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SocietySpiegeloog 416: Language

Our Education System Needs a Change

By February 7, 2022February 10th, 2022No Comments

The sole focus of our education on verbal language has huge repercussions on an individual’s engagement with the world as an adult. We can start rebuilding our education system by improving this.

The sole focus of our education on verbal language has huge repercussions on an individual’s engagement with the world as an adult. We can start rebuilding our education system by improving this.

Photo by Unsplash

Our education system needs a change. We all know that. It is easy for one to stumble upon a blog (e.g., Acaroglu, 2018), or a TED Talk (Robinson, 2006, 2018), that discusses how our current education kills creativity or how it is not practical enough. With this growing awareness and discontent, many countries in the world are looking for ways to reform their education. However, this issue is extremely multifaceted with a diverse array of root causes which are inherent within the society. With all this in mind, where can we begin this reconstruction process?

Literary or scientific, liberal or specialist, all our education is predominantly verbal and therefore fails to accomplish what it is supposed to do. Instead of transforming children into fully developed adults, it turns out students of the natural sciences who are completely unaware of Nature as the primary fact of experience, it inflicts upon the world students of the humanities who know nothing of humanity, their own or anyone else’s.” (Huxley, 1954)

Already in 1954, in his essay, Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley criticized education for being predominantly verbal. Regarding inclusivity of other forms of learning, I do not think our education system improved even a tiny bit in the last seven decades. In our Western society, sight and hearing are at the top of the hierarchy of the senses, mainly because they are believed to be more objective (see Howes, 2005). However, by focusing on only verbal language as a means of communication and instruction, the current education system disregards a complete array of other systems which we normally utilize to learn about the world. As a result, through going through this education system, we spend a very large portion of our lives engaging with the world in a way that is unnatural to us all. This is a problem, that we just prefer to ignore, simply because ‘this is the way things have always been’. 

As easy as it is to ignore such structurally embedded problems, especially this one, we shouldn’t. How a person is raised has immense repercussions on their later engagement with the world. And let’s face it, we currently do not teach anything to individuals about how to engage with the world. This should be changed. One way to begin changing our education system to the better is by incorporating educational drama to the classroom.

“We spend a very large portion of our lives engaging with the world in a way that is unnatural to us all.”

The Solution: Educational Drama

Educational drama broadly refers to theatrical activities in an educational setting that students actively participate in an ‘as-if dramatic world’ in order to facilitate learning (Andersen, 2004). Educational drama can be incorporated into the teaching of many subjects, including the sciences. For example, students can act like electrons while learning about electrical circuits in chemistry (Aubusson et al., 1997), or students can try to better understand the electrolysis in biology through embodying the different components of the process (Sarıçayır, 2010). Before starting, I would like to note that by no means I argue that all the problems of current education can be solved by introducing educational drama to the classroom alone; it is simply a relatively easy first step that we can take when rebuilding our education system, which can benefit students on various domains.

Educational Drama for the Benefit of Students

Educational drama can be a very powerful tool to increase student health, enjoyment, and subsequent engagement especially for younger students. It suits the needs of younger age groups more than traditional teaching methods, which simply neglect the need for physical engagement. Contrary to other active participation interventions, educational drama is much more malleable to implementation in a diverse range of subjects in the curriculum. Previous research shows that drama education can be used in many teachings, ranging from vocabulary (Demircioǧlu, 2010) to science (Alrutz, 2009; Dorion, 2009; Najami et al., 2019), from learning mathematics (Fleming et al., 2010) to developing ‘mental hygiene’ (Tanvi, 1995).

Educational Drama is More Physically Active

Physically active nature of educational drama, which is missing in traditional teaching methods, can contribute to the enjoyment and health of students. For younger age groups, it is unnatural to sit still in a classroom for eight hours a day, and this brings about the negative associations with school. Regarding this, a recent meta-analysis shows that more active classrooms are associated with increased enjoyment, and this in turn predicts better learning outcomes (Bedard et al., 2019). Arguably, creating more positive associations with education early on is critical for student engagement and learning.

