Transmitting Transactive Pedagogy: A Dilemma of Pre-Service Teacher Education in Drama

Article excerpt

Introduction to the Problem

Before becoming a pre-service teacher educator, I taught high-school drama for over a decade, often using process drama techniques to encourage student explorations of universal themes and human problems (Bolton, "It's all Theatre"; Bowell and Heap; O'Neill). I anchored class investigations with theatrical structures that supplied form to the expression of student ideas. I provided models from both classical and modern plays, and regularly assigned diverse working groups to encourage the practice of collaborative creation (McLauchlan, "Collaborative"). My aim was for students not only to learn to do drama, but also to learn about drama and through drama (Hundert 4-5) in order to embrace Bolton's claim that drama helps students "to face facts and to interpret them without prejudice; so that they develop a range and degree of identification with other people; so that they develop a set of principles [...] by which they are going to live" ("Drama and Theatre" 8). For each grade, I was assigned 90 classes of 75 minutes in which to accomplish this task.

When I began to work full-time at Brock University, my focus became post-graduate students in the Faculty of Education's eight-month teacher pre-service program. There I met--and continue to grapple with--pedagogical problems more daunting than those in the secondary school setting. My situation immediately became more restrictive and constrained than any I had taught in before.

A tenure-track position in drama was created within Brock University's Faculty of Education in response to an initiative from the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training. In 1998, drama became a mandatory component of Ontario's elementary school curriculum. Schools received Ministry expectations for student learning in drama at each grade level in terms of (a) knowledge of drama elements, (b) original creative work in drama, and (c) critical thinking about students' own and others' performance. In drama, as in all the arts, teachers were directed "to give all students the opportunity to discover and develop their ability in different artistic forms and media and to learn to appreciate works of art" (Ontario Ministry 5).

Although all Ontario teachers received the Ministry documents, few had studied drama in teacher education programs, and school boards rarely provided in-service sessions to familiarize teachers with the new directives. A slot for a drama mark had been created on elementary school report cards, but not many teachers were skilled in drama pedagogy (Clark and Short; McLauchlan, "Teacher"). To help ensure that pre-service teacher candidates became acquainted with the Ministry guidelines, Brock University added a full-time position in drama to its education faculty in 2000. The fact that other Ontario universities did not similarly respond is reflected in literature on pre-service teacher training. Focusing on teacher preparation in drama, Anderson found that teachers undergo mixed experiences of teacher training and the teacher induction process, and Tate asserted that in-depth exposure to arts and drama methodologies are rarely a part of teacher education programs (153). In more general terms, Louis Volante and Lorna Earl discovered that "teacher education programs are characterized by a variety of structural models" (420).

In my specific setting, pre-service teacher education is an intensive eight-month program in which twenty weeks are devoted to university-based coursework and the remaining time spent in field-based practicum placements. At the generalist elementary teacher level, coursework is divided into two strands. Foundation courses provide cross-disciplinary underpinnings in such topics as educational psychology, educational law, special education, and student assessment and evaluation. Curriculum courses focus on preparing teacher candidates to implement Ontario Ministry of Education and Training guidelines for specific and discrete subject areas, including language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts. …