Whatever the subject, one-to-one teaching is overwhelmingly accepted as effective. Speech & Drama tuition tends to focus on individual and pairs, although there are many opportunities for group examinations, such as TCL’s Group Drama and Plays in Production examinations.
- Teaching is customised to the individual student. Every student arrives with different levels of experience and ability, maturity, learning needs and styles. This ideal works less well when teachers recycle the same repertoire for all students. Whilst a lot of technique is generic (and why re-invent the wheel?), teachers should choose pieces with the individual student’s strengths and interests in mind.
- Teacher-student relationships can resemble a mentor-apprentice model, hopefully with shared enthusiasms and a reduced need to enforce classroom discipline. One-to-one teaching can feel like a mutual journey with a friend, communicating on a shared level. Private teachers can be inspirational role models. There are dangers inherent in blurring the teacher-pupil relationship, of course, not just in terms of safeguarding but also in cases where discipline may need to be enforced – for example a student who keeps missing classes, or turns up not having done the preparation work required to be able to progress. There have to be ground rules – you must practice this technique, you must learn your lines, you must read the play etc. Recent research into pedagogy highlights the principles of CO-AGENCY, which I think is particularly pertinent for S&D teaching, as summarised in the following extract from the National College of School Leadership’s research paper, “What Makes Great Pedagogy?” (my bold and italics):
- — Co-agency: the notion of transformability, and the principle of ‘nothing is neutral’, demands that the responsibility for learning is shared between teacher and learner. A central assumption of transformability is that teachers cannot do it alone. They are powerless without the participation of learners.
- — Trust: for learners to take up the invitation to co agency, teachers must trust that they make meaning, and find relevance and purpose through their experiences. Learners need to know that they are the ones who can tell the teacher about how they learn. Trust enables a shared responsibility for the transformability of young people’s capacity to learn, and the sharing is seen in the coming together, not the dividing of responsibility.
- One-to-one learning can foster independent learning strategies in students. Away from the restrictions of classroom teaching, a sensitive pedagogical approach can engender self-sufficiency. This is particularly true of drama where so much of what you teach is through the body and where personal ownership of texts, techniques and interpretative choices should be encouraged. Some teachers resist adapting their teaching style to each individual learner, and end up just ‘coaching’ little replicas. I recently heard a story of an examiner who spent a whole day listening to exactly the same speech, reproduced over and over again, with the same movements, tone, dynamics and – ultimately – lack of creativity. Some students may need scaffolding strategies to encourage independent learning . . . and some teachers may need to learn to be less teacher-centred. For Vygotsky, learning was dependent on social and cultural interaction but also – and most importantly – on a teacher’s ability to scaffold understanding using structured learning. An alternative and preferable translation of Vygotsky’s ‘zone of proximal development’ is Robin Alexander’s choice: ‘zone of potential development.’ Effective scaffolding, according to a study by Puntambekar and Kolodner (2005) has five central features: “common goal, ongoing diagnosis, dynamic and adaptive support, dialogues and interactions, and fading and transfer of responsibility“.
- Teaching is more efficient. Time can be taken to target individual needs, rather than in classroom admin. However there can be a place for group workshops – or perhaps showcases, where students can be motivated by watching other performers, in addition to giving and receiving valuable feedback from their peers.
Carey, G., & Grant, C. (2015). Teacher and student perspectives on one-to-one pedagogy: Practices and possibilities. British Journal of Music Education, 32(1), 5-22. doi:10.1017/S0265051714000084
Husbands, C. and Pearce, J. (2012) What makes great pedagogy? Nine claims from research, Nottingham: National College for School Leadership.
Puntambekar and Kolodner, S. and J.L., 2005. Toward implementing distributed scaffolding: Helping students learn science from design. The Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42, 2, 185-217.