Drama in Education

Drama in education is the use of drama techniques to support learning in the classroom. Drama in education was at first called creative dramatics and the founder of the field was Winifred Ward. By creative dramatics she meant a classroom teaching method that emphasizes self-expression, training in spoken English and literature appreciation. The term is also sometimes used interchangeably with development drama, educational drama, informal drama, process drama, and framed expertise.

Drama in education differs from theater that is performed as scripted dialogue on a set in front of an audience. The most distinctive characteristic of creative dramatics is the lack of scripts. As part of drama in education, the entire class often plays improvised roles within an imagined context. As a result, there is no sharp distinction between actor and audience, the learner is both participant and observer.

Practitioners of drama in education often note their emphasis of process over product to explain their approach. While in a stage theater production the focus is more on rehearsal as a means to an end, the ultimate performance, in drama education, the process is the end in itself. Students learn as a result of the choices and decisions they make during the development or improvisation. The classroom teacher facilitates the drama by building on the actions and reactions of students and changing the imagined context so as to create an episodic sequence of dramatic action.

There are a number of benefits of drama in education. Creative dramatics helps students develop interpersonal skills. Research has shown that cooperation among students increases thanks to creative dramatics. In creative dramatics, students also often enter into leadership roles while they plan activities, such as scriptwriting.

Creative dramatics helps students understand other cultures as they play the roles of people in these cultures or create narratives about these cultures. Through such activities students also develop empathy because they see characters from different perspectives. Creative dramatics promote tolerance.

Creative dramatics gives students an opportunity to understand disciplines such as history and literature from different perspectives as well as to explore ideas from multiple angles. Thus, it fosters critical thinking. In creative dramatics, students and educators have various options such as role-playing, acting, movement, scriptwriting, technical theater, and improvisation. Students who have engaged in creative dramatics are willing to take more risks. While students tend to feel anxious about creative activities initially, they gradually become more self-confident.

Creative dramatics helps improve students' attitude toward school and the way they perceive themselves. Research shows a decrease in absenteeism among students who engage in creative dramatics. Creative dramatics can also improve student comprehension of the material in class as it helps students learn content, writing, and drama simultaneously. Teachers use creative dramatics to help students develop a greater vocabulary and improved word recognition. Students' listening skills, oral expression, and writing skills are also improved thanks to creative dramatics.

Creative dramatics can facilitate learning of foreign languages. Students can perform plays in the language they are learning in school. By practicing their speaking skills in a foreign language in an environment where the instructor can provide feedback, students develop confidence in their foreign language abilities.

There was remarkable growth in research on drama in education at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. A number of journals, including Applied Theatre Researcher, Drama Research Journal, Research in Drama Education, and Youth Theatre Journal, began to be published. Drama in education practitioners with preparation focused on the field also contributed to the field. By contrast, previous researchers had often been classically trained in theatre before moving into the field of education. Research on drama in education has brought to bear a wide variety of methodologies in the study of classroom learning.

In public schools in the United States, creative dramatic techniques are used in two areas. One is more closely related to theater and concerns drama-related extracurricular activities. While creative dramatics is most commonly used in English classrooms, such techniques can also be used in a variety of other contexts, including history and foreign language learning.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Drama Classroom: Action, Reflection, Transformation
Philip Taylor.
RoutledgeFalmer, 2000
Body and Language: Intercultural Learning through Drama
Gerd Bräuer.
Ablex Publishing, 2002
Teaching Literacy through Drama: Creative Approaches
Jonothan Neelands; Patrice Baldwin; Kate Fleming.
RoutledgeFalmer, 2003
The Dramatic Arts and Cultural Studies: Acting against the Grain
Kathleen S.Berry.
Falmer Press, 2000
Drama Therapy and Storymaking in Special Education
Paula Crimmens.
Jessica Kingsley, 2006
A Case Study of Drama Education Curriculum for Young Children in Early Childhood Programs
Wee, Su Jeong.
Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Vol. 23, No. 4, Summer 2009
The Effect of School Practices on Teacher Candidates' Sense of Efficacy Relating to Use of Drama in Education
Tanriseven, Isil.
Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri, Vol. 13, No. 1, Winter 2013
Using Drama and Movement to Enhance English Language Learners' Literacy Development
Rieg, Sue A.; Paquette, Kelli R.
Journal of Instructional Psychology, Vol. 36, No. 2, June 2009
`So We Can Learn Something as Well as Doing Something Fun': Learning about Reading through Readers' Theatre
Hertzberg, Margery.
Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, Vol. 23, No. 1, February 2000
Drama: Ways into Critical Literacy in the Early Childhood Years
Martello, Julie.
Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, Vol. 24, No. 3, October 2001
Theater across the Curriculum: In the History Classroom
Fischer, Gayle V.; Spector, Susan.
Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, Vol. 26, No. 2, Fall 2001
A Drug Evaluation Curriculum with Drama as Its Base: The Target Project
Stephenson, Sally D.; Iannone, Ron.
College Student Journal, Vol. 40, No. 3, September 2006
'Sex Is Not Something We Talk about, It's Something We Do': Using Drama to Engage Youth in Sexuality, Relationship and HIV Education
Francis, Dennis A.
Critical Arts, Vol. 24, No. 2, July 2010
Drama at the Heart of a Whole-School Transition
Bunyan, Paul; Moore, Ruth.
NATE Classroom, No. 2, Summer 2007
The Story of Charlotte Collyer: Learning through Drama
Connell, Mick.
NATE Classroom, No. 10, Spring 2010
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