(A further) Webpage Supplement to
Chapter 9: Process Drama in Education
Gustave J. Weltsek-Medina, Ph.D.
September 15, 2006
See also this page for basic introduction, though this builds on the overivew presented in the book.
The methods explained on this webpage inlcude:
- 1. Questioning
- 2. Working as-if, in role
- 3. Problem Solving
- 3a Stepping out of Role to Reflect
- 4. Teacher in Role
- 5. Reflection.
functions on many levels in a Process Drama. Not only do the
practitioners pose questions to participants as a means to generate
problems that must be solved, but the practitioners are in a constant
state of self-questioning. The fictional moments in which
participants engage are loaded with the potential for uncovering
personal and social ideological truths. These truths, however,
may only be examined if all the participants, student and facilitator
alike, are in a perpetual state of questioning themselves and their
social surroundings. To this end the facilitator of a Process
Drama always presents the introduction to a fictional world through
questions that must be solved by all involved. The group explores
answers to the questions posed by creating and enacting fictional
characters. The characters are developed based on their potential
proximity to the particular problem the group has identified.
Additionally, the group creates a fictional situation where the
characters might find themselves dealing with the particular problem.
The idea of exploring attitudes may be understood as the exploration of ideological belief systems that translate themselves into attitudes toward issues and themes. These attitudes become observable in actions toward others and the self in everyday life as well as within the structure of the fictional world created through a Process Drama. In it’s most basic sense a Process Drama may begin by asking the participants what they would like to do a drama about and go from there.
An understanding of the use of Questioning and Problem Solving may best be presented in light of one of his most widely utilized Process Drama strategies, the Mantle of the Expert developed by pioneered by Heathcote and Bolton. (This next section is in the chapter, p 4).
In the Mantle of the Expert, the participants take on a role as an expert in a particular field, commodities, medicine, architecture etc…whose services are needed. A person, usually the teacher in role, approaches the “experts” with a certain problem that only they can help with.
A facilitator in a problem-posing classroom creates questions that provoke conversation focused on allowing the individual to discover their particular relationship to the question through solving the problem. In Mantle of the Expert strategy, the question posed introduces a problem that must be solved. The participants form a fictional corporation and select a position within that will assist in solving the problem. Each student then embarks on a discovery to solve that problem using their own particular methods because of their cultural relationship to the problem. Through the Mantle of the Expert strategy, there is no single way to interpret or solve the problem, which allows the problem to be viewed from multiple angles. In the fictional world, the expert participants use their imagination to create spaces of freedom where the intangible nature of knowledge may be explored and exploited. As seen through the Mantle of the Expert exploration, Process Drama strategies provide spaces for escaping preconceived notions. Participants are not passive learners expected to memorize theorem. Within the Mantle of the Expert, participants are active learners engaged in choosing what knowledge is needed in order to solve a particular problem. Knowledge is malleable, a thing to be formed, not a fact to be memorized.
Questioning in a Process Drama differs from traditional practices. In most instances a teacher poses questions as a means to check information. Most likely the answer sought is directly related to some information that the teacher imparted upon the participants in an earlier lesson. In a Process Drama Questioning becomes a way to engage the student/participants in critical thinking skills. The answers that are looked for evolve from a need to explore ideas. The facilitator does not pose the question already knowing the answer. The student/participants in turn answer the question secure in the knowledge that the information that they contribute will add to the dialogue surrounding the question. Inhibitions about answering are lessened because the possibility of being wrong does not exist.
