Drama education in New Zealand schools: the practice of six experienced drama teachers
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This research investigates drama teaching practice in New Zealand primary and secondary schools, through a case-based qualitative inquiry into the practice of six experienced drama teachers. The study reveals that whilst drama education is couched within the Arts learning area of the national curriculum, the educational philosophy enacted by participants encompasses a broad vision for drama education, which extends learning beyond a technical knowledge of theatre and theatre-making towards the domains of social and personal meaning-making and emancipatory knowledge. Explored through the lenses of Artist and Co-artist, the study identifies the socio-cultural nature of the practice of these teachers. Teachers’ artistry is revealed through creative use of drama tools and processes to create aesthetically-rich learning experiences. The significance of relational pedagogy to teaching and learning in these drama classrooms is also examined within the study. Teachers’ accounts reveal the ways they seek to develop interpersonal relationships with and between students, and establish ensemble-based approaches to learning in drama. As co-artists, participants employ pedagogies that empower students to actively participate in a community of drama practice, intentionally developing students’ capacities for collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, while discovering and developing their artistic-aesthetic capabilities. These teachers share power with students through acts of negotiation, creating dialogic learning opportunities in order to develop student agency as artists and citizens. Attempts to navigate tensions that arise due to increased performativity pressures on teachers and to avoid prescriptive and technocratic delivery of drama curriculum are also explored. In-depth interviews were conducted with participants to discover the complexities of their teaching practice, the philosophy of drama education they hold, and the decisions they make in curriculum content and pedagogy. Observations of classroom practice were also undertaken, along with an analysis of planning documents and an interview with their students. The study provides six rich case studies of drama practice in New Zealand schools, contributing to local and international understandings of enacted drama education within school settings. Implications for educational policy, curriculum design, classroom practice and teacher education arise from this investigation.