Such physical activity can also contribute to student mental and physical health. Research shows that the current rates of physical activity for younger ages are very low in most countries, and this has many adverse physical and mental health consequences (see Hills et al., 2015 for a review). For example, it is highly probable that we might be pathologizing a basic need for young individuals to be more physically active and incorrectly diagnosing an unnecessary number of individuals with ADHD. Research shows that physical activity can positively affect both physical as well as cognitive functioning in children diagnosed with ADHD (Verret et al., 2012). Introducing educational drama to classrooms can provide a very basic need especially younger students have, and this can positively influence enjoyment, physical health, and mental health. These are all reasons for implementation in and of themselves, but they can in turn affect other areas.

Educational Drama has Better Learning and Creativity Outcomes

Another important consideration for an educational intervention is improving learning outcomes. The power of educational drama lies in its capability to engage the body and provide a contextualized world, and previous research in cognitive psychology shows that such embodiment and analogical induction is necessary for a better learning experience (see Duffy, 2012 for a review). Humans understand and learn about the world through engaging with it physically, not just through by merely being passive receivers of verbal instruction. Thus, participating in this ‘as-if dramatic world’ lets the students acquire implicit knowledge, ground theoretical knowledge, engage in everyday learning, and convert their motivation into a more intrinsic one (Andersen, 2004). For example, previous research has demonstrated that educational drama can facilitate better learning in mathematics as well as improve student attitude towards the subject (Fleming et al., 2010). Additionally, compared to other active participation interventions, educational drama can additionally positively affect creativity. The improvised nature of this process is definitely a. benefit, as research shows that improvising facilitates creativity in children (Sowden et al., 2015).

“Educational drama can be a very powerful tool to increase student health, enjoyment, and subsequent engagement.”

Educational Drama for Engaging in Societal Issues

Educational drama can provide more than facilitating the teaching of subjects like science. It can actually equip students with the problem-solving skills for real-life problems and practical knowledge for societal issues, where the traditional teaching methods fall short. In the classroom the Theatre of the Oppressed framework can be utilized (Boal, 1974). Inspired by Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, an educational framework, Boal developed an arsenal of theatrical methods to wield against oppression in society. For example, in his most notable technique called the ‘Forum Theatre’, the audience who is watching the performance, which is usually about a societal issue, is encouraged to intervene and alter the course of the performance. Such techniques in Boal’s arsenal, which are based on pedagogical theories, can be advantageous tools in high schools.

Educational drama based on Boal’s ideas can give students the medium to express themselves and practice with how they deal with societal issues. For example, Manzi and colleagues (2020) demonstrated that, compared to didactically touching on the subject, Forum Theatre as an educational tool is better in preparing medical students to problems in the workplace regarding race. Thus, here, the engagement and actual problem-solving with the material is truly important. This aspect of educational drama can even gain more importance for discussing topics that are of importance to students, for example bullying. Previous research also shows that the use of Forum Theatre can benefit students’ understanding of bullying and it has the potential to prevent it (Gourd & Gourd, 2011). Therefore, in these aspects educational drama can be both sociologically as well as psychologically beneficial for students. Specifically, the Theatre of the Oppressed framework can be highly beneficial for practically learning how to deal with societal issues.

We Need to Start from Somewhere 

I have to admit that it is arguably very difficult trying to tackle the big, complex, and intricate social issue of educational reform. However, we have got to start from somewhere. Introducing educational drama is a very promising improvement. Dramaturgy should be used wherever, and whenever, possible in the education system for the benefit of students.<<