For practitioners of Process Drama, Questioning and the subsequent Problem Solving that occurs are primary elements necessary to establish the structure of a fictional world. Once the initial question has been posed, the group sets out to solve the problem by immersing themselves in a fictional world through a strategy known as Living Through.
posing of an initial question the teacher is taken out of the position
of ultimately controlling the dramatic experience, and places the
group's notions of reality as the catalyst for the creation characters
within an improvised drama. The participants are asked to define ever
more precise aspects of the fictional world and people they wish to
create. The questions range from what types of families the people who
live in their world have, to what jobs, what wins and losses, fears and
triumphs to the date might the actions in their story take place. As
these questions are posed a teacher slowly engages the participants in
improvisations that deal specifically with the character attitudes. It
is in this sense that the participants live “as if the fictional world
was true. The participants are not creating or recreating preconceived
notions of a character's reactions, but are formulating actions and
reactions for the character from their own notion of reality.
In one drama the students explore an historical moment, the ever popular Boston Tea Party. In most cases a teacher would have the students read a chapter in a text book, watch a film or in very lucky instances take the students to Boston Harbor. A drama could be created where each student takes on the role of one of the members associated with the tea party. Notice that the instruction is that they are characters "associated" with the tea party. In this way the entirety of the conditions surrounding the dumping of the teas is explored as students become wives, church leaders, Redcoats and perhaps even Native Americans. A drama facilitator creates moments placing the characters in dialogue about the underlying issues of social equity and justice surrounding the oppression of all peoples. This action allows the scope and range of the issues connected to the actual "Party" to be expanded past the traditionally acknowledged figures.
In this example the facilitator creates a moment for a wife to plead with her husband to "please let me accompany you on this mission, it's not right that women are forced to remain at home." The male retorts, "Nonsense, a woman's place is in the home where it is safe." Likewise, the drama places a Native American commenting on how "The white man's disguise as our tribe has endangered our safety, The Redcoats will blame us and kill us." The facilitator would be on the look out for moments that ring true to the time period, such as the husband responding "Yes, do come along, here is a head dress and war paint." In that instant the teacher would employ another strategy, Stepping out of Role, to momentarily pause the drama and comment on the historical accuracy of the scenario, suggesting that due to the male chauvinism in colonial United States it would be highly unlikely that any woman would have been permitted to accompany the men. The facilitator could engage the students in some type of research where they try and find out the actual names of the participants. The drama would then be restarted and the fiction continued as the student/participants explore deeper social, political and cultural aspects surrounding the issue of oppression that resulted in the Boston Tea Party.
Within living “as if,” unlike real life, there is the added benefit of knowing that the moment is being created. In a real life situation, we may respond through a sense of immediacy and neglect a certain amount of reflection, a reflection that would assist us in knowing why we answer in a certain way. “As ifö and the aspect of a devised fiction mandate that the individual is aware of the relationship of the self to the answers being presented by the character.
Within a typical
session, a process drama may begin by asking what the participants want
to do a play about. With the posing of an initial question the teacher
takes herself out of the position to ultimately control the dramatic
experience, and places the group’s notions of reality as the catalyst
for the creation of an improvised drama. She asks the
participants to define ever more precise aspects of the fictional world
they wish to create. The questions may range from what types of
people live in their world, to what date might the actions in their
story take place, or to what difficulties might these people
experience. As these questions are posed a teacher slowly engages
the participants in improvisations that deal specifically with the
character and the attitudes of the characters that the student
participants have identified.
The participants take on the persona of another being, yet how these characters function within the exploration rely upon the individual’s interpretation of the questions and problems posed by the facilitator. It is in this sense that the participants “Live” through the fictional world. The participants are not creating or recreating preconceived notions of a character’s reactions, but are formulating actions and reactions for the character from their own notion of reality.
The Living Through experience may also be understood in relationship to human understanding of social interaction. Humans enter into a devised reality when engaged in social intercourse. When we enter into any social interaction we rely heavily upon shared efforts with those whom we interact in order to make meaning of that moment. This is to say that when individuals attempt to communicate they access their own set of experiences to formulate ideas that they then send out to a receiver. The receiver likewise accesses his or her own set of experiences as a way to interpret the information contributed by the sender.
