect of this company’s work which interests me the most is that they speak of developing ‘life skills and performance skills’. Until this point in my study, emphasis has been with either the process or the product of drama. Bigfoot Theatre is using both aspects together to aid and encourage child development. They use ‘Organic Theatre’ which involves facilitating pupils through devising their own work. This company seemed to have realised the potential of working towards a product in developing the life skills of participants.
What people largely don’t understand, are the skills students learn as a result of devising. The very act of working together, the unity of purpose… diplomacy, compromise… to be sensitive… to deal with people, to organise…to manage work to a real deadline.
Lamden: 2005, p8
Here Gillian Lamden explains the ‘life skills’ which can be acquired through devising theatre. These skills are all going to benefit the children in both their working and social futures. Through Bigfoot Theatre using the devising process, they are cleverly encouraging creativity, along with the skills which Lamden lists. In order to perform a successful piece of organic theatre, it is also necessary for pupils to be aware of theatrical techniques including staging, characterisation and projection. This process is allowing children to grow as actors as well as growing as individuals. This marriage of process and product is something that Patrice Baldwin has strived for and it is what Bigfoot Theatre has successfully done.
Increased attention to the theatrical elements within drama for learning lessons can strengthen pupils’ engagement with their role and help focus and tag the learning as well as developing the child’s understanding of how theatre works. Drama lessons can bridge the worlds of dramatic play, drama for learning and theatre, in order to access, make and communicate meaning.
Baldwin: 2004, p6
I have recently begun working for Bigfoot Theatre and find their philosophy inspiring and true to the opening statement from Dorothy Heathcote. As a Bigfoot Drama Tutor, I am constantly aware of how I am making a positive contribution to individuals and to the group of children I am working with. I believe that to successfully use drama in education, children can be taken on a journey of process based learning, but at the same time, be introduced to the theatre and the collaborative process from which theatre can be made. This gives pupils the opportunity of gaining a new skill and exploring their creative talent whilst learning in a safe and enjoyable environment.
In conclusion to this section, I align my opinion with that of Bigfoot Theatre. Drama is about process and product and there should not be a dividing line between the two. In order to remain true to the subject of drama and allow the development of the children in a group, then the perfect method of doing this is through a collaborative process. Charmaine Phelps, director of Bigfoot Theatre in Newcastle explained to me: ‘I am often flummoxed by how badly children work in small group situations. They have problems taking turns, compromising, getting their point across.’ Devising or ‘organic theatre’ is going to develop these skills which will be invaluable to a child’s future. As a drama specialist, I believe I am an ambassador for theatre, and I do not agree that the purely process based drama workshop is going to give pupils a balanced overview of what drama is. Working towards a product gives pupils a clear goal and performing in a finished product gives a sense of completion and achievement, these are outcomes which I strongly believe will contribute positively to the participating pupils.
Drama as a Tool
‘We must change the concept of creativity from being something that is ‘added on’ to education…and make sure it becomes intrinsic.’ (Chris Smith: The National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education: www.dfes.gov.uk) This statement implies that although drama has been taken off as an ‘add on’, using creative teaching methods throughout the curriculum will be more beneficial to the overall encouragement of people’s creativity. My first thought on this concept was that it was positive in that creativity was being embraced. However, it must be noted that the subject of drama is being replaced by teaching other subjects in a more active manner.
From my research so far, drama in education has been used primarily as a tool. It can be used across the curriculum, but is most commonly used within personal and social education and citizenship. The majority of contracts that I have had have been issue based, including using drama to explore Anti Social Behaviour, Assertiveness, Citizenship and Healthy Eating. As Donna Vivers, Producer of Lifelong Learning from Borderline Theatre, Ayr stated: ‘Sadly there is little support for drama for drama’s sake anymore, it all has to be issue based or relevant to the curriculum in order to gain funding for a project.’ I interviewed Ms Vivers and she expressed a concern for not being able to freely explore drama without a rigid set of aims and objectives to cover in each session. She continued: ‘Anyone who has ever facilitated an educational drama workshop will know that you touch on the basics of drama as a tool but never get a chance to go in depth, as the subject has to come first.’ This led me to ask, is using drama as an educational tool an acceptable substitute for the teaching of drama?
…there are dangers of drama being too readily associated with work on bullying, drug education, teenage pregnancy and the like…they are only one of the many forms of Drama, just as the ballad is only one form of poetry… more insidiously, it can exaggerate the negative aspects of their lives, with drama been seen as a kind of medicine to tackle their social ills.