References

  • Acaroglu, L. (2018, October 22). System Failures: The Education System and the Proliferation of Reductive Thinking. Disruptive Design. https://medium.com/disruptive-design/system-failures-the-education-system-and-the-proliferation-of-reductive-thinking-dccf7dbb9b96
  • Alrutz, M. (2009). Granting Science A Dramatic License: Exploring a 4th Grade Science Classroom and the Possibilities for Integrating Drama. Teaching Artist Journal, 2(1), 31–39. https://doi.org/10.1207/S1541180XTAJ0201_6
  • Andersen, C. (2004). Learning in “As-If” Worlds: Cognition in Drama in Education. Theory Into Practice, 43(4), 281–286. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4304_6
  • Aubusson, P., Fogwill, S., Barr, R., & Perkovic, L. (1997). What happens when students do simulation-role-play in science? Research in Science Education 1997 27:4, 27(4), 565–579. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02461481
  • Bedard, C., St John, L., Bremer, E., Graham, J. D., & Cairney, J. (2019). A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of physically active classrooms on educational and enjoyment outcomes in school age children. PLOS ONE, 14(6), e0218633. https://doi.org/10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0218633
  • Boal, A. (1974). Theatre of the Oppressed. Theatre Communications Group.
  • Demircioǧlu, Ş. (2010). Teaching English vocabulary to young learners via drama. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 439–443. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.SBSPRO.2010.03.039
  • Dorion, K. R. (2009). Science through Drama: A multiple case exploration of the characteristics of drama activities used in secondary science lessons. International Journal of Science Education, 31(16), 2247–2270. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500690802712699
  • Duffy, P. (2012). Problem Finders in Problem Spaces: A Review of Cognitive Research for Drama in Education. Youth Theatre Journal, 26(2), 120–132. https://doi.org/10.1080/08929092.2012.723562
  • Fleming, M., Merrell, C., & Tymms, P. (2010). The impact of drama on pupils’ language, mathematics, and attitude in two primary schools. Research in Drama Edıucation, 9(2), 177–197. https://doi.org/10.1080/1356978042000255067
  • Gourd, K. M., & Gourd, T. Y. (2011). Enacting Democracy: Using Forum Theatre to Confront Bullying. Equity & Excellence in Education, 44(3), 403–419. https://doi.org/10.1080/10665684.2011.589275
  • Hills, A. P., Dengel, D. R., & Lubans, D. R. (2015). Supporting Public Health Priorities: Recommendations for Physical Education and Physical Activity Promotion in Schools. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 57(4), 368–374. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.PCAD.2014.09.010
  • Manzi, J., Casapulla, S., Kropf, K., Baker, B., Biechler, M., Finch, T., Gerth, A., & Randolph, C. (2020). Responding to Racism in the Clinical Setting: A Novel Use of Forum Theatre in Social Medicine Education. Journal of Medical Humanities, 41(4), 489–500. https://doi.org/10.1007/S10912-020-09608-8/TABLES/2
  • Najami, N., Hugerat, M., Khalil, K., & Hofstein, A. (2019). Effectiveness of Teaching Science by Drama. Creative Education, 10(01), 97–110. https://doi.org/10.4236/CE.2019.101007
  • Robinson, K. (2006, February). Do schools kill creativity? TED Conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_do_schools_kill_creativity
  • Robinson, K. (2018, December). Sir Ken Robinson (still) wants an education revolution. TED Interviews. https://www.ted.com/talks/ the_ted_interview_sir_ken_robinson_still_wants_an_education_revolution
  • Sarıçayır, H. (2010). Teaching Electrolysis of Water Through Drama. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 9(3), 179–186.
  • Sowden, P. T., Clements, L., Redlich, C., & Lewis, C. (2015). Improvisation facilitates divergent thinking and creativity: Realizing a benefit of primary school arts education. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(2), 128–138. https://doi.org/10.1037/ACA0000018
  • Tanvi, T. (1995). Drama in Education as Mental Hygiene: A Child Psychiatrist’s Perspective. Youth Theatre Journal, 9, 92–96. https://www.blatner.com/adam/level2/dramaed.htm
  • Verret, C., Guay, M. C., Berthiaume, C., Gardiner, P., & Béliveau, L. (2012). A physical activity program improves behavior and cognitive functions in children with ADHD: An exploratory study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 16(1), 71–80. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054710379735

Our education system needs a change. We all know that. It is easy for one to stumble upon a blog (e.g., Acaroglu, 2018), or a TED Talk (Robinson, 2006, 2018), that discusses how our current education kills creativity or how it is not practical enough. With this growing awareness and discontent, many countries in the world are looking for ways to reform their education. However, this issue is extremely multifaceted with a diverse array of root causes which are inherent within the society. With all this in mind, where can we begin this reconstruction process?