In a Living Through experience that the same type of transference is taking place, albeit within the parameters of a fictional world. An individual immersed in a Living Through experience participates in a multi-layered process; part detached analysis and part improvisational role-play. At no time does the participant loose sight of the fact that he or she is creating this fiction. As creator there is a distinct awareness of how the individual’s own perception of life informs the development of the fictional world. The life of the individual, and the life of the character, becomes one. Without the fictional character the individual would have no context through which to react, yet without the constant examination of the individual’s life the character would lack input.
Within Living Through, unlike real life, there is the added benefit of knowing that the moment is being created. In a real life situation, we may respond through a sense of immediacy and neglect a certain amount of reflection, a reflection that would assist us in knowing why we answer in a certain way. Living Through and the aspect of a devised fiction mandate that the individual is aware of the relationship of the self to the answers being presented by the character.
The experience of Living Through then, allows the individual the freedom to, not only explore ideas, but it also provides the space to explore ideologies. When a person engages in a Living Through moment, he or she accepts that the fiction presents a space where the ideas put forth are not necessarily those of the participant. The thoughts are understood to be explorations of possible answers, possible reactions. The ideas are not offered as an absolute representation of the individual offering them. Concurrently, the individual is aware that he or she is accessing his or her particular set of ideological references as a means to explore the ideas within the fiction.
When one engages in a Process Drama the potential exists for a heightened sense of self-reflexivity. Process Drama is foremost a situation immersed in experiential knowledge. A participant must simultaneously reflect upon fictional situations and tap into her or his own set of social signifiers as a means to interpret the fictional moment and to take action upon them. Here the creation of the moment rests upon the immediate experiences of those involved, as they reflect, act, and interact with one another as they live within and through the fictional moment. Likewise, the formation of these moments may be seen as stemming from an individual’s past experiences that inform the present relationships, decisions, and outcomes.
Coupled with the sense of past and present experiences, is an emphasis upon the intense degree to which an individual’s mental abilities are challenged throughout. The constructs of a Process Drama, which allow for a Living Through experience, offer a variety of moments that exercise critical thinking skills, from problem posing to problem solving. A Process Drama contains elements found in traditional play analysis that similarly challenge participants to think critically about moments of decision with varying degrees of importance and immediacy.
Participants in a Process Drama never loose site of the fact that their life experiences are informing the way in which the fictional characters respond. Within the knowledge of ownership lies a great deal of freedom to explore a variety of reactions to a variety of situations. The freedom grows from an understanding that the situation and the characters are fictional and not held as a complete representation of the individual, thus a person may explore ideas that they might not normally entertain. For example, a person might never consider the option of violent reaction to a certain situation. In the fictional world, however, the individual might engage in an aggressive behavior through the life of the fictional character. By so exploring a reaction, not necessarily common in the individual’s life, the participant could garner a better understanding of how aggression works in society and how they as an individual negotiate feelings of aggression. This immersion is a Living Through experience. This is only partially fulfilled in a Product Drama-centered approach. In Product Drama, the participants immerse themselves in a character yet the experiences are limited by the parameters established by a playwright. Moreover, the goal of performance in a Product Drama-oriented class necessitates that the Director, in most cases the teacher, refine, select, and eliminate character choices further restricting a participant’s personal engagement with issues.
root of any process drama exploration is the need to formulate
questions based on self and social reflection. As previously noted, in
its most basic sense an exploration may begin by asking the
participants what they would like to do a drama about and go from
there. In the mantle of the expert, the participants take on
roles as experts in a particular field, whose services are
needed. This approach works particularly well for explorations in
math and science.
Frequently the regular teacher of a subject has another teacher, a specialist in process drama (or a drama facilitator) who may work in collaboration. First they identify particular problem areas that the students will address during the drama. For example in a math class, the drama facilitator and the math teacher might want the students to work with concepts of geometry, shapes and angles. The mantle of the expert technique might then have the students take the roles of knowledgeable architects. The teacher in role might approach them with the problem of figuring out how to fix the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The student" experts" will then set out examining the geometrical problems surrounding the “lean” to come up with a way to fix it. With the guidance of the drama facilitator the participants are directed to use the resources at their disposal, whether they are textbooks, past assignments, library research, creating models or even consulting "actual" experts in the field.
