Shedding the ego: Drama-based role-play and identity in distance language tuition

Brash, Baerbel and Warnecke, Sylvia (2009). Shedding the ego: Drama-based role-play and identity in distance language tuition. Language Learning Journal, 37(1) pp. 99–109.



In this article, the authors attempt to answer the following questions: How do we understand role-play? How are role-play and identity linked? What are the purposes, benefits and challenges of role-play as a teaching tool? What are the roles of students and teachers in role-play? What does role-play add to telephone tutorials and online audio-graphic synchronous tutorials?

The article contextualises the wide range of definitions of role-play and points to Cockett's understanding of drama-based role-play as a creative and learner-centred activity in the language classroom. Identity is viewed against the background of social constructionist identity theories and Homi Bhabha's concept of the 'third space'.

The authors explore the benefits and challenges of drama-based role-play for the psycholinguistic, cognitive and educational development of language learners and highlight the changed role of the teacher in this scenario. The comparison of drama-based role-play in face-to-face tuition with telephone as well as online audio-graphic synchronous conferencing confirms that the lack of visual cues often functions as a stimulant and an opportunity for students to shed their ego. At the same time silences take on a new dimension and might afford students a space in which to reinvent themselves in the target language. While drama-based role-play may, on the one hand, be the bridge between first language/first culture and target language/target culture, it can, on the other hand, support teachers in managing a central task of language tuition today: facilitating innovative learning experiences that allow identity formation in second language acquisition.

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