Literary or scientific, liberal or specialist, all our education is predominantly verbal and therefore fails to accomplish what it is supposed to do. Instead of transforming children into fully developed adults, it turns out students of the natural sciences who are completely unaware of Nature as the primary fact of experience, it inflicts upon the world students of the humanities who know nothing of humanity, their own or anyone else’s.” (Huxley, 1954)

Already in 1954, in his essay, Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley criticized education for being predominantly verbal. Regarding inclusivity of other forms of learning, I do not think our education system improved even a tiny bit in the last seven decades. In our Western society, sight and hearing are at the top of the hierarchy of the senses, mainly because they are believed to be more objective (see Howes, 2005). However, by focusing on only verbal language as a means of communication and instruction, the current education system disregards a complete array of other systems which we normally utilize to learn about the world. As a result, through going through this education system, we spend a very large portion of our lives engaging with the world in a way that is unnatural to us all. This is a problem, that we just prefer to ignore, simply because ‘this is the way things have always been’. 

As easy as it is to ignore such structurally embedded problems, especially this one, we shouldn’t. How a person is raised has immense repercussions on their later engagement with the world. And let’s face it, we currently do not teach anything to individuals about how to engage with the world. This should be changed. One way to begin changing our education system to the better is by incorporating educational drama to the classroom.

“We spend a very large portion of our lives engaging with the world in a way that is unnatural to us all.”

The Solution: Educational Drama

Educational drama broadly refers to theatrical activities in an educational setting that students actively participate in an ‘as-if dramatic world’ in order to facilitate learning (Andersen, 2004). Educational drama can be incorporated into the teaching of many subjects, including the sciences. For example, students can act like electrons while learning about electrical circuits in chemistry (Aubusson et al., 1997), or students can try to better understand the electrolysis in biology through embodying the different components of the process (Sarıçayır, 2010). Before starting, I would like to note that by no means I argue that all the problems of current education can be solved by introducing educational drama to the classroom alone; it is simply a relatively easy first step that we can take when rebuilding our education system, which can benefit students on various domains.

Educational Drama for the Benefit of Students

Educational drama can be a very powerful tool to increase student health, enjoyment, and subsequent engagement, especially for younger students. It suits the needs of younger age groups more than traditional teaching methods, which simply neglect the need for physical engagement. Contrary to other active participation interventions, educational drama is much more malleable to implementation in a diverse range of subjects in the curriculum. Previous research shows that drama education can be used in many teachings, ranging from vocabulary (Demircioǧlu, 2010) to science (Alrutz, 2009; Dorion, 2009; Najami et al., 2019), from learning mathematics (Fleming et al., 2010) to developing ‘mental hygiene’ (Tanvi, 1995).

Educational Drama is More Physically Active

Physically active nature of educational drama, which is missing in traditional teaching methods, can contribute to the enjoyment and health of students. For younger age groups, it is unnatural to sit still in a classroom for eight hours a day, and this brings about the negative associations with school. Regarding this, a recent meta-analysis shows that more active classrooms are associated with increased enjoyment, and this in turn predicts better learning outcomes (Bedard et al., 2019). Arguably, creating more positive associations with education early on is critical for student engagement and learning.