In this one process drama exploration students utilize several learning tools, such as math to determine the geometric needs of fixing the tower, to geography to determine the make up of the ground underneath. This mantle of the expert role encourages the student to place him or herself in a position of all knowing in essence becoming the authority in whatever "expert" role they choose. The mantle of the expert technique implicitly assumes there is no right or wrong theory on how to approach the problem. This does not preclude standard formula or “correct answers,” say, in math or chemistry, but rather it supports each individual’s inquiry. In this way the students become responsible for their own education as they solve problems.
Drama strategies create spaces where all teacher/facilitators have the
ability to dialogue with student/participants.If she and
the participants are not able to reflect on the experience then the
experience is limited.During these moments of reflection,
she completely turns the direction of the exploration over to the
student/participants. The Process Drama exploration leads participants
into places where they must consider their actions. They must
consider their actions in respect to others that find themselves in a
similar situation and then act to solve a problem.The
group pause an improvised drama, Step Out of Role and reflect upon
decisions made. These moments of reflection place the critique
and understanding of individual and group methodologies in the hands of
the participants. They comment and they critique, they understand
and formulate opinions. Possibly these opinions require that they
reenter the fictional world and take measures to alter the direction
the exploration seems to be going. At any given moment, a Process
Drama facilitator may stop the drama, Step Out of Role, and ask
questions, as the guide, to help her and the group define a situation.
These stops are orchestrated in such a way as to provide a momentary step back. They are not moments when something is going “wrong” and needs to be corrected. Rather, when participants, Step Out of Role they may begin to absorb the experience at a much richer level. Rather than waiting until after the drama has ended and attempt to remember what has transpired, a continuous reflection occurs allowing participants to question the direction the overall drama is taking and their own involvement in the drama. Several minutes out of character may be spent asking the same question to each participant so the entire group has a chance to comment on one element.
Another type of Stepping Out of Role strategy is to have the group discuss directions the drama might take or may have been taking. This practice work as a safeguard against a student loosing the level of self reflexivity necessary to make the Process Drama a vehicle for existential growth. A student left to indulge in the fantasy of the fictional world, without moments to Step Out of Role and reflect could forget that the character’s decisions are based first and foremost on that student’s experiential knowledge.
This use of Stepping Out of Role, perhaps most closely mirrors traditional Theatre techniques. The Process Drama intends to create an atmosphere where the participants may free themselves into the experience of the creative moment. A facilitator also wants to create spaces where tension and conflict exists and participants in role develop and grow in depth as the drama evolves. In this way plot elements found in traditional theatre are called upon to create form. Using this analogy to the theatre a facilitator guides a drama exploration much as a playwright devises the dramatic structure of a play. Like a playwright, the teacher helps to construct the sequence of events or plot. A facilitator also maintains a close observance of character development, making certain that once participants establish logic for their characters, they do not drastically digress from that logic. Should the participants begin to digress from the reality that they have established, a facilitator will Step Out of Role and begin a discussion as to the relevance of such a decision. Unlike a playwright, the teacher in a Process Drama concerns herself with the heightening of their [the participants] experience rather than being concerned about the experience of the audience.
There is also a much subtler use of Stepping Out of Role. In this case a facilitator may Step Out of Role without stopping the action of the drama as a means to insert some type of relevant information. The objective here is to provide instances where the participants may subconsciously absorb topical information, such as dates, famous phrases, and philosophical, political, or social theory without having to completely break the reality of the fiction. This form of Stepping Out of Role is achieved through the teacher/facilitator momentarily dropping the attributes of their character In Role. A Teacher may choose to drop a vocal quality, or a kinesthetic, like a limp, or even a simple digression from his or her In Role character’s established logic. Once this subtle and momentary change is effected, the teacher out of role will insert the desired information and then quickly step back into role.
