How Could Drama Provide Opportunities for Children to Explore Gender Roles: A Case Study in English and Chinese Early Years Settings

As wildly known, stereotypes of and unequal opinions about gender can be learnt at an early age. This could lead to further injustice in various spheres of society, such as schools, families and workplaces. However, insufficient research has been conducted to directly work with young children for the exploration of gender roles; my research attempts to make a small contribution to this gap. Because children learn through holistic experience, drama could be an effective approach for them to discuss relevant topics. Under this background, this presentation introduces a working plan for my PhD project on how drama in education (DiE) could provide opportunities for young children to actively explore gender roles. The specific contexts are early years settings in England and mainland China. To achieve the research aim, specific objectives are designed as follows: (1) How could drama provide opportunities for young children in England to explore the possibilities of gender roles? (2) Can successful DiE experience in England be directly applied to an early year setting in mainland China for young children to explore gender roles? If not, what adjustments are needed for cultural differences? (3) What implications could the Chinese context have in return for the English early years curriculum in terms of using DiE as approach for young children to explore gender roles? The whole research adopts a qualitative philosophy, and the concrete methodology is case study. As drama in education should always be adaptive according to particular situations and its participants’ actual reactions, this case study also has a sense of action research and a quasi-experimental feature on the premise of protecting children’s safety and security. The key design of this research is to conduct a series of drama workshops for young children to actively explore gender roles. The research methods include ‘reflective practitioner’, interviews (including focus groups with children and solo interviews with their teachers) and pictorial activities with children. This project will not instil fixed interpretations about gender into children’s minds; instead, it aims to broaden children’s horizons on understanding the complexity and diversity of gender, empower children to explore the possibilities of their own and others’ gender roles, and activate them to gain an awareness of gender equality.