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.
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