As a guide in a Process Drama, the teacher/facilitator relies heavily upon elements found in the strategy of Stepping Out of Role, primarily those of discussion and reflection. One must be careful to use discussion on a limited basis. Discussion and reflection supplement the exploration of the drama world. Should the teacher/facilitator Step Out of Role too often; discussion might become the focus of the experience. A danger exists that the process will be corrupted. Stepping Out of Role is a very delicate function in a Process Drama. When Stepping Out of Role the group does not totally alienate themselves from their fictional characters. The group must maintain a degree of conscious relationship to their fictional lives. Stepping Out of Role permits the particpant to take a momentary pause from the drama to consider themselves as participants in relationship to the fiction. Their proximity to the fictional world alters momentarily. It is hoped that through a brief interruption the participants may more fully understand how they are generating the attitudes being played out through their characters.
By facilitating reflections In Role, the participants do not separate themselves from the immediate action of the dramatic world. A momentary slowing down of the action, in the form of In Role reflection, allows the participants to dialogue about what has taken place in the fictional world. During the reflection, the participants begin to view their characters ethical, moral, and philosophical behavior, and adjust that behavior to coincide with new insight. The insight may be developed via instances that transpired within the dramatic world or by result of newly discovered activity due to Out of Role discussion. These moments extend to the facilitator’s ability to read the dynamics of the group. He or she must be able to gauge whether the group has enough information to reflect upon needed information In Role, or if the group needs to Step Out of Role momentarily to discuss the moment.
strategy places the teacher as a character within the fictional
structure. This strategy aims to subvert the traditional position
of teacher as an outsider with all the answers. The participants and
teacher through discussion, have already decided upon the people and
problems that inhabit the improvisation. By taking a role along
with the participants, the teacher places herself in a position of
risk. She is willing to pretend to not adhere to classroom
decorum and step outside expected teacher student relationships. The
Teacher in Role strategy makes the transition of teacher as the center
of power to teacher as equal participant possible. When In Role
she embodies Rousseau’s and Froebel’s vision, no longer a teacher with
all the answers, but an individual capable of the same failures and
successes as the participants. Not only do the participants
realize that the teacher may not “know it all,” they also come to see
that participants have answers that are vital and significant.
Other uses of Teacher in role may seem much more provocative. It is also an opportunity for the teacher to maintain an obligatory role as leader and facilitator, yet modify the social dynamics to such a degree that that interaction is viewed as non-authoritarian. In this instance like the student/participants, the teacher engages in the Process Drama in the persona of a fictional character. As a fictional character, he is subject to all of the devices and gauges available to a person Living Through an experience. He must negotiate his experiential knowledge with that of the fictional character and the issues that present themselves. He must be aware that although the character’s responses are explorations, the impetus for the understanding of those issues emanates from him. Student/participants and facilitator/teacher are beholden to the same rules, creating a social dynamic apart from the traditional classroom. Here student and teacher have equal responsibility for the formation of a moment.
In Role a teacher must also act as one who may manipulate the fiction from the inside. His goals for this manipulation are not those of enforcing a predetermined set of moral, ethical, or ideological dictums, but to assist the participants to explore areas that they might not have thought of on their own within the allotted time frame. At any given time In Role, a teacher/facilitator may interject a thought, a question, even an objection that will aid the group in moving where forward movement had ceased.
Teacher in Role stimulates discoveries. It positions the teacher/facilitator as a vulnerable participant and allows him or her to provide structure from the inside of the drama. A Teacher in Role has the ability to embrace the objectives inherent within the Process Drama and initiate the exploration of those objectives when In Role. As an insider, the teacher/facilitator may constantly return the focus of the drama back to these objectives through direct interaction with the participants, as a participant, during the exploration. Rather than operating from the outside and giving directions, which may interrupt the natural flow of the drama being lived by the participants, acting In Role allows for an organic transfer of ideas and focus.
