II.2.1 - Drama: some practical examples of how the different approaches manifest themselves in schools

Drama is present in a variety of forms in education. Creating a performance can not only be an element of drama lessons, it can also provide a framework for language learning when creating a performance in a foreign language, or a motivation for studying history, Ancient Greece through rehearsing a Greek play for example. 

Another approach is just using specific forms, conventions and integrating them into subject lessons. Role-play is perhaps the most widely used in language teaching, but conventions like hot seating or still images are also often built into humanities subject lesson plans. 

Mantle of the Expert is a drama based pedagogical framework developed by Dorothy Heathcote that offers students a fictional frame: they behave as if they are employees of a company, for example, and this ‘as if’ allows a lot of different curriculum based materials to be incorporated into the fiction. Students count, plan, write, and research resources as the narrative of the fictional company demands. 

Process drama makes it possible for students to engage in human problems, social issues and moral/ethical dilemmas within the education system, either as a separate drama lesson or a drama structure integrated into a subject lesson. Through engaging in narratives about ‘others’ a variety of human situations can be explored offering the human perspective on material in the curriculum. Often the teacher herself can step into role and enhance learning from within a fictional situation, for example model the use of language or create specific challenges that the participants of the drama need to deal with. A good example between the difference of a process drama approach and a performance-oriented approach would be the use of the concept of role versus character. While participants might develop or play different ‘characters’ in a performance-based lesson, in process drama participants are facilitated into ‘roles’, where the attitude to the fictional situation is of greater importance. This aspect of process drama is much more beneficial for historic explorations or engaging in geographical problems.