Drama-based Pedagogy: Activating Learning Across the Curriculum

Drama-based Pedagogy: Activating Learning Across the Curriculum

by Kathryn Dawson, Bridget Kiger Lee

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Drama-based Pedagogy examines the mutually beneficial relationship between drama and education, championing the versatility of drama-based teaching and learning designed in conjunction with classroom curricula. Written by seasoned educators and based upon their own extensive experience in diverse learning contexts, this book bridges the gap between theories of drama in education and classroom practice.

Kathryn Dawson and Bridget Kiger Lee provide an extensive range of tried and tested strategies, planning processes, and learning experiences, in order to create a uniquely accessible manual for those who work, think, train, and learn in educational and/or artistic settings. It is the perfect companion for professional development and university courses, as well as for already established educators who wish to increase student engagement and ownership of learning.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781783207398
Publisher: Intellect, Limited
Publication date: 06/15/2018
Series: Theatre in Education Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 260
Sales rank: 440,384
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Kathryn Dawson is an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the Drama for Schools program. Bridget Kiger Lee is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Ohio State University. She co-leads the research and evaluation for the Columbus Teaching and Learning Consortium, a Research-Practice Partnership among the university, K-12 schools, and the community.

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Origins of Drama for Schools' Drama-Based Pedagogy

In our practice, the term "Drama-Based Pedagogy" has emerged as a productive way to describe a specific approach that uses drama techniques to teach across the curriculum in the United States public schools. Generally, practitioners and researchers refer to theatre as work that is oriented toward a performative product, whereas drama is work that is oriented toward a non-performative process or "process oriented" (see Figure 1). The intention of drama is often characterized as exploratory and reflective; it is work that springs from inquiry. Theatre's intention is often focused on the creation and reception of a product for an audience. This is not to suggest that there is a fixed dichotomy between theatre and drama. Certainly, drama-based work can move toward a production, and theatre-based work can engage in reflective practice in preparation for a performance. For this book, Drama-Based Pedagogy privileges the process of drama over the product or performance of theatre. However, the practice of theatre remains a central and necessary underpinning of the work.

Drama's process-oriented use in the classroom and across the curriculum has been described and theorized by scholars and researchers across multiple fields since the middle of the twentieth century. Recent scholarship that influences our work includes writing from areas as diverse as education, literacy, social studies, and social justice/equity (Anderson, 2012; Boal, 2002; Bolton & Heathcote, 1995; Edmiston, 2014; Edmiston & Enciso, 2002; Grady, 2000; Miller & Saxton, 2004; Neelands & Goode, 2000; Nicholson, 2011; Taylor, 1998; Thompson, 1999; O'Neill, 1995; Pendergrast & Saxton, 2013; van de Water, McAvoy & Hunt, 2015; Wagner, 1998). Drama and theatre work in educational contexts goes by many names including drama in education, theatre in education, applied drama, applied theatre, educational drama, dramatic inquiry, role-play, creative drama, improvisation, and Theatre of the Oppressed techniques. The strategies and methods described in this book have their roots in various lines of drama and theatre, but primarily come from the key drama teaching practices that teachers and teaching artists have developed and used in classrooms. For ten years, we have worked in partnership with teachers across the United States to pilot and structure this wide range of drama practices into a flexible, methodological toolkit that supports generalist classroom educators in their efforts to teach for effective learning across all disciplines. Our adaptation of these approaches focuses on "the integration and blurring of the boundaries between personal and social learning and academic learning; learning between subjects as much as within them" (Neelands, 2009, p. 177).


What Is Drama-Based Pedagogy?

What is Drama-Based Pedagogy?

Drama-Based Pedagogy (DBP) uses active and dramatic approaches to engage students in academic, affective and aesthetic learning through dialogic meaning-making in all areas of the curriculum.