Such physical activity can also contribute to student mental and physical health. Research shows that the current rates of physical activity for younger ages are very low in most countries, and this has many adverse physical and mental health consequences (see Hills et al., 2015 for a review). For example, it is highly probable that we might be pathologizing a basic need for young individuals to be more physically active and incorrectly diagnosing an unnecessary number of individuals with ADHD. Research shows that physical activity can positively affect both physical as well as cognitive functioning in children diagnosed with ADHD (Verret et al., 2012). Introducing educational drama to classrooms can provide a very basic need especially younger students have, and this can positively influence enjoyment, physical health, and mental health. These are all reasons for implementation in and of themselves, but they can in turn affect other areas.

Educational Drama has Better Learning and Creativity Outcomes

Another important consideration for an educational intervention is improving learning outcomes. The power of educational drama lies in its capability to engage the body and provide a contextualized world, and previous research in cognitive psychology shows that such embodiment and analogical induction is necessary for a better learning experience (see Duffy, 2012 for a review). Humans understand and learn about the world through engaging with it physically, not just through by merely being passive receivers of verbal instruction. Thus, participating in this ‘as-if dramatic world’ lets the students acquire implicit knowledge, ground theoretical knowledge, engage in everyday learning, and convert their motivation into a more intrinsic one (Andersen, 2004). For example, previous research has demonstrated that educational drama can facilitate better learning in mathematics as well as improve student attitude towards the subject (Fleming et al., 2010). Additionally, compared to other active participation interventions, educational drama can additionally positively affect creativity. The improvised nature of this process is definitely a benefit, as research shows that improvising facilitates creativity in children (Sowden et al., 2015).

“Educational drama can be a very powerful tool to increase student health, enjoyment, and subsequent engagement.”

Educational Drama for Engaging in Societal Issues

Educational drama can provide more than facilitating the teaching of subjects like science. It can actually equip students with the problem-solving skills for real-life problems and practical knowledge for societal issues, where the traditional teaching methods fall short. In the classroom the Theatre of the Oppressed framework can be utilized (Boal, 1974). Inspired by Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, an educational framework, Boal developed an arsenal of theatrical methods to wield against oppression in society. For example, in his most notable technique called the ‘Forum Theatre’, the audience who is watching the performance, which is usually about a societal issue, is encouraged to intervene and alter the course of the performance. Such techniques in Boal’s arsenal, which are based on pedagogical theories, can be advantageous tools in high schools.

Educational drama based on Boal’s ideas can give students the medium to express themselves and practice with how they deal with societal issues. For example, Manzi and colleagues (2020) demonstrated that, compared to didactically touching on the subject, Forum Theatre as an educational tool is better in preparing medical students to problems in the workplace regarding race. Thus, here, the engagement and actual problem-solving with the material is truly important. This aspect of educational drama can even gain more importance for discussing topics that are of importance to students, for example bullying. Previous research also shows that the use of Forum Theatre can benefit students’ understanding of bullying and it has the potential to prevent it (Gourd & Gourd, 2011). Therefore, in these aspects educational drama can be both sociologically as well as psychologically beneficial for students. Specifically, the Theatre of the Oppressed framework can be highly beneficial for practically learning how to deal with societal issues.

We Need to Start from Somewhere 

I have to admit that it is arguably very difficult trying to tackle the big, complex, and intricate social issue of educational reform. However, we have got to start from somewhere. Introducing educational drama is a very promising improvement. Dramaturgy should be used wherever, and whenever, possible in the education system for the benefit of students.<<

