Mention of the word ‘drama’ to gatherings of student or practising teachers creates a perceptible frisson which travels through the group. ‘I hope she isn’t going to make us get up and do something’ or 'I'm not making a fool of myself are common comments heard at the beginning of drama courses. Generally speaking there is a great misconception amongst adults about the nature of drama in education. For many the memory of reading Shakespeare around the class or the participation in performance, requiring the learning and delivering of lines, has caused their adult misgivings. However, drama in education concerns the making of meaning rather than the making of plays. Why is it that something in which we engaged so willingly as small children and was a natural part of our play can give us such a sense of fear and apprehension as adults?
The answer may lie in the lack of play and especially role-play as an integral part of the curriculum in the later years of our education, and in many instances, the over-emphasis on text and text delivery. As our schooling progresses, it becomes dominated by objective truths and ideas. Personal response through play and role-play is often regarded as unreliable and self-indulgent. By adulthood the wonderful spontaneity and creativity found in small children has been replaced by feelings of inadequacy and social foolishness. I would argue that teaching is a form of role-play; if we as teachers cannot engage in it, then we will not be able to encourage our children’s creativity and sense of self-worth.
Interestingly, business and industry have rediscovered the use of role-play as an important constituent of management training. There are now few courses in which there is not an element of role-play used to build