Using theatre techniques as a tool to enable active learning : searching for a pedagogy to transform spectators into spect-actors
In Britain provision is made for students with a low Basic Skills level (literacy and numeracy) to continue with their post-GCSE education in a low level vocational course. These low level courses aim to teach students basic, life and vocational skills necessary to progress to the next level. This study aims to find a pedagogy which is suited to the needs of these marginalised students and transforms them from spectators into spect-actors. Two programmes were designed, implemented, managed and measured by this study in order to find the pedagogy best suited to the needs of these students. Programme 1 was based on ideas by the educationalists Kolb, Petty, Honey and Mumford; and aimed to empower students with the basic and life skills necessary for progression. Programme 1 failed as the mostly narrative pedagogy was associated with a similar pedagogy used in schools. Assessment methods were unsuitable and the course paid more attention to the needs of the group than the needs of the individual. Programme 2 aimed to actively involve students in the learning of skills essential to progression and was based on theatrical techniques. Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed techniques, especially Forum Theatre, formed the basis of the student-centred programme. Boal’s interactive theatre techniques, together with ideas taken from Aristotle, Artaud, Brecht, Heathcote and Freire formed the pedagogy of an interactive course where the focus fell on the needs of the individual student. This study found that Programme 2 was successful. Students took to the taskbased interactive course where all solutions to problems were found by means of active investigation, no theorem was learned without application and no action took place without a purpose. Students changed from spectators into spectactors with a view that the world is not stagnant but transformable. Achievement and success rates back up the findings. The interactive pedagogy using theatre techniques to teach can be applied across the curriculum and it is suggested that such courses should run alongside main stream academic courses to accommodate the learning of all students.