- Background of the study
As a teacher, I am constantly searching for effective strategies to motivate and enhance our students’ learning experiences. The use of drama as an effective and valuable teaching strategy is becoming increasingly common in educational contexts. The use of drama promotes meaningful, active and reflective thinking processes as well as enhancing communication skills development. One of the reasons drama is able to enhance students’ learning experience is because of its unique ability to accommodate many different learning styles and thus able to motivate the learners. As educator, I understand that people learn differently and at different paces because of their biological and mental and emotional differences (Reiff, 1992). Learning styles do not only comprise the cognitive domain, but also the affective and physiological domains (oxford, Hollaway & Hortaon-Murillo, 1992). According to Strong, Silver and Perini (2001), verbal linguistic intelligence can be divided into four learning preferences including mastery (knowing), interpersonal (social skills), understanding (discovery and reasoning) and self-expressive (creativity). If student learning styles are matched to the appropriate teaching strategies, then students’ learning experience, performance and achievement is highly likely to increase. However, many teachers are wary of using drama for various reasons. Some teachers are concerned about losing control in their classroom such as boisterous students and loud noise level. Others are concerned about achieving their learning objectives and learning outcomes. Teachers fail to realize that with clearly structured activities, students will enjoy the activities and learn about reasoning, creativity and interpersonal skills. Howard Gardner (1989) envisioned schools which use multiple intelligences to incorporate authentic learning. Drama certainly has the capability to provide authentic learning because most of the intelligences are utilized in learning activities (VilaAbadal, 2009). Two of the intelligences utilized would be logical learning and verbal linguistic learning. Since drama enhances reasoning, creativity and interpersonal skills among other skills, it is appropriate and reasonable to use drama to teach other subjects than only language subjects.
This writer has collaborated and worked on business subjects and with business school lecturers. One of the subjects was Microeconomics. Drama is a performing art, an outlet for self-expression, and a way of learning. Drama is an effective learning tool because it involves the student intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally. Activities in improvisation, pantomime, play-making, and scene reenactment serve to develop the creative potential in the participants and help to develop critical thinking skills. In answering the question, “why teach drama?’’, theater director and teaching artist Matt Buchanan has this to say: “Dramatic Arts education is an important means of stimulating creativity in problem solving. It can challenge students’ perceptions about their world and about themselves. Dramatic exploration can provide students with an outlet for emotions, thoughts, and dreams that they might not otherwise have means to express. A student can, if only for a few moments, become another, explore a new role, try out and experiment with various personal choices and solutions to very real problems-problems from their own life, or problems faced by characters in literature or historical figures. This can happen in a safe atmosphere, where actions and consequences can be examined, discussed, and in a very real sense experienced without the dangers and pitfalls that such experimentation would obviously lead to in the “real” world. This is perhaps the most important reason for Dramatic Arts in schools.” Existing drama literature suggests that drama offers several opportunities for educators to promote learning and development. Among these suggestions, educational drama allows participants to be engaged, motivated, empowered, and active agents of learning (e.g., Heathcote, 1984; Wagner, 1999; Warner, 1995). When drama is interwoven into education it promotes literacy, multiple interpretations, problem solving and collaboration among students (Styslinger, 2000). It allows the new learning to be connected to previous knowledge, and provides teachers with opportunities to see children’s interests and developmental level and to facilitate further learning (Courtney, 1990; Heathcote, 1981). Although the literature concerning the effectiveness of drama with young children grows steadily (Johnson & O’Neill, 1984; Wagner, 1998), there is little written about the use of drama with adult learners. For example, in teacher education, drama is not usually considered as a possible mainstream pedagogy. Educational drama found some minor place in teacher education programs as occasional role play, improvisation, some visualization, or as a form of metaphor (Griggs, 2001). Considering that drama and arts in general has found little recognition in preparing preserves teachers for their future profession, it is logical to ask, “What would it be like if teacher educators utilize drama in their classroom and integrate it into their teaching repertoire?” Griggs (2001) suggests that drama can help these preserves teachers increase self awareness and understand the classroom environment and the needs of their children better. It is the aim of this paper to show that the use of drama has enhanced not only the students’ language proficiency but also the knowledge of the subject because it is able to engage all learning styles.