Drama - and its effects

Prof. Dr. Romi Domkowsky

Theatre arts spread out a special fascination. For educators the fascination of making theatre is often combined with the expectation of learning effects. At the young field of theatre pedagogies the question of any impact of playing theatre is one of its basics. A historical review of the educational ideas linked with playing theatre shows, that theatre arts often have been seen as learning tools for reaching different religious, educational, moral or political goals. Well founded studies to prove any impact of artistic-educational work are rare.

The effects of arts-education are mostly based on anecdotal evidence but uncorroborated by empirical facts. In the field of theatre pedagogies so far there have been no founded empirical researches concerning this question. The starting point of this study is the assumption, that playing theatre is supposed to have (transfer) effects and with it contributes to the development of personality or rather changes personality in a certain way. Cultural education, the development of personality and competences are not seen as opposites but as completing and integrative parts of education. The first part of this study is focussed on theatre work as an education in the arts.

Theatre work is described and analysed as a phenomenon of aesthetical education. In a detailed ‘thick description’ it is reflected, which aesthetical processes take place during a theatre production and which aesthetical experiences and skills are linked with them. Out of it parts of an aesthetical competence are analysed and developed. In the second part of this study the development of personality of young people, who were playing theatre in the long term, is reflected. The study examines transfer possibilities of experiences and skills received during the process of playing theatre or occuping theirselves with theatre arts. The starting point of the research about transfer qualities was the hypothesis, that playing theatre in a regular way increases personal, social, acting and learning competences of young people. Personal developments are examined in regard to well-being, interests and engagement, wishes and perspectives, attitudes and values, personal and social skills.

In a longitudinal research several potentials for special effects of theatre arts have been discovered. Changes, which could be attributed especially to performing, were determined by a comprehensive design of research. Furthermore the development in the group was reflected and how young people, who decided to play theatre, differ from the others. The resarch is always aware of the complexity and wide range of factors having influence and importance for the development of personality before and beside the occupation with theatre arts. The analysis looks at the observed course of development in a systemic connection. The study does not start out from a naive-moral effect mechanismpoint of view of theatre arts. With this study a new specific theatre pedagogical research approach was developed trying to get closer to practice of theatre work with young people and being appropriately to the medium theatre. Theatre arts as well as educational theory form starting points.

The study used several perspectives of research. Qualitative and quantitatve research methods were integrated to get an appropriate view on the research subject. The study shows for the first time on an empirical generalizable level, rich of material, what influences theatre work has on the development of young people. It was pointed out, that playing theatre is a special form of cultural education and education in general. The multilayered fields of experiences during the aesthetical process and the amazing transfer effects for example according to openness and extroversion refer to a special effective and lasting way of learning in context of the examination of theatre arts. Obviously playing theatre is linked to learning modes that have deeply implementing effects.

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