Through the implementation of the Teacher in Role strategy, the teacher must act as a regulator and a leader, and help to find relevant topics. The teacher must give structure and form, and remain responsible for leading the student participants to spaces where critical thinking skills may be explored. During the drama process, participants, teacher, and student must remain open and allow the drama to evolve through moments of discovery. The Teacher in Role is a guide not a director, ultimately a participant who changes through the experience.
given moment, a process drama facilitator or participant may stop the
drama, freeze the drama, and ask questions. These moments of reflection
place critique and understanding in the hands of all participants. The
stops are orchestrated in such a way as to provide a momentary step
back. They are not moments when something is going "wrong" and needs to
be corrected. Rather than waiting until after the drama has ended and
attempt to remember what has transpired when participants, students
begin to absorb the experience at a much richer level questioning the
direction the overall drama is taking and their own involvement in the
drama. Participants comment, critique, understand and formulate
opinions. Possibly these opinions require that fictional world is
reentered measures are taken to alter the explorations direction. Most
importantly, it is during these moments of reflection that a great deal
of learning and growing take place. As the facilitator and participants
discuss the issues using the drama as a reference they are able to make
concrete connections to their lives, society and the world.
Teacher in Role/Teacher as Equal Participant
places the teacher as a character within the fictional structure,
re-framing the stereotyped role of teacher, away from one who is a bit
of an outsider who “knows all the answers,” and more towards the role
of interested catalyst. This further empowers them as being in
possession of some answers that are vital and significant. It positions
the teacher/facilitator as a vulnerable participant while allowing him
or her to provide structure from inside the drama. As an insider,
the teacher/facilitator may constantly return the focus of the drama
back to objectives through direct interaction with the
student/participants, during the exploration. Rather than
operating from the outside and giving directions, which may interrupt
the natural flow of the drama being lived by the participants, a
teacher in role allows for an organic transfer of ideas and focus.
Another possible use of teacher in role could be in a drama dealing with a more issues- based focus. Here the teacher in role could lead students into moments where ethical decisions need to be made. The drama may be revolving around the students' concern with drug use. The students have each taken on a role of people at a party. The teacher, likewise, takes a role as Pizza deliverer. In the drama the students may have dived so deep into the creation of the party that they have lost the focus of the drug issue. In role the teacher comes to the door as the Pizza person and could reintroduce the topic by suggesting that along with the pizza the students "Buy a blunt. [slang for a marijuana joint]". If the students are too eager to do so, which does sometimes happen as students get caught up in the silliness of the pretend moment, the teacher might reenter the drama later as a parent "catching" the students in the act and thus creating a situation where the student/participants could not avoid the ethical discussion. Again, the teacher/facilitator is not making decisions for the student/participants, instead she or he is leading them to spaces where they have to confront their own understand and interpretation of a moment of ethics.
A process drama facilitator may spend a good deal of time in preparation--perhaps even months-- before introducing a given drama and theme in the classroom. The facilitator looks at the various uses of Question and Problem Solving, As If, Stepping Out of Role and Teacher in Role in respect to the particular needs of any one group. What results is not the use of any one particular strategy, rather a multi-layered, multi-faceted and multi-literate experience that relies on creative intermingling.
