I’m not here to (smugly) justify how the techniques of teaching drama are so suited to the HOW – rather than the what – of 21st century pedagogy. Ok, maybe I am! Let’s look at some of the SKILLS required and how they match up with the sort of stuff a drama teacher ALREADY DOES:
- COMMUNICATIONS SKILLS
- COLLABORATION and NEGOTIATION
- PROBLEM SOLVING – ENQUIRY BASED LEARNING
With regards to pedagogy, I refer to THE FUTURES OF LEARNING 3 as a point-of-departure, in which three pedagogical principles are identified (McLoughlin and Lee, 2008a):
Personalisation – “Twenty-first century education will require more personalized learning with an emphasis on supporting rather than stifling creativity . . . Personalization occurs through collaboration, provides for more rapid sharing of innovation and good practice, and quickly captures information about learners’ aptitudes and progress.” Most drama class work requires a high level of collaboration, often facilitated by the need to work in groups Scott’s recommendation of designing project-based tasks rather than having students sit behind desks being taught in traditional lessons. In a drama studio, students may sit on the floor and brainstorm on big sheets of paper, try things out actively, and debate ideas amongst the group and create their own content. They may have to create portfolios to demonstrate their understanding and creative journey. The important factor here is that the teacher facilitates but does not lead.
When I read that the key characteristics of effective project learning – as identified by Trilling and Fadel (2009), it’s describing a typical drama lesson:
→ Project outcomes are tied to curriculum and learning goals;
→ Driving questions and problems lead students to the central concepts or principles of the topic or subject area;
→ Learners’ investigations and research involve enquiry and knowledge building;
→ Learners are responsible for designing and managing much of their learning; and
→ Projects are based on authentic real-world problems and questions that students care about.”
Participation – today’s students have an active voice, and they use it. They are adept at exchanging opinions and ideas, interacting with and commenting on issues and arguments raised – globally – on social media. They are already participating, collaborating and connecting, rather than simply acquiring facts. A typical devised project in an A level drama class provides this experience. A devised piece I facilitated on sex trafficking required students to utilise the skills of research across subject boundaries (using social media and the web), connect with organisations who could provide information, negotiate with each other regarding the selection and rejection of material for performance, collaborate during every phase of the process, from initial brainstorming through rehearsals to the final performance, show creativity in their approach with their audience in mind, communicate with each other and their audience, and be innovative in their approach to a highly challenging topic.
Productivity – “Students are capable of creating and generating ideas, concepts, and knowledge, and it is arguable that the ultimate goal of learning in the knowledge age is to enable this form of creativity and productivity. In recent times, the value of textbooks is being questioned.” (McLoughlin and Lee, Three P’s of Pedagogy) Another description of a typical drama lesson in which learners – whether working on a text or a devised piece, or creating a piece of work inspired by a practitioner – have to focus on the creation of an innovative product(ion), rather than reading and copying notes from a text work. In drama, we do.
Let me just throw this out there. as Drama departments disappear, I would argue that perhaps there is a new role for drama teachers, one in which they use their teaching skills to facilitate and enhance cross-curricular learning, working with teachers who wouldn’t go within a mile of ‘drama techniques’ – not just for English teachers who are nervous of ‘getting plays on their feet, but also in other areas: using movement to explain atoms in Physics; role-play and forum theatre in History; mime to teach fractions; improvisation to explore different social issues in Geography; plays performed in other languages and so on . . .
Brainboxx. 2018. Drama Across the Curriculum. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.brainboxx.co.uk/a3_aspects/pages/dramalist.htm. [Accessed 2 April 2018].
Drama Resource. 2017. Drama Across the Curriculum. [ONLINE] Available at: https://dramaresource.com/drama-across-the-curriculum/. [Accessed 2 April 2018].
McLoughlin, Lee, C., M.J.W., 2008. The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalization, Participation, and Productivity. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Volume 20, Number 1, 10-27.