Using drama to explore complex topics

A new digital teaching resource makes use of drama techniques to help students understand history and, soon, other subjects intimately.
Jun 9, 2021
Drama techniques can be used to foster deeper understanding

The Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) ATYP On Demand Plus looks to arm primary teachers with the tools to tackle complex and sensitive topics in the classroom, leveraging problem solving, communication and play.

The initial units available on the ATYP On Demand Plus platform are linked to the history curriculum, including the concept of past and present, migration, and First Nations People’s connection to Country/place, culture, family and community.

“ATYP On Demand Plus is unique because it flips the dynamic in the classroom. Usually we think of drama as a specialist subject that requires a certain expertise. In this program, drama is simply the way we study other subjects.

“Teachers can use the principles of participation and play to physically explore every area of the Primary curriculum,” says Fraser Corfield, Artistic Director, ATYP.

The units have been developed by ATYP’s Head of Learning, Jacqui Cowell, in collaboration with leading academics, the ATYP education team and ATYP teaching artists.

Robyn Ewing, Professor Emerita AM, Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts and Co-Director of the Creativity in Research, Engaging the Arts, Transforming Education, Health and Wellbeing (CREATE Centre) at the University of Sydney, says the platform helps students learn through doing as opposed to listening.

“We need to rehearse possibilities as we problem solve and share our ideas with others. We also need to walk in the shoes of others. Such experiences change how we understand ourselves and the perspective of others. There is unequivocal research that drama-rich strategies and experiences motivate learners to engage in deep learning,” says Professor Ewing.

For an annual fee of $280–$300 per school, depending on ICSEA value, ATYP On Demand Plus empowers teachers to help students engage in deep, personal learning while building their imaginations, compassion and self-efficacy.

Each eight-week unit uses participatory learning strategies to explore history and includes accompanying resources, suggested activities and instructional videos to help teachers create flexible professional learning resources for their students. For the past six months, ATYP’s Head of Learning, Jacqui Cowell, has closely followed 64 teachers trialling the new platform across Australia.

“During the trial, teachers using ATYP On Demand Plus in the classroom have seen an increase in student literacy and engagement. Teachers also said they gained greater confidence using drama and literacy strategies to explore the curriculum,” says Jacqui Cowell.

The new platform builds on the existing free platform, ATYP On Demand, which offers geographically isolated and economically disadvantaged students free access to theatre made by young people, for young people.

Both platforms are part of ATYP’s commitment to connect young people to the theatre industry, share stories, build skills and create experiences.