School drama: a case study of student academic and non‐academic outcomes

John NR Saunders

MEd(Res) thesis, conferred 2015

School DramaTM is a teacher professional learning program for primary school teachers developed by Sydney Theatre Company (STC) and the University of Sydney’s Sydney School of Education and Social Work. The program aims to develop teacher confidence and capacity in using Process Drama as critical quality pedagogy with quality literature to improve student literacy. STC pairs each participating Classroom Teacher with a Teaching Artist and together the pair co-plan, co-mentor and co-teach the seven week program. The research to date on the School DramaTM program has aimed to investigate the impact of the program on teacher learning and school sustainability rather than on student learning outcomes.

This study aims to explore the gap in the current School DramaTM research and focus on student outcomes, both academic (literacy and English) and non-academic (motivation, engagement and empathy). This qualitative case study investigated a single Year 6 class and their teacher. Multiple data collection methods were employed including artefacts (for pre-program and post-program student benchmarking as well as sample student work), focus groups with students, reflective interviews with the Class Teacher, and observations from the Teaching Artist/Researcher.

The findings suggest that students involved in the School DramaTM program generally showed marked improvements when comparing their results on the pre-program and post-program benchmarking tests. These tasks, with identical criteria, required students to illustrate their inferential comprehension and descriptive language skills. The data also suggests a range of non- academic improvements to students through the intervention, such as increased motivation and engagement in learning, and shifts in empathy. The findings resonate with several other case studies investigating both the School DramaTM program and the relationship between Drama and literacy. The findings of this research also provide recommendations for further study of the School DramaTM program.

Supervisor: Professor Robyn Ewing