As discussed in the previous section, we use the term "drama-based" to describe this practice because the collection and codification of strategies presented in this book are adapted primarily from the field of drama. We use the term pedagogy in this book to focus on the theoretical or philosophical understanding of teaching and learning (Watkins & Mortimore, 1999). DBP offers educators tools and a structure to activate their pedagogical beliefs that align with sociocultural (Vygotsky, 1978) and critical theories of learning (Freire, 2007; hooks, 1994) in the classroom, where participants co-construct their understanding and personal identities as part of the classroom culture.

This chapter explores the theories behind three foundational concepts that are named in our DBP definition: (1) active and dramatic approaches; (2) academic, affective, and aesthetic outcomes; and (3) dialogic meaning-making. When relevant, each concept is discussed through an educational and a drama lens. By discussing both perspectives, teachers may better understand the foundational work of drama and artists may better understand the foundational work in education that informs Drama-Based Pedagogy. Key questions and sections from the example of practice at the beginning of Part I are also included as ways to illuminate and navigate the terrain.

Why does Drama-Based Pedagogy use "active and dramatic approaches"?

Drama-Based Pedagogy uses strategies that bring together the body and the mind through the art of drama/theatre. As others have noted (Edmiston, 2014), both active and dramatic approaches are necessary to fully realize the potential of drama-based inquiry. In DBP participants actively work as an ensemble to imagine new possibilities and to embody and make meaning as a way to situate understanding within the larger narrative/story of the human condition. For example, in the DBP example of practice that began Part I, students were given the opportunity to work as an ensemble, to imagine and embody a possible story about a brown paper bag with a hole on the bottom, a princess, and a dragon. In the next section, we explore how DBP engages in ensemble, imagination, embodiment, and narrative/story as a central aspect of its active and dramatic approach to learning.

To begin, the teacher invites the kindergarten students to sit in a circle on the classroom rug.

Ensemble: DBP offers a way to engage students as a community of learners or an ensemble. As suggested by US theatre scholar and practitioner Michael Rohd, ensemble is "at its simplest, a group of people that work together regularly. At its best, a group of people who work well together, trust one another, and depend upon each other" (2002, p. 28). Drama in education practitioner and researcher Jonathon Neelands furthers this argument when he writes that students in an ensemble "have the opportunity to struggle with the demands of becoming a self-managing, self-governing, self-regulating social group who co-create artistically and socially" (2009, p. 10). Building trust, finding the way through struggle, and learning how to co-create as a community of learners are key artistic skills in DBP that enable students to comfortably use their imagination and body within narrative/story.

In educational contexts, ensemble is often described as a sense of belonging, community or relatedness among peers (Anderman, 2003; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Osterman, 2010). Educational theorist, John Dewey argued that the quality of education could be marked by "the degree in which individuals form a group," (1938, p. 65) and characterizing the group as one that acts "not on the will or desire of any one person [...] but the moving spirit of the whole group" (1938, p. 54). These theoretical concepts suggest that people have a psychological need to feel accepted and to identify with others in social situations. However, research on students' need for belonging in the school context suggests that many schools unknowingly neglect or undermine fostering and facilitating this feeling of community (Osterman, 2009). DBP offers a way to build upon and incorporate a sense of belonging or ensemble among teachers and learners in the classroom that is vital to student success.

The teacher peers through the bottom of the bag at the students. An audible gasp is heard in the room. "Hmm.. .now, what if I tell you that someone cut a hole in this bag to help them solve a problem. What sort of problem can be solved by using a bag with a hole in the bottom?"

Imagination: During DBP, students are often invited to make new meaning based on what they know about and see within a situation. Although often associated with arts, the importance of imagination was widely championed by Russian psychologist and educational scholar Lev Vygotsky, who wrote about the relationship between student culture and context within education. Vygotsky suggests that when young people use their imaginations, they live beyond themselves (Vygotsky, 2004). It is the enactment of imagination in learning — as the young person engages with a character, a story, or a concept — that builds an understanding of alternative perspectives and ideas. Using the imagination is rigorous intellectual work, which occurs when two or more ideas are combined to form new images or actions that are not already in the young person's consciousness (Vygotsky, 2004). Imagination is not simply about conjuring something out of nothing, or accessing creativity from within, but rather involves young people making sense of what is in front of them (Lee, Enciso, & Austin Theatre Alliance, 2017).

