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Drama in and across the Curriculum:

how and why it works as a way of learning

Patrice Baldwin
www.patricebaldwin.com

Chair of National Drama

World President of IDEA


patrice@dramaforlearning.eu

Draw on recent research about the brain, to


explain why and how drama and imagined
experience works as a way of learning at any
age and as a way of developing empathetic
and socially attuned citizens.

Consider drama in relation to childrens


holistic development and how it helps
children to make sense of the real world and
their place in it.

Explain a successful project, Drama for


Learning and Creativity (D4LC) in which
teachers from nearly 300 schools use drama
to teach across the curriculum and have
gathered evidence of the outcomes

Insights into the human brain will have a


profound impact, not just on us as scientists, but
also on the humanities, and they may even help
us bridge what CP Snow called the two cultures
science on the one hand and arts, philosophy
and humanities on the other.
Professor Ramachandran, (2003)
BBC Reith Lectures The Emerging Mind

Recent dramatic advances in our


understanding of the human brain and
cognition ensure that the cognitive
neurosciences will play an increasingly
important role in educational policy and
practice in the 21st century.
Robert Sylwester, (2005)

Some things teachers need to know


about the brain
Human brains are unique - no two brains will
ever be the same
The brain works by growing and connecting
networks of neurons
Neural connections are built and strengthened
by stimulation, exposure, repetition and practice

Synaptogenesis

Use it or lose it ! (neural pruning)


Excessive stress and neglect can lead to
synapses elimination

Sensitive periods
There are sensitive periods for learning certain
things more easily, e.g. motor skills and
language.

What is the neurological impact of too much


sitting and listening to teachers?

Learning language benefits from a social context.


Dr. Patricia Kuhl (2003)

Some things teachers need to know


about the brain
We can discern patterns as to how the brain
learns (and the areas of the brain involved)
Most brain areas have multiple rather than
unique functions
The brain changes and adapts to accommodate
most easily, what it experiences most powerfully
or most often

Neuroplasticity
Individual brains are influenced by genetics but
are constantly changing and are changed
structurally and functionally by experiencing,
learning and imagining new things.

Neuroplasticity
The human brain is exquisitely sensitive to any
and every event: we cannot take it as an article
of faith that it will remain inviolate and that ways
of learning and thinking will remain constant.
Susan Greenfield (2006)

Children now have shorter attention spans and


less developed speech and imaginations.
The yuck and wow factor

Neuro-plasticity
Pascual-Leone et al. (1995)
Group 1: The control group just looked at
the piano
Group 2: practiced 5 finger exercises
(rhythmic hand movements)
Group 3: imagined they were playing the
piano (rehearsed in their minds)

The brain needs us to imagine


It keeps neural
pathways active and
strengthens neural
connections
(connectivity)
It moves us from the
here and now into
the as if and what if
(creativity)

The brain works best when information


and skills are embedded in real, lived
experiences

The brain seeks connections


Connecting new learning to what is
already known helps the brain learn.

We re-enact and create, based on what


we know already and have experienced.

The brain responds strongly to novelty!

The brain is wired to learn through imitation


and mimicry (the first learning style)

visual

auditory
tactile

kinaesthetic

social
emotional
physical
aesthetic
creative
cognitive
cultural

spiritual

linguistic
logical-mathematical
spatial

naturalistic
musical
intrapersonal

spiritual

bodily-kinaesthetic
inter-personal

One of the hallmarks of our species is what we


call culture. And culture depends crucially on
the imitation of your parents, of your teachers
and the imitation of complex skills may require
the participation of mirror neurons.
Professor Ramachandran, (BBC Reith Lectures)

Mirror neuron theory


Giacomo
Rizzolati
(1990)

We are exquisitely social creatures. Our


survival depends on understanding the actions,
intentions and emotions of others. Mirror
neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others,
not through conceptual reasoning but through
direct simulation - by feeling, not by thinking.

Giocomo Rizzolatti, (2006)

Imitation and the neural machinery that


underlies it, begets an understanding of others
minds and not the other way round
Purposive action, desires, visual perception and
basic emotions have a relatively close coupling
between the underlying mental states and their
expression in bodily actioncentral to
perspective taking.
Andrew N. Meltzoff, (2005)

Simon Baron Cohen


Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Masks as transporters?

The brain is wired for empathy


Humans brains are wired for survival, to
connect socially and empathetically with
other human beings. Humans want to
belong.

Pretending/Drama/Acting make me feel


happy

excited

successful
powerful
clever

enjoyment
independent

important
grown up
in control
special

safe

Emotions
Gain, direct, focus
and keep our
attention (this helps
memory)

Direct our social


behaviours towards
others
Give us feedback
Help us remember
what is important

Emotions
Lets us safely try out a variety of attitudes and
actions in role (and get response safely)
Lets us use and link new experience,
knowledge, ideas and thoughts to memories
and past emotions

Acting
Acting is one of the best exemplifications
of what it is to be humanthe unnatural
naturality of human beings actors are
the epitome of this.
Vittorio Gallese (2007)

Acting

When
I first started acting it was because of my
desire to connect to everyone, to that thing inside
each of us, that light that I believe exists in all of
us because acting for me is about believing in
that connection and its a connection so strong,
its a connection so deep that we feel it, and
through our combined belief we can create a new
reality.
Force Whittaker (2007)

Imitation/Mimicry

The role of the adult


welcome and give
status to the activity
facilitate children to
develop their own
ideas
find, sustain and
develop the learning

The role of the adult


help structure and
scaffold the imagined
experience
be an interactive coparticipant offering
challenge

mediate the learning


experience (Feurstein,
Instruments of
Enrichment)
model language, form,
attitudes and
behaviours

What improved?
speaking and listening

attitudes to learning
enjoyment
drama
writing

motivation

What improved?
teacher confidence

teacher enjoyment
attainment
learning

teacher competence

What improved?

inclusion

empathy

team work

co-operation
self esteem

What improved?

thinking skills
behaviour
curriculum links

community cohesion

Website: www.patricebaldwin.com

Email: patrice@dramaforlearning.eu

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