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THE IMPACT OF THEATRE AND DRAMA IN EDUCATION
Background of the study
“Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand” (An Old Native American Proverb). I remember reading this quote at some point during my college education and thinking that there was much truth to it. Too often I sat through lecture after lecture wondering how I was going to remember all this new information. That was until I took my required U.S. Government course. This professor (whether he knew it or not) taught us using drama. The entire class was involved in a simulation of the government, in which we took on roles of real people. In school, social studies was never my favorite subject. I think that it may have bored me so much that I never bothered trying to understand it. For the first time, I was involved in learning social studies. From this point on, I decided that when I teach my elementary students, I would involve them.
I learned how I would involve my students after taking several communication and theatre arts courses. A study by Kaaland-Wells in 1994 showed that “teachers who had taken a college drama course were more likely than the others to feel that it should be a part of all teacher training, and they were more likely to view it as effective” (Wagner 12). My passion for children and teaching inspired me to do further research into this method. I wanted to reach the students as my professor did for me and bring them to a higher level of understanding of the topics I teach. My belief is that knowledge is power and students should love to learn. While I feel that all of the arts can be influential learning tools, drama is especially powerful. Betty Jane Wagner, an educator who has worked closely with and shared many ideas with Dorothy Heathcote, an expert in the field of drama in education, asserts her opinion of drama. “Drama is powerful because its unique balance of thought and feeling makes learning exciting, challenging relevant to real-life concerns, and enjoyable” (9). As educators, if we are not providing a fun and meaningful learning environment for our children to learn, then we are not doing our jobs.
Research indicates that using drama in the classroom as a means of teaching helps students learn academically, socially, and developmentally. “The use of drama as a tool for teaching is not new. Historically, both drama and theatre have long been recognized as potent means of education and indoctrination. The ways they are used today, however, are new, and they differ in a number of respects from the ways they have been used in the past” (McCaslin 271). Arts advocates and educators have recently started to explore the use of drama as an integrated way of learning the curriculum.
I strongly believe that the arts should be employed in every classroom. It can reach students who otherwise couldn’t be reached, and challenge students who have already grasped the concepts. Drama provides a fun means of learning. It brings the affective back into the classroom, an institute where emotions and learning are categorically divided. Recent brain research proves that emotions are linked with learning. When we connect to the concept emotionally, we will have a better understanding of it. When we teach using the arts we are linking prior experiences with new stimuli. Teaching using drama brings emotion and learning together.
Most importantly of all, using drama to teach in the elementary classroom gets students involved and gives them the power to have a key role in their education. Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, who wrote the article,
“Drama is Imagining to Learn: Inquiry, Ethics, and Integration through Drama,” writes, “Through drama, students became a part of the learning process rather than mere observers or inactive receptacles of the rich experience of learning; in this way, their learning was deeper, more sustained, and infinitely more complex” (1). This paper will demonstrate the validity of using drama to teach students and the elementary curriculum. Through research of the arts, drama in particular, and a close look at how people learn, one can attest that teaching using drama can enrich the classroom environment.
Purpose of Research
“We conduct research in order to understand our field, to learn how to become more effective teachers, and to explain to those outside our field why we use drama as a way to educate students” (Wagner 1). The purpose for researching drama in education, is to determine whether using drama is an effective method for teaching elementary students. The research will demonstrate to educators and the like, why they should integrate drama into the elementary curriculum. This paper will not attempt to advocate drama as the only method of teaching, but rather as a supplement to traditional teaching methods. Through further examination on recent brain research and how people learn, one can conclude that using drama can be a successful way to teach elementary students. All educators can employ the method of using drama to teach all subject areas. Children learn in different ways, so an effective teacher will employ many different teaching strategies in attempt to reach all of his or her students.
Today’s elementary classroom is very much controlled by the state. It is an age of standards and benchmarks. “Brain-based research validates that learning is individually specific. This implies that standardized materials, instruction, and practices may actually diminish or inhibit learning” (Lawson 2). The specific curriculum benchmarks and standardized tests provide very little leeway for teachers to deviate from. Since funding for the schools depends on whether the students meet standardized test score requirements, many educators find themselves teaching to the test. This can cause educators to cover a significant amount of information over a short period of time. This will result in students gaining a large quantity of knowledge with very poor quality.
This exact phenomenon is proven by a study done by Preston Feden and Robert Vogel who compared textbooks in the United States to those in other countries:
According to one study, math textbooks in the United States cover
175 percent more topics, yet German students outperform American students in math achievement. Why? The answer is that the human brain can only absorb so much information at a time. By concentrating more on less information, students are better able to retain and use knowledge (2).
Research on drama in education will inform future and present elementary school teachers the benefits of maintaining a dramaintegrated classroom.
JUSTIFICATION OF STUDY
My major reason and intension of writing this project, is to draw the attention of our leaders today to know the effectives and importance of drama and theatre activities in the lives of our young ones and its contributions to the growth and development in society.
Also to know the usefulness of theatre for young people in child’s development. Using the University Demonstration Secondary School as a case study.
I wish to inspire the use of this method and system of child development and education in other schools.
This project will go a long way to inspire the spirit of professionalism and the relationship between teachers and student in child oriented activities. This work will be a contribution to the purpose of Drama and theatre practice as a tool from children development.
PURPOSE OF STUDY
For meaning development to take place in any given society the education of the citizenry is considered to be of immense significance. This is particularly important with regards to the youth who as usually considered the leaders of tomorrow. It is against this back of drop that this study sets out to examine the effects of drama and theatre practice for children’s development using university Demonstration secondary school as a case study.
This study among other consideration, shall examine how and why drama and theatre are used for child’s upbringing and in the Nigeria secondary school system with a viewed to determining the benefits derived from such an undertaking.
SCOPE AND LIMITATION
This study concern essentially with the benefit that can be derived from the practice of drama and theatre in the secondary school system.
In this regards, this research shall focus on the potency and effectiveness of using drama and theatre practice in bringing up children to be responsible members of the society.
Whereas, this work shall attempt a general over view of drama and theatre in the Nigeria school system, University Demonstration Secondary School University of Port-Harcourt shall constituted our point of particular references.
The materials used for this project work haven been gathered through collection of ideas, filed work, library method of research and through the use of internet.
With regards to field work, this study has an oral interview with persons closely associated with drama and theatre programme in University Demonstration Secondary School (U.D.S.S) University of Port-Harcourt; also from my own pasted experience during my teaching practice with some student in the school. Apart from interviewing student and teachers alike this researcher has also depended on empirical research methodology through direct personal observation of the student in their participation in theatrical activities.
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