When people imagine, they fill in the gap between what they know and what they think is possible. Rather than just working in the "as is" world within the classroom, in DBP, participants have the opportunity to bring the "as is" world into the "as if" (Heathcote & Bolton, 1995) creating and recreating and imagining and reimagining the world of the classroom and the world of the story (Edmiston, 2014). Many drama practitioners refer to imagination as a "suspension of disbelief," suggesting that we can transform a chair into a throne or a desk into a mighty ship by agreeing to imagine together in and through the story. Galvin Bolton and Dorothy Heathcote, experts in drama and education, describe imagination as "'raising the curtain' inviting the class to take a peep at the metaphorical stage where fiction can take place" (1995, p. 27). In this fictional space in DBP, students "harness the power they have [...] to direct, decide, and function," (p. 18) thus becoming more responsible and agentic in what they learn.

The students freeze their bodies showing fear, bravery, and cunning.

Embodiment: In DBP, students often demonstrate their real or imagined viewpoints through their body. Drama is inherently an embodied practice, a production of cultural experiences and social interactions (Nicholson, 2005) that are placed and enacted in and by the body. In other words, people perform their own cultural and social identity as means to express who they are becoming. Additionally, embodiment in drama is also a way of showing what is known about concepts or ideas that may be better described through a physical representation. As drama and educational scholars Perry and Medina suggest, "The experiential body is both a representation of self (a 'text') as well as a mode of creation in progress (a 'tool')" (2011, p. 63).

Reflecting on twentieth century US classrooms, John Dewey wrote, "The limitation that was put upon outward action by the fixed arrangements of the typical traditional schoolroom, with its fixed rows of desks and [...] pupils who were permitted to move only at certain fixed signals, put a great restriction upon intellectual and moral freedom," (1938, p. 61). The idea of "fixed" education is still, at times, present in the United States — desks in rows oriented toward the teacher and bells indicating a passage in time. Social activist and educational practitioner Paulo Freire suggests that without activity and social interactions, it may be easy for teachers to see students as "empty vessels" to be filled with knowledge (1970). This perpetuates the idea of a mind/body dualism and disconnection where teachers are expected to solely address the needs of a child's mind. However, as Vygotsky notes, every child in school "always has a previous history" (1978, p. 84), including cultural experiences that can be incorporated into teaching and learning in the classroom. Through the use of embodiment, DBP opens up an opportunity for students and teachers to show who they are and demonstrate their understanding.

"So, how do we think this young girl on the cover of our book is feeling right now?" The teacher takes answers from students and invites them to build upon each other's ideas. "Thank you for your creative thinking. In our drama work today, we will explore how a young person can overcome great challenges. Let's meet the princess, now, and begin."

Narrative/Story: In DBP, the teacher supports students to work together, using their imagination and bodies to take action within a story. The skill for creating narratives has been assumed to be a natural act and to come with ease for students. In actuality, "it requires work on our part — reading it, making it, analyzing it, understanding its craft, sensing its uses, discussing it" (Bruner, 1996, p. 41). Therefore, part of what DBP offers students is a way to learn how to consider, build, analyze, pull apart, and synthesize narrative and story.

In drama, the educator often uses a story or narrative to structure the imaginative act for and with participants. Brian Edmiston, drama in education scholar and practitioner, reminds us that "Listening to a monologue about abstractions is not an event [or story]" (2014, p. 135). He argues instead for the importance of multiple perspectives and the immediacy of action in the exploration of narrative or story in drama. In the retelling and authoring of narratives through drama, participants can also investigate whose stories have been told and accepted as truth and then attempt to counter these stories in more inclusive ways (Nicholson, 2005). Through DBP, students and teachers have the opportunity to embody, explore, investigate, and rewrite narratives through their collective imagination.

How does Drama-Based Pedagogy support 'academic, affective and aesthetic learning'?

"Can someone please describe one thing you see about the object in the center of our circle?"

