Dramatization in Teaching and Learning Process

"The more active they are [students] in determining and absorbing their own learning, the more they learn." (Mann 1996)
Teaching method was relentlessly passive; listen and read.

What about today?
  • Today it is fashionable to "do". Good teachers "do", and they promote active learning.
  • They seek to engage the student in the learning process.
  • They stimulate the students' understanding of what is being taught.
  • Get them to investigate, research and question outside the classroom.
  • The learning process not comfortable, safe and passive.
  • It is dynamic, challenging and active.
  • Students encouraged engaging with their studies to become independent learners.
  • Learning is an interactive process - both funs as well as academically rewarding.
  • Enabling functioning if accompanied by a high amount of cognitive process.
  • Facilitating function for specific cognitive process made easier through action.
  • Students' knowledge on the character is increased in situation, issue or crisis.
  • Oral, written or visual language in enhanced in the process.
  • Can be performed as a classroom activity.
  • Improves language skills.
  • Movement is fundamental to covey meaning through drama.
  • To increase knowledge of a character, situation or issue.
  • Knowledge of oral, written and visual language is enhanced in the process.
  • When performed in public, to be managed sensitively with good preparation, time for reflection and care that students take appropriate roles.
One dimension of this active learning approach to teaching and learning is dramatization namely games, role-play, simulation and mime.
Games, simulations, mime and role-play: What's the difference?
  • The use of all these is well established in various fields other than nursing. There is a well-developed body of literature to support their use in the teaching environment.
  • Collectively these provide students with some form of imaginary or real world within which to act out a given situation
  • Each is quite distinct.
  • Involves sound organization and planning.
  • Any game which can be a means for learning.
  • Have a set of clear rules.
  • Encompass an element of competition.
  • Tend to have winners and losers.
  • Event or situation made to resemble clinical practice.
  • Involves application and integration of knowledge, skills & critical thinking.
  • Created to represent real environments.
  • Deepens conceptual understanding of the real world.
  • Change over time, reacting and adapting to your actions.
  • Free from the competitive element.
  • Excellent teaching strategy for many skills.
Role - play:
  • Most simplistic form.
  • Individuals play themselves or another, placed in a given situation.
  • Person behaves as a result of what is going on around them.
  • There is an element of game and simulation.
  • Could have winners and losers.
  • Environment clearly defined to simulate real world situation.
  • An attempt by an individual to place themselves in the position of another or as themselves and deal with unfamiliar circumstances.
Key distinction between the three:
  • There is degree of control over what the role-player does.
    • -          Control over environment within which the role-play takes place.
    • -          Process of socialization & learning roles go together.
    • -          Roles given by our social position or are ascribed upon us by what we do.
    • -          Any one-time role-player can perform any given number of roles.
    • -          Roles change depending upon the context.
    • -          Defines role of all involved.
    • -          Roles may not be familiar & may vary widely.
    • -          Expectations of a role and behavior that flows from it are identified even if unfamiliar.
  • In games & simulations, roles - prescriptive, actions are programmed & structured.
    • -          Proceed in a particular order
    • -          Follow a particular direction.
  • The art of teaching through nonverbal communication, through exaggerated expressions, actions and gestures.
  • The art of portraying characters and acting out situations or a narrative by gestures and body movement.
  • Changes in thinking about drama in education.
  • Creating characterization - instruct students to listen, watch arms, body movements.
  • Performers physically express their adopted characters by their facial expressions and in every body movement.
  • Every movement has a motivation and purpose.
  • Communicates mood, response & new information to the audience.
  • Medium for performing roles using words and focusing on conveying richness of meaning through visual language alone.
  • The tutor relinquishes a high degree of control over the learning environment.
  • If ineffective students will not learn.
  • Threat of simplification can result in failure to make optimum use of knowledge.
  • Students can simply play role in a shallow and ineffective manner.
  • A good and successful role-play depends upon the quality of the students involved & the seriousness with which they embrace the exercise.
  • Students may see this as a frivolous and entertaining exercise.
  • These can be time consuming both in preparation, playing and debriefing.
  • If included in formal assessment process this presents and additional problem of assessing student contribution and performance.
  • The more open or free these are the bigger the issue these become
  • Devise clear guidelines.
  • Use scripted dramatization
  • Define roles and set the scenario
  • Make it formal and more orderly
  • Ideas should reflect their knowledge and understanding.
  • Allow time to explore dimensions of the role they are in
  • Ensure debriefing students which is crucial for success
  • In assessment avoid open or free dramatization but assess through requesting a reflective essay in which student is asked to evaluate their role and learning experience.
  • Identify what they feel, what they learnt from the experience and understand the consequences.
"Technology alone will not provide an adequate framework for innovation. It might be described as a missile looking for a target." (Freeman & Capper, 1998)
With the development of conferencing systems and virtual learning environments such as Web CT, the opportunity to use technology to aid teaching and learning is growing. Dramatization will also set to benefit. The use of conferencing systems, e-mail and the World Wide Web in this scenario is only just being evaluated. Such technology offers a number of unique and enriching additions to both the organization and operation of the dramatization in teaching and learning strategy.
"The web houses the virtual space for the role play, enables communication and collaboration among students, and between the students and the lecturers. The web also enables access to "just in time" resources by making available to students resources such as up to date news from electronic newspapers and web sites etc., from all over the world as and when they need them. Without this capability the content of the role play would be significantly weaker."(Linser and Naidu, 2001)
Technology is likely to improve the learning outcomes. With online technology it is possible to discuss issues via e- mail groups and by being on line answers to problems and issues can be considered with greater reflection. Students will enhance their understanding of technology and gain key transferable technology skills.
The drawbacks or weaknesses that one might anticipate from the enhanced use of technology in role-play scenario's, are I feel largely skill based. The transfer from verbal to written communication is a significant change. Effective face-to-face communication draws upon quite a distinct set of communication skills. E-mail and web based communication might also fail to create a learning community. The physical difference in cyber-space and the anonymity this creates might diminish rather than enhance an understanding of other groups and their views. As such maybe web-based role-play might be most effectively engaged in when used in conjunction with rather than a replacement of the more traditional face-to-face approach of this teaching method.

