Understanding Drama in Education
Drama in Education is the long-established field that has taken rehearsal methods for building performances and plays and converted them to teaching conventions and strategies for the classroom environment.
Why does drama work so well as a learning strategy?
Drama for learning methods are experiential, aesthetic (the opposite of aesthetic is anesthetic – to kill the senses), and involve whole-body learning. Creativity, the play-state (recognised as the highest state of learning), and a safe and permitting learning environment are the fundamental qualities inherent in any drama based activity.
Participation in any drama based process requires collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication, problem solving throughout. All essential skills recognised for learning in the 21st Century.
Finally, drama sets up rehearsal for life-readiness, through simulations, investigations and explorations, of the world around us, building learners emotional, social and cultural resilience, making them ready for the real world.
The powerful pedagogical effectiveness of drama based learning can only be achieved when there is regular access to these methods. Only when schools think about a holistic strategy to weave drama into the fabric of the curriculum do its benefits truly appear.
What are its exact benefits?
Learners who are regularly exposed to drama perform better in all regards. A 2- year quantitative and qualitative survey conducted across 12 EU countries that studied 111 drama in education programmes had this to say about the 4475 learners they studied:
“Learners are assessed more highly by their teachers in all aspects; feel more confident in reading and understanding tasks; feel more confident in communication; are more likely to feel that they are creative; like going to school more; enjoy school activities more; are better at problem solving; are better at coping with stress;”
“are significantly more tolerant towards both minorities and foreigners; are more active citizens; show more interest in voting at any level; show more interest in participating in public issues; are more empathic; are more able to change their perspective”
“are more innovative and entrepreneurial; show more dedication towards their future and have more plans”
On Cultural and Family Participation:
“are much more willing to participate in any genre of arts and culture; spend more time in school and with family members; are more likely to be a central character in the class; have a better sense of humour and feel better at home.”
“Drama Improves Lisbon Key Competencies in Education” – DICE Consortium, 2010
Drama in Education is ‘brain-friendly’
“Drama in education is congruent with ‘brain-friendly’ learning. Drama is multisensory, visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, tactile, multi-intelligent, emotionally and cognitively linked learning. Through drama we learn and reflect about ourselves as human beings and about others and the world we inhabit together. Drama is humanistic and concerned with the intellectual, personal, social, moral, spiritual, creative and aesthetic development of people as well as being a way of understanding and making culture.”
With Drama in Mind: Real Learning in Imagined Worlds – Patrice Baldwin, Continuum, 2012
Drama training results in the best teachers
Patrice Baldwin’s own drama for learning and creativity program across 60 schools in Norfolk didn’t just benefit learners, but the teachers as well.
“There seems to be a correlation between drama teaching and exceptionally high quality teaching.”
“It is noteworthy that a disproportionately high percentage of teachers nominated for the national Teaching Awards seem to be drama teachers or else have had significant amounts of drama training at some time
(Corbett, F. (2006) School Improvement Through Drama, Birmingham Conference speech).
Schools improve through drama
In this school-wide initiative, drama-in-education specialists Jonathan Neelands and Rachel Dickenson took Shelton Primary School through a complete transformation at all levels, management, academic leadership, teachers, parents and learners.
“The drama initiative has involved staff in openly taking risks together and the collegial approach has increased respect among teachers, school leaders and parents.
“Because parents have discussed drama with their children and been involved in workshops, they feel involved in the aims and objectives of the programme.”
“Increased confidence and skill in using questioning and learning through discovery allows teachers to give greater responsibility to pupils for the direction of their learning.”
Improve Your Primary School Through Drama, Jonothan Neelands and Rachel Dickinson, David Fulton Publishers, 2006