Models of student engagement: Pre-service teachers supporting community development through process drama

O’Keeffe, Margaret (2013) Models of student engagement: Pre-service teachers supporting community development through process drama. In: 6th Annual Learning Innovation Network Conference – Sustainable Models of Student Engagement – Rhetoric or Achievable? 17th October 2013 in the Ashling Hotel, Dublin., Dublin, Ireland.


Student placement is a critical aspect of initial teacher education. Within this context, 14 preservice elective drama students were placed in a community setting with a view to supporting community partnership and empowerment. In addition, the placement sought to support students understanding about the multiple contexts of children’s lives (Ball and Cohen, 1999). Students worked with men’s groups, women’s groups, young people, families and an active retirement group over an eight week period. Drama was chosen as the core methodology as it embodies principles of critical pedagogy. Educators employing principles of critical pedagogy aim to develop their students’ capacities for critical judgment and commitment to the social world (Giroux, 2006). Process drama and critical pedagogy share a common philosophy with regard to a vision of education that is centred on the theory of dialectical activities that encourage collective participation, teacher as a collaborator and active, embodied learner (Aitken, 2009 Heathcote and Bolton, 1995). With this in mind, the students were required to collaborate with community groups in terms of planning a program using process drama to suit the interests and needs of the different groups. Findings revealed that students initially found it challenging to move from an ‘all knowing position’ to a power sharing position. It was felt that drama supported this transition, as it requires the teacher and the student to negotiate meaning together. The placement empowered members of the community and the students to negotiate their identities as teachers and community learners. Students learnt to value and understand the importance of supporting community partnership. They developed a deeper understanding of the link between their students, their student’s families, and their student’s communities as a central part of the learning continuum. This placement enhanced student enquiry, engagement and empowerment. Students developed an understanding of the role of drama in community settings and concurrently developed skills and understanding of the art form.

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