"Although the technique is relatively simple and one that most teachers and trainers can use without much prior experience, the difference between the best and worst run role-plays can be considerable. At best the exercise will be seen as relevant, essential part of learning; it will be an enjoyable and exiting experience and the students will be left with a greater understanding of their subject and a clear idea of how to develop it further. At worst the students will be board, embarrassed and even angry. They may have achieved very little and even acquired erroneous learning; they may be left with a feeling of inadequacy and not knowing what it was about." Van Ments (1989)
The educational benefits to be gained from using role-play are immense. With careful planning in both the construction, organization and running of the role-play, and with the added bonus of new technology, there is no reason why many of the weaknesses in this approach might not be overcome. In business and economics we are blessed with a series of disciplines that are rich in role-play material. With some investment of time on our parts it is possible to extend our repertoire of teaching talents, and hopefully, more effectively engage the student in a process of active learning.
  1. Alden D Experience with Scripted Role-Play in Environmental Economics (Spring 1999) Journal of Economic Education
  2. Francis P J & Byrne A P Use of Role-Play Exercises in Teaching Undergraduate Astronomy and Physics (1999) Astronomical Society Australia
  3. Freeman M A & Capper J M An Anonymous Asynchronous Web-based Role-Play. (1998) http://www.bus.uts.edu.au/fin&econ/staff/markf/roleplay.html
  4. Ip A, Linser R & Naidu S Simulated Worlds: Rapid Generation of Web-based Role-Play (2001) http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw01/papers/refereed/ip/paper.html
  5. Brammer, M., & Sawyer-Laucanno, C. S. (1990). Business and industry: specific purposes of language training. In D. Crookall & R. L. Oxford (Eds.), Simulation, gaming, and language learning (pp. 143-150). New York: Newbury House.
  6. Burns, A. C., & Gentry, J. W. (1998). Motivating students to engage in experiential learning: a tension-to-learn theory. Simulation and Gaming, 29, 133-151.
  7. Christopher, E. M. & Smith, L. E. (1990). Shaping the content of simulation/games. In D. Crookall & R. L. Oxford (Eds.), Simulation, gaming, and language learning (pp. 47-54). New York: Newbury House.


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