A Case for Using Multiple Teaching Methodologies
chapters of the book provide in-depth descriptions of the other various
uses of Process Dramas, in this section we will focus on its use as a
tool within curricular integration. Howard Gardner released his
work Frames of Mind: Multiple Intelligence in 1983, sending a shock
wave through the American educational system. Gardner argued that
learning takes place through several different ways, these ways are:
linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic,
interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Gardner’s theory proposed that
each of the seven “ways of knowing” should be present in any one
learning situation in order for a person to learn as efficiently as
possible. The theory stated that all seven intelligences were
needed to productively function in society. What this meant for
school curriculums is that teachers needed to find ways to provide
learning opportunities that would facilitate each of the seven ways of
Perhaps one of the most exciting revelations to come from Gardner’s theory is that all seven forms take place in drama/theatre explorations. Gardner’s Intellegences are applied in every theatrical event. For example, linguistic knowing is applied in the writing and formulating of the script. Logical-mathematical intelligence comes into play during the design of the set. Spatial intelligence is necessary for directors and actors, as well as designers, who need to relate to the physical space of a stage. The need for the intelligence of music in a theatrical event may be as prominent as a musical score, or as subtle as the rhythm and pace that the actors create during their playing of the roles. Also, actors must work with and sometimes through, other actors and come to know their relationship to other characters via bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Lastly, and by no means of least importance, the art of the theatre requires that each artist, and or craftsperson, not only collaborate with other artists in a display of interpersonal knowledge, but also consider and weigh ideas and concepts alone and use her or his intrapersonal intelligence.
Many people who are just beginning to use drama/theatre as a way to experiment with multiple learning strategies designate their interpretation of intra and inter personal learning as focused upon skills necessary for production. If a student is involved in an intrapersonal exploration that exploration is directed by the plot needs inherent in the particular text with which they are engaged. The most widely used drama/theatre approach in the United states is one based upon Stanslavskian realism. The goal of this method is to use your own life experiences as a means to access the needs of a character’s existence within a play. While this approach to theatre may result in a realistic presentation it does not satisfy a truly intra or interpersonal experience. The individual involved in a Stanslavskian approached is not challenged to explore those issues which are prevalent within their own life but to explore those issues that are imbedded within the particular play in production. Moreover the individual is restricted by the needs of the play to formulate their responses to any issue in congress with those needs. In other words, an individual cannot choose to explore responses that are not actively contributing to the forward movement of a play's plot. Thus, although the product focussed drama/theatre experience may satisfy many of Gardner’s learning modalities, a truly intra and interpersonal experience is sacrificed. Rather than engaging the participants in experiences that allow them to explore life issues on a first person basis as in Process Drama explorations the product orientation provides for a an experience via a third person relationship. The student is three times removed from the pure experience. A Process Drama experience, however, provides a more immediate relationship to the exploration of ideas.
Implementing Process Drama Strategies as a Way to Approach Multiple Learning Techniques
Within a Process Drama Gardner’s intrapersonal learning finds great access. Likewise the interpersonal is accessed. Participants must base their decision-making within the context of other student’s discourses. What transpires then is a fictional situation that allows moments to manifest themselves where the individual participant is encouraged to explore ideas and make decisions for action based upon their own sense of the moment as well in consideration of the ideas of others.
The engagement of the student on the first person level allows the individual to fully own the moment. Responsibility and commitment for and to the moment result when the participant in a Process Drama owns his or her decision totally devoid of a predetermined plot. In essence they own the moment of education. Within a Process Drama participants are taken out of the position of passive learners. They are no longer merely fed ideas and social action through the eyes of a particular playwright’s characters. Within a Process Drama participants must confront their own sense of reality and act upon it. A participant in a Process Drama owns her or his education through intrapersonal and interpersonal experiences. We see that although many positive results already exist in the educational strategies employed by those educators in the study group the inclusion of Process Drama strategies could further enhance their ability to facilitate a rich learning environment. The objective of integrating these Process strategies is not to supplant the teacher’s current pedagogy. Rather they are suggested as a supplement.
The use of outside source material within the development of a fictional world is one way a teacher might integrate Process Drama strategies into her or his classroom. The development of the fictional world may be used as a means for the student participants to engage with any textual material they are involved with in a space free from the confines of the text’s plot. A fictional world may be developed solely through an examination of issues that a group deems important. Utilizing Process Drama strategies may enhance the involvement and ownership of the issues within a text. In this sense the play under examination becomes a Pre-Text.
