As I type this, I am on a plane on the way back home from Brisbane. Truthfully I am feeling quite tired and could do with a little nap, but instead felt the need to write about my experiences at the Drama Queensland conference and some of the beautiful gems I picked up along the way.
Before you stop reading, don’t assume that you have to exclusively be a creative arts teacher to Whether you are a creative arts teacher or not, I feel that you could pick up some great and inspiring information no matter what area of teaching you work in.
Day one: Friday night keynote speakers
Friday night I witnessed a lovely presentation by the Drama Queensland life members and a brilliant (and quite engaging) keynote address by Dr Rachel Jacobs. She is a former Creative Arts Secondary teacher and current University lecturer who has in recent times researched assessment in senior creative arts subjects. She gave some wonderful insights (and reminders) about how to approach assessment and how to teach/ critique from a place of love and respect.
In regards to student’s views on assessment (specifically the change to external assessment and ATAR) she presented some of her findings through scripted performances by some of the conference attendees. I got the privilege of being one of those performers…. sadly I had to be from New South Wales though (:-P)! Not only were the typical things brought up that we have come to routinely know in the classroom as teachers of the arts but also the student’s headspace regarding assessment. Her findings can to the generalized conclusion that students looked at a criteria sheet as a scale for teacher marking rather than a tool to carry/ develop student work. Students also worry that they are working to the test and it’s that 25% in the final assessment piece that matters the most. Every single student interviewed wanted their creative efforts and products rewarded and acknowledge with praise and/or quantifiable feedback.
In regards to teaching from a place of love and respect, Rachel bought up some great thoughts and concepts teachers of the creative arts should be considering engaging in with their students:
- · Drama gives students a penalty-free way to explore personal issues that may not be able to be explored in society.
- · Theatre is the viehcle, but the ultimate destination is love. Students should be encouraged to use theatre as a means of self-expression, problem solving, higher order thinking and social development.
- · Drama is a collaboration between teacher and students.
- · Know what motivates students and run with it! Encourage students to develop their strengths and create theatre from things that engage and motivate them.
- · Education isn’t a transaction, it’s a transformation for both teacher and student. Students transform through emotional/social maturity, skill development…. Among other things. Teachers transform through experiences within the classroom and the continual implementation of feedback/ reflection on yearly tasks. Some students who walk into our Drama classrooms may impact us for life and change some of our teaching methodologies forever.
Day 2: Keynote Speakers, Workshops, Seminars and Performance
The inspiration continued on Saturday with two more amazing speakers followed by a couple of seminars and insightful live performance by Queensland Youth Theatre. The first keynote speakers Stephen (who is studying theatre history) went over the history of theatre and his predictions of where theatre is going. Even through all of this, he always went back to one point: The centre of all theatre is the actor and the audience. Without those two things, theatre would fail to exist. He discussed three particular things that are developing in theatre around the world at this stage:
· App Theatre: It is theatre which is lead from home rather than the stage. The audience go to a website or upload an app and go through a bit of a ‘choose your own adventure’. The actor plays out the first part of the story live and the audience choose the direction the performance could possibly go. Algorhythms then plot out a storyline which is played in installments to the audience. The intent of App Theatre is reversing the theatre experience: Going from ‘private’ within a public forum (the stage) to ‘public’ within a private forum (device from home). I look forward to finding some age appropriate ones to show to my students!
· Pod Theatre: Similar to app theatre, except the theatre experience is on a stage. The audience are engaged in the performance by using their devices to vote on the direction of the plot. This gives the audience control over all aspects of the storyline.
· Re-imagined (3D) Cinematic Stage Experience: One of the major theatre groups in the UK is presenting a performance of A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream ( I think – I may need to double check this), where basically some of the fairies are created in 3D through action cinemagraphy (not sure of real terminology) and they perform live with the real performers on the stage. The images are controlled through various devices. Would be an interesting one to learn more about.
Although I found the second speaker had some interesting and engaging concepts, for the sake of time, I will go into stuff I learned within the workshops.
The workshops themselves were quite interesting and informative. In hindsight, I should have done something different for workshop one, but I still got some helpful ideas for my Junior Drama class. Here are a handful of things I took away from the workshops:
- · Practical Form is an authentic means of ‘SHOWING DRAMA’ so written justification shouldn’t be needed.
- · Encourage your students to navigate the development of their Forming pieces by following the Southern Cross format (apparently QCAA are looking into introducing this at some stage…. I think): Purpose, text, context, synthesized dramatic action and style.
- · District Panelists suggested explicitly teaching the students how to best utilize the 15-minute perusal time before presenting workshops. That way students have purpose while they are directing.
- · One essential question which should assist in justifying is: ‘What is the purpose of the dramatic work?’ If a student can answer this question clearly in one sentence, they are on track towards effectively justifying their work.
- · There were suggestions that in Directing Tasks, Directors can justify through the language they speak throughout the workshop.
- · “Great quality Directors ask questions so that actors can respond.”
Around lunchtime, Queensland Youth Theatre (Formerly Artslink) presented a sample of a pretty interesting interactive performance which will be touring around Queensland this year. The theme is bullying and the whole point of the performance is to allow students (specifically Primary and lower Secondary age) to safely experiment with and implement effective options to problem solve bullying scenarios. Yet again, I got myself up on the stage and performed in a scenario…. was awesome being on the stage again, even though it was only momentary.
In all, the conference was such an incredible and rewarding experience which gave me some fresh ideas and perspectives for my own classroom as well inspired me to keep pushing on. If you can ever get the opportunity to go, definitely give it a go…. Even if it’s only once. Drama conference is such a worthwhile investment towards becoming an even better teacher.