References

  • Acaroglu, L. (2018, October 22). System Failures: The Education System and the Proliferation of Reductive Thinking. Disruptive Design. https://medium.com/disruptive-design/system-failures-the-education-system-and-the-proliferation-of-reductive-thinking-dccf7dbb9b96
  • Alrutz, M. (2009). Granting Science A Dramatic License: Exploring a 4th Grade Science Classroom and the Possibilities for Integrating Drama. Teaching Artist Journal, 2(1), 31–39. https://doi.org/10.1207/S1541180XTAJ0201_6
  • Andersen, C. (2004). Learning in “As-If” Worlds: Cognition in Drama in Education. Theory Into Practice, 43(4), 281–286. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4304_6
  • Aubusson, P., Fogwill, S., Barr, R., & Perkovic, L. (1997). What happens when students do simulation-role-play in science? Research in Science Education 1997 27:4, 27(4), 565–579. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02461481
  • Bedard, C., St John, L., Bremer, E., Graham, J. D., & Cairney, J. (2019). A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of physically active classrooms on educational and enjoyment outcomes in school age children. PLOS ONE, 14(6), e0218633. https://doi.org/10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0218633
  • Boal, A. (1974). Theatre of the Oppressed. Theatre Communications Group.
  • Demircioǧlu, Ş. (2010). Teaching English vocabulary to young learners via drama. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 439–443. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.SBSPRO.2010.03.039
  • Dorion, K. R. (2009). Science through Drama: A multiple case exploration of the characteristics of drama activities used in secondary science lessons. International Journal of Science Education, 31(16), 2247–2270. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500690802712699
  • Duffy, P. (2012). Problem Finders in Problem Spaces: A Review of Cognitive Research for Drama in Education. Youth Theatre Journal, 26(2), 120–132. https://doi.org/10.1080/08929092.2012.723562
  • Fleming, M., Merrell, C., & Tymms, P. (2010). The impact of drama on pupils’ language, mathematics, and attitude in two primary schools. Research in Drama Edıucation, 9(2), 177–197. https://doi.org/10.1080/1356978042000255067
  • Gourd, K. M., & Gourd, T. Y. (2011). Enacting Democracy: Using Forum Theatre to Confront Bullying. Equity & Excellence in Education, 44(3), 403–419. https://doi.org/10.1080/10665684.2011.589275
  • Hills, A. P., Dengel, D. R., & Lubans, D. R. (2015). Supporting Public Health Priorities: Recommendations for Physical Education and Physical Activity Promotion in Schools. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 57(4), 368–374. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.PCAD.2014.09.010
  • Manzi, J., Casapulla, S., Kropf, K., Baker, B., Biechler, M., Finch, T., Gerth, A., & Randolph, C. (2020). Responding to Racism in the Clinical Setting: A Novel Use of Forum Theatre in Social Medicine Education. Journal of Medical Humanities, 41(4), 489–500. https://doi.org/10.1007/S10912-020-09608-8/TABLES/2
  • Najami, N., Hugerat, M., Khalil, K., & Hofstein, A. (2019). Effectiveness of Teaching Science by Drama. Creative Education, 10(01), 97–110. https://doi.org/10.4236/CE.2019.101007
  • Robinson, K. (2006, February). Do schools kill creativity? TED Conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_do_schools_kill_creativity
  • Robinson, K. (2018, December). Sir Ken Robinson (still) wants an education revolution. TED Interviews. https://www.ted.com/talks/the_ted_interview_sir_ken_robinson_still_wants_an_education_revolution
  • Sarıçayır, H. (2010). Teaching Electrolysis of Water Through Drama. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 9(3), 179–186.
  • Sowden, P. T., Clements, L., Redlich, C., & Lewis, C. (2015). Improvisation facilitates divergent thinking and creativity: Realizing a benefit of primary school arts education. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(2), 128–138. https://doi.org/10.1037/ACA0000018
  • Tanvi, T. (1995). Drama in Education as Mental Hygiene: A Child Psychiatrist’s Perspective. Youth Theatre Journal, 9, 92–96. https://www.blatner.com/adam/level2/dramaed.htm
  • Verret, C., Guay, M. C., Berthiaume, C., Gardiner, P., & Béliveau, L. (2012). A physical activity program improves behavior and cognitive functions in children with ADHD: An exploratory study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 16(1), 71–80. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054710379735
Arda Ergin

Author Arda Ergin

Arda (2000) is a third-year psychology student specializing in Social Psychology and Psychology Methods, as well as doing a minor in Anthropology. He is mainly interested in writing about social processes, cultural phenomena, and scientific communication.

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