Drama and English Teaching: Imagination, Action and Engagement

Article excerpt

Drama and English Teaching: Imagination, Action and Engagement

Michael Anderson, John Hughes & Jacqueline Manuel

OUP, 2010, 50 [pounds sterling]



With some notable exceptions, Drama and English Teaching is not a major publisher's title one would have expected to come across until recently. Speaking, Listening and Drama (Kempe and Holroyd) and more recently the Department for Education handbook for English subject leaders Developing Drama in English, are previous publications which acknowledge the relationship between the ever more sophisticated pedagogy of drama education and the business of developing learners' language in English classrooms.

While this relationship has long been the stuff of primary practice, the dogma of secondary subject specialism has been an obstacle. So it is enlightening to engage with this book's analysis of what the authors refer to as "interactive approaches to teaching and learning" and the way the historic partition is ignored with a concentration on practice. This publication's transcendence of the traditional Drama educators' question (at least in the UK) "What have the English (department) ever done for us?", is due to a more global perspective born of the book's provenance.

The book results from the collective work of the Arts, English and Literacy Education Research Network (AELE) based in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. Although the papers/chapters represent a range of international takes on the theme, the outlook is primarily Antipodean, drawing on the highly developed drama education culture referred to more commonly in Australia than in the UK as 'process drama,' emanating from Slade and Way, through Bolton and O'Neill to Hughes and O'Toole, the latter of whom both have chapters in this book. Drama and English Teaching neither assumes the reader to be one of the AELE network from which it evolved, nor does it patronise readers who do not operate in the world of academia. It mixes academic papers with chapters exemplifying practice which enables it to fulfil the editors' inclusive aim: to "inform the practice of those conducting research in English and drama pedagogy and those working in English and Drama classrooms". So, papers such as Nicholson's insightful chapter on 'Narrative Drama and the English Classroom' and O'Mara's 'Reading and Writing Ourselves into the Twenty First Century' provide, for example, a challenging theoretical context for the chapters they sit alongside which observe Drama in practice. Peter O'Connor provides compelling "examples of process drama to illustrate how young people (who are often marginalized) can overcome barriers to participation". Hughes and Arnold explore drama-based approaches to the teaching of poetry in English classrooms through trialled workshop approaches. …