Nicole Küpfer

Drama in Education

an exciting art form of teaching and learning

Attending Module 1 of the Master’s programme in Drama in Education at the University of Central England in Birmingham in July 2000 was one of my most spontaneous and at the same time probably most important decisions in my teaching career. Having worked with such people as Jonothan Neelands, Cecily O’Neill, Emily Fitzgibbon and David Booth at workshops and in-service training courses in Switzerland made me familiar with a number of techniques in drama work. What Birmingham did for me, however, was bring all the pieces of the puzzle I had gathered over the previous three years to an image which started to become clear and meaningful. The focus at the summer school was on gaining a profound understanding of the art of drama teaching, namely by showing us ways to enable our students to move within the art form and thereby make them understand what lies at the core of drama work.

Our professors, lecturers and tutors managed to give us such a clear insight into the essence of drama in education by offering a clever combination of theory and practice. Thus, I left Birmingham with the confidence of not only daring to do drama as a participant, but also as a person to pass the message on – a message which to me comprises the following key thoughts and revelations:

First of all, there is the fact that through the arts, the personality of a child, teenager or adult person can develop in a way that is not so obviously the case in other areas of life. Working in the field of drama means acting in a responsible way not only for oneself, but also for the sake of a whole group’s well-being, thus not only shaping one’s own personality but also enhancing one’s social competence.

Second, by working on a clearly specified objective, the drama teacher takes away the focus from approaching the subject matter to be taught on an intellectual level and shifts it towards experiencing contents through exploiting the emotional capacities of every human being. Through means of shifting responsibility to the students, involving them in the process of achieving one’s teaching objective and actively calling on their capabilities of thinking rationally but at the same time feeling in an empathic way creates a situation of corporate responsibility for the outcome of the teaching process.

Third, it is not "art for art’s sake" that drama teachers practice, nor is it their prime intention to achieve a piece of work which is to be presented to an audience. By primarily developing forms of process drama, different drama methods serve to enliven the requirements of the syllabus. In my particular case, I have chosen to specialise on the interrelationship between forms of drama and language acquisition. In other words, I want to find ways in which a natural learning environment can be created and the structural process of language teaching is supplemented or replaced by a contextual one, without, however, neglecting the formal aspects of language learning.

In my work, I want to forge a link between the type of language teaching I have practised in the classroom of secondary education in the last ten years and the growing demands put on our students from society, places of higher education and the working world. Thus, my drama work focuses on building language skills for beginning students of various ages and developing the confidence to use the acquired structures and fields of vocabulary in a natural surrounding. More advanced students will focus their attention on moral, social, psychological or political issues and find a way to combine spoken and written forms of language. This can happen from within the teaching goals provided in the curriculum, during specifically organised project days or weeks, on the basis of interdisciplinary projects or simply as supplements to the issues regularly taught. Teaching drama as an independent subject would of course grant most continuity in the personal and social development aimed at in my work.

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If you are interested in offering drama at your school, have any questions or comments, please contact me at the following address:

Nicole Küpfer
Speerstrasse 51
8038 Zürich
+41 (0)1 480 06 68
+41 (0)79 395 06 27

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