Utilising drama in education to empower student voice, and in so doing, improve student learning within education

The aim of this paper is to consider the effectiveness of drama in primary education to empower student voice. A study was conducted in a primary school to evaluate this and explore the potential benefits to the learning of the participants involved. Eighteen year 6 students with ranging experiences in drama participated in the research. Guardian consent was obtained for ethical purposes. Drama sessions were conducted weekly for eight weeks by the researcher acting as participant observer. Students were given autonomy to decide the subject matter explored during sessions, and encouraged to take more control as the study progressed. The participants originally chose topics like food chains and eventually chose to explore status and power through Oliver Twist. Data was collected from: self-written evaluations from each of the participants; session based observations including reflective accounts from the researcher; transcribed interviews and discussions. This data was then interpreted by the researcher, drama in education models and theories from Farmer (2011) and Baldwin (2008) were employed in the analysis of data. Final conclusions suggest that the utilisation of drama has great potential to empower student voice. Students wanted to take more control over the session as the weeks progressed in the final week’s sessions was chosen, planned and run by the participants. Further conclusions demonstrated that participants left the process with improved skills to approach their education: higher levels of confidence; evaluation; team work skills. Further research questions are raised concerning skill development through drama and the underlying values of primary education.