Winston, J: 2004, p1
As Joe Winston points out in the above quotation, it is detrimental to drama for it to be overused to highlight negative aspects of children’s lives. If every time a child participates in drama they are exploring negative issues, then the child is being robbed of the variety and excitement that drama can provide. This overuse of the medium is unfair on pupils and cannot be the sole contact pupils have with the subject.
I have spoken at length about drama classes. The classes that I speak of are not part of everyday life for a pupil in school. Drama has been withdrawn from the primary school curriculum in England and no longer has separate subject status. ‘Drama doesn’t appear within the curriculum as a subject in its own right and curriculum guidance until recently has tended to overlook the contribution that drama makes within primary schools.’ BBC School Radio: www.bbc.co.uk It is stated here that curriculum guidance ‘until recently’ has overlooked the contribution of drama, however this does not mean that drama has been reintroduced. Drama is instead being used as a tool in other subjects.
Our aim must be to create a nation where the creative talents of all the people are used to build a true enterprise economy for the 21st century – where we compete on brains, not brawn.
The National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education:
This quotation proves that the current leader of our country is aware of the importance that creativity has not only on individuals, but on our country as a whole. Of course creativity can be harnessed in any area of expertise, but the creative arts are at the core of educating in expression. It would be assumed that if Mr Blair feels so strongly about the nation’s creative talents, then the teaching of the creative arts would be an important part of the primary school curriculum. This is not the case. Although Music and Visual Art are included in the curriculum, Drama does not have single subject status. Drama appears as part of the statutory English curriculum as part of speaking and listening. ‘Drama now exists on the timetable as a subject in less than 50% of primary schools and is the least taught arts subject in its own right.’ (Baldwin, P: 2004: 8) The fact that drama is not a part of the curriculum makes the job of a visiting drama specialist such as myself even more of a crucial role. All of the skills that drama encourages are in the hands of the specialist to harness. It is this fact that the only drama many pupils will be receiving is from a visiting artist that validates this study even more. It is crucial that drama workers like me take responsibility in our role and strive for the best from ourselves and the pupils we work with. If the school or local authority has decided it necessary to invite a company such as Borderline or Bigfoot to work with their pupils, then they appreciate the benefits that drama can bring to their pupils and the visitors must make it their goal to prove the school correct in their appreciation.
Drama and Theatre
Children need to go to the theatre as much as they need to run about in the fresh air… If you deprive them of theatre, they perish on the inside. The difficulty with persuading grown-up people about this is that if you deprive children of shelter and kindness and food and drink and exercise, they die visibly; whereas if you deprive them of art and music and story and theatre, they perish on the inside, and it doesn’t show.
Pullman: Education Guardian: www.education.guardian.co.uk
This poignant statement from Philip Pullman highlights the opinion that children need theatre. He does not state that theatre is beneficial or that it can aid child development, he is very particular that it is a ‘need’. He continues: ‘I’m not going to argue about this: I’m right.’ (ibid) If theatre is indeed a need of children then the introduction of the medium in schools is imperative. Pullman argues that parents too readily place their children in front of the television or games console and that the live aspect of theatre cannot be rivalled by such activities. He speaks about contribution from not only the actors but the audience: ‘The actors and singers and musicians contribute their performance; the audience contribute their attention, their silence, their laughter, their applause, their respect…and they contribute their imagination, too.’(ibid) This active contribution from the audience highlights yet another skill being gained from participatory drama: the role of the audience. If within a drama workshop the pupils are being encouraged to watch each other’s work, then they are in effect creating their own theatre for one another and practising the key skill of respect. Theatre is built around respect: respect for fellow performers; respect for self discipline including punctuality and attendance; respect for property and respect for self. What is now becoming evident is that theatre is a learning tool as much is drama, not only watching theatre, but taking part in a production. Looking back at my introduction, I stated that theatre was my outlet and that without this outlet; I would have been expected to fail by those around me. Attending school was never something that I found important, neither was being on time for class or treating the teachers with any respect. None of these attributes which I have now were gained from my time at school. These were all learned from taking part in theatre. In theatre you learn about teamwork through experiencing a true team culture, and you learn about self discipline through the experience of the effects you can have on your team. The added pressure of having the deadline of a production adds to the intensity of effort and self exertion.
Gavin Bolton compares drama and theatre:
As the playwright focuses the meaning for the audience, so the teacher helps to focus meaning for the children; as the playwright chooses with great care the symbolic actions and objects… so will the teacher help the children find symbols in their work.
