This 2017 study assessed the effects of theater-based teaching methods on levels of hope and other positive social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes in adolescent students following participation in an arts-based camp using theater and photography approaches. Participants reported a heightened sense of hope on the “agency thinking” (goal-directed determination) and “pathways” (planning of ways to meet goals) subscales of Snyder’s Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1991) after a week of collaboration and interdependent play-building. In addition, the study explored youth’s expressions of connection, engagement, and resilience through qualitative methods. In pre- and post-camp focus groups, participants shared feelings of worry and fear over world and political problems at the outset and of belonging and empowerment at the end.
“No one is born fully-formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.”
― Paulo Freire
As a developing scholar in the Disability and Diversity in School and Society Specialization at the University of Kansas, I focus on the intersecting oppressions of disability, race, ethnicity, social class, language, gender, and sexuality in education and society. My research focus is application of theater-based work in schools and as culturally responsive pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995). My inquiry is based on the assumption that, as theatre is a dynamic, synergistic modality (Freire, 1970; Boal, 1979), it may be built into classroom practice aimed at building a dynamic and synergistic relationship between home/community culture and school culture.
Creating theater and the corollary experience of being an audience member or experiencer of it involve “bringing a group of people together to share in a ritualistic encounter (that) resonates beyond the political ideas any drama may happen to promote—the human encounter can actually begin to shape society instead of merely commenting on it” (Zazalli, 2013, p. 5). Conceptually, I explore the tripartite intersections of theatre, education, and culturally responsive pedagogy. Theatre is an accessible, versatile, and useful social-emotional and academic tool available to teachers. My interest is in promoting use of such tools in education and deconstructing the ways education and special education block use of these alternative interventions to facilitate connection and belonging for our youth in classrooms and community -- and to disassemble the many ways we disempower them.