When constructing the fictional world the participants do not follow the decisions made by the characters as in a typical character exploration. Instead the participants and facilitator explore the issues based upon their own decision-making faculties. In a sense creating an entirely new play based upon the issues identified by the group. The participants are able to construct belief systems, understandings if you will, about the issues within a script liberated from following the decisions made by the characters. Once examined through Process Drama strategies the participants renter the consideration of a text with a renewed sense of personal ownership. Through the sense of ownership the examination of the text becomes more vital, alive and relevant to their lives. The participants will thus engage with the learning process at a deeper more personal and committed level.
Combining the Touchstones
Focusing on the increased engagement with characters by the student/participants exemplifies one of the most effective ways to combine Process Drama and Product Drama. One may link each touchstone for a Process Drama-oriented class with the touchstones for a Product Drama-oriented class. The following hypothetical drama/theatre arts class demonstrates how these touchstones might be combined. Such an approach supports the concept of student empowered learning found in Process Drama while meeting student expectations and curricular needs found in Product Drama. In another webpage, an example is offered of using a Shakespearian play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Link to web2)
The “Pre-Text” Technique
Using anything from a word to a photograph, this object becomes the foundation of creating a fictional world. This “pre-text” technique, developed by Cecily O’Neill, can facilitate the techniques of questioning and problem solving. Based on the given pre-text, the class is helped to generate questions, acknowledge themes, and begin to form the structure of the fictional world.
For example, in a social studies course exploring the possible reasons of social depression in an urban setting, a photograph is shown to the group of a lone child walking down a barren street. The question is posed, “What are some feelings this photograph suggests to you?” Answers range from joy to intense sorrow depending on the colors, composition, line and angles, and more importantly upon the individual answers. Now the discussion moves to what the person in the picture could be feeling, to what issues could have made him/her feel that way.
One drama strategy calls for the participants to take on roles that surround the life of the characters in such a picture. One student takes on the role of Store owner in the town that the child lives, another takes on the role of the child’s mother, or best friend–the possibilities are only limited by the imagination of the group. Once the characters are selected, another strategy asks the participants to silently think about what a major problem might be confronting the person in the picture, in this case the lonely child. The drama facilitator then places a chair in the center of the room announcing that it represents “the physical embodiment of problem.” The students are then invited to stand up, introduce themselves as their character and move either far away from or close to the teacher representing the problem. The students in role then share what they believe the problem to be and why they have taken the position they have.
Take for example the pre-text of the lonely child and the possible role of store owner. In this scenario the student in role as the store owner would stand up and say “I am the store owner in the town where the child lives.” The student in would then walk relatively close to the teacher as problem, and state that as the store owner, “The problem is poverty, and I am close to the problem because everyday the child comes to my store, stares at the candy through the window, yet never has any money to buy any. I always give her a small piece of licorice.” In this way the picture or pre-text becomes a trigger for the creation of the fictional world where the group explores first hand how and why people might become depressed within an urban landscape. You’ll notice that this particular strategy scaffolds the difficulty of the improvisation slowly bringing the student into a full fledged role-playing exploration. Once each student has established their proximity to the problem more in-depth social interactions between characters may be introduced. Using a drama as a means to introduce the topic of urban depression creates a personal connection that sustains and enlivens the theories when the group moves to exploring primary sources and textbooks. See procdrexampwb.htmlfor further examples.
Process Drama strategies hold many exciting and powerful opportunities for personal growth and self discovery. The creation of the fictional world also brings individuals together as they solve the problems inherent within that world. The level of social interaction experienced by the participants allows for an in-depth exploration of the complexity of being an individual with a mind and a spirit in contact with others. This interaction creates moments of tension, conflict and realization where issues of ethics, morals and meanings of existence come into play while individuals act and react to the situations they have created. Process Drama explorations provide avenues for discoveries in all areas where humans must think and act, alone or together in order to survive in an ever changing world.
(See, for an example, a related webpage supplement: procdrexampwb.html , applying process drama in education in a class on Shakespeare’s plays.)