When describing the work of education, many people first think of the academic curriculum or what is taught and tested. This, however, may be overlooking the full picture of what is happening in classrooms. Our consciousness is composed of two dimensions: intellect and affect (Vygotsky, 1978). Intellect can be thought of as the rational, logical, "academic" curriculum in the classroom. When students are asked to "describe one thing you see" in the example of practice above, they engage in the cognitive, critical thinking task of making visual observations about the object. Then students are asked to engage in a transfer between symbol systems; they analyze or make semiotic meaning of what the characteristics or "signs" found in the object mean. During this process, students are encouraged to make multiple interpretations and to synthesize how their differing meaning relates to individual or shared experience. In the example of practice, the teacher chooses to complicate students' initial meaning-making, by revealing new information that poses a new problem.

The teacher discovers, along with the students, a large circular whole cut through the bottom of the bag. He peers through the bottom of the bag at the students. An audible gasp is heard in the room.

This moment of shared discovery and surprise between the students demonstrates one of the many ways that the or affective curriculum is brought into the learning experience during DBP. Affective learning is often referred to as the "hidden" curriculum. Teachers are astutely aware of how cultural/social/emotional learning impacts every aspect of their daily teaching. Yet, most US public schools pay limited attention to affective learning — positioning it as a separate, brief "SEL" time, if it is even addressed at all. When teaching attempts to separate "the intellectual side of our consciousness from its affective, volitional side," the result is separation "from all the fullness of real life, from living motives, interests, and attractions of the thinking human" (Vygotsky, 1934a, p. 14). Vygotsky argues that affect and intellect/academic are mutually dependent; moreover, he suggests that aesthetic experiences are necessary for students to encompass and engage both the intellect (the mind) and affect (the emotions).

The students freeze their bodies showing fear, bravery, and cunning. The teacher makes observations of the students' work: "I see big eyes and open mouths. I see strong arms and legs. I see hands over faces as if you are trying to hide. Okay, you can relax. So, how do we think this young girl on the cover of our book is feeling right now?"

The teacher in this example invites students to make an embodied, aesthetic choice based on their observation and interpretation of the inner life of the character. He uses rich description to describe and further support their aesthetic exploration. Then he invites students to make a more complex inference about the character based on their individual and collective embodied, imaginative exploration. Within aesthetic experiences, Vygotsky incorporates three pedagogical purposes: (1) the technical understanding of how to "do" the art form, (2) the cultural understanding to make meaning and interpret the art, and (3) the ability to create that which does not exist. In other words, aesthetics incorporates the skills of art-making, meaning-making, and creating.

Contemporary philosopher and educator Maxine Greene expands upon this idea and suggests that "Aesthetics is the study of the arts: the nature of art objects, the making of art, the art experience, the relation between art and culture, the role of the perceiver, the sensual and imaginative aspects of art" (2007, p. 1). Greene aligns with Vygotsky when she argues for the centrality of learning in and through the art form — the creation of art through imagination, the interpretation of art through the senses, and the influence of culture on an individual's perception of art. In line with this, DBP teaching and learning facilitates rigorous aesthetic experiences, moments when intellect and affect come together to support the skills of creating, interpreting, and transferring between symbol systems of meaning.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Foreword xi

Introduction 1

Part I Why Use DBP? 7

Chapter 1 Origins of Drama for Schools' Drama-Based Pedagogy 11

Chapter 2 What Is Drama-Based Pedagogy? 15

Chapter 3 Introduction to DBP Learning Design 29

Part II What Is DBP? 45

DBP Strategies 53

Chapter 4 Activating Dialogue 55

Chapter 5 Theatre Game as Metaphor 103

Chapter 6 Image Work 177

Chapter 7 Role Work 221

Part III How Is DBP Used? 273

Chapter 8 Review of the DBP Learning Approach 277

Chapter 9 Examples of DBP Learning Design in Action 281

Chapter 10 Further Considerations in DBP Learning Design 323

Epilogue 333

Appendices 337

Index 357

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