The Nature of Talk and Communication in Primary Process Drama

Lee, Elisabeth (2023). The Nature of Talk and Communication in Primary Process Drama. EdD thesis The Open University.



Research into talk and learning in the primary years has focused mainly on reasoning in mathematics and science and far less on creative learning contexts, such as process drama. Moreover, despite the predominance of talk within process drama, scant attention has been paid to the nature of this talk. The current study examines this gap in understanding about teacher and pupil talk in primary process drama.

The participants were two primary school teachers, who frequently used process drama in their practice, and with their two classes of pupils aged nine to eleven. The data were collected and analysed within a constructionist, interpretivist, case-study methodology. Talk within process drama was explored through audio and visual recordings of process drama lessons and analysed through thematic coding and multimodal analysis. Secondary data was explored through teacher and pupil interviews.

Findings indicate three types of talk were prevalent in primary process drama, questioning, co-constructed narratives, and empathetic talk. Talk was not shaped or guaranteed by the drama conventions, but it was influenced by the nature of teacher questioning or whether pupils were invited to pose questions. Additionally, the status of teacher-in-role (TiR) played a pivotal role in determining whether teacher and pupil talk was dialogic or monologic in nature. Creative, co-constructed narratives were associated with an equal-status TiR, and a high-status TiR was associated with monologic talk. By contrast, when teachers adopted low-status TiR, they used monologic talk, which in this instance was productive, eliciting empathetic responses. It is argued that process drama creates a dialogic space in which creative interthinking is possible.

These findings raise questions about the need to examine the nature of talk in other empathetic or creative contexts, and when using diverse drama conventions. They also underline the importance of process drama, for talk, thinking and learning.

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