Bolton: 1986, p166
As Bolton describes, there are distinct similarities between drama and theatre. I have been studying in order to ensure that when I lead a drama workshop, my efforts are not in vain. I want to be confident, like Dorothy Heathcote, to make a positive contribution to my students through their involvement of drama. I think that the use of drama and theatre hand in hand will aid me to achieve this as I am a strong supporter of both drama in education and of theatrical presentation.
It was my intention to explore educational drama and find out how it can be used effectively to enhance the lives of the participants. I hoped to find out what constituted a beneficial drama workshop for school pupils and how I as a teacher can make a positive contribution to the lives of these pupils.
My understanding of the term ‘drama in education’ has greatly developed since embarking on this independent study. I believed that this was a term used for all dramatic or theatrical activity within education. This is not the definition I would use now. Drama in education is about how we can use drama as a learning device within all types of education. This can involve using techniques such as role-play, forum theatre and story-telling within history, geography or English. It could also extend to using games and physical exercises to explore mathematics or science. Drama in education is about taking these teaching methods and encouraging pupils to be active participants in their learning experience rather than being a passive audience to a traditional teacher. Using drama as a tool is certainly a method of enhancing pupils learning, but not necessarily a method to teach drama.
Drama provides a motivating forum for the development of pupils as active and interactive listeners, speakers, thinkers, movers and image makers – that is, as active learners, not as passive recipients simply trying to remember and then recall someone else’s passed-on thinking or knowledge or simply re-enacting someone else’s existing story.
Baldwin: 2004, p55
When I visit a school as a drama specialist however, I do not have to be there as a drama in education practitioner. I believe that drama in education should be primarily used by classroom teachers who wish to explore new methods of working with their class. Drama specialists should be entering schools and showing teachers how to work in this way, then responsibility for teaching other areas of the curriculum should remain with the classroom teacher.
As a specialist in drama, I firmly believe that it is within my responsibility when I am working within a school to be an ambassador for the field in which I specialise as well as ensuring that I fulfil my aim of making a positive contribution to my participants. I agree that drama should be more than repeating lines and I do not agree that drama should be about reading from scripts, but in terms of focussing on a product, I agree with the philosophy of Karl Wozny in that encouraging a group to work together under the guidance of a drama facilitator with the focus of creating their own piece of theatre, is both theatrical and beneficial.
I understand that my learning and experiencing will continue and that the role in which I place myself within the field will change and develop. At present, I will describe myself as a Drama Facilitator. I reject the terms of teacher and tutor as I see my role as a guide rather than a lecturer. As a Drama Facilitator it is my mission to aid child development including the skills of team work, self-expression and problem solving while exploring methods of creating theatre and presenting these creations. I believe that this will allow me to achieve my aim of making a positive contribution to the lives of the pupils through helping them to discover their independence, personality and individual talent or skill.
I have not completely rejected any of my findings, but will use them in my future career and I hope that this study is only the beginning of my mission to learn and grow within educational drama and theatre.
Completed in May 2006.
Baldwin, P (2004) With Drama in Mind. Stafford: Network Educational Press Ltd
Bolton, G (1984) Drama as Education. Harlow: Longman Group Ltd.
Bolton, G (1986) Selected Writings on Drama in Education. Harlow: Longman Group Ltd.
Day, C (1983) Issues In Educational Drama. Lewes: The Falmer Press
Heath, S (2005) Dramatic Learning In The Primary School. London: Creative Partnerships
Heathcote, D (1984) Collected Writings on Education and Drama. Evanston: Northwestern University Press
Lamden, G (2005) Devising: A Handbook for Theatre and Drama Students. Oxon: Hodder and Stoughton
Winston, J (2004) Drama and English at the Heart of the Curriculum. London: Fulton Publishers
Primary Web Resources:
Bigfoot Theatre Company:
Educational Guardian: http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/story/0,5500,1180330,00.html
The National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education:
Bennett, S (2005) Theatre for Children and Young People: 50 years of professional theatre in the UK. London: Aurora Metro Press
Hahlo, R (2000) Dramatic Events: How to Run a Successful Workshop. New York: Faber & Faber
Hargreaves, D (1989) Children and the Arts. Milton Keynes: Oxford University Press.
Hornbrook, D (1989) Education and Dramatic Art. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd.
Neelands, J (2006) Improve Your Primary School Through Drama. London: Fulton Publishers
Taylor, P. (1996) Researching Drama and Arts Education. London: Falmer Press
Taylor, P (2003) Applied Theatre. Portsmouth: Heinemann
Stewart, C (1999) Dramattack! An Essentially Practical Manual for using Drama in Youth Work. Lyme Regis: Russell House Publishing