This thesis examines how the teaching of drama can be enhanced through needs-driven,
school-based professional learning. It was motivated by a personal ‘living
contradiction’, involving the frustration that can result when beliefs and actions do not
correspond. My learning journey continued through literature searches and preliminary
work with teachers that resulted in an effective process of professional learning with
The research design draws on elements of action research, situated, and action learning
theories, to develop a process of ‘facilitated action research’. Informed, but not limited
by existing models of action research, this collaborative process was responsive to
teacher preferences in addressing the three research aims. Evolving over two phases
with eleven teachers, the bulk of the study followed the stories of five teachers and their
professional learning. Data collection tools included the use of semi-structured
interviews, conversations, a questionnaire, survey and reflective journals.
The findings demonstrated that professional learning, responsive to context and self-identified
needs, positively enhanced the teaching of drama. Teacher confidence and
awareness of drama gradually increased, as did teacher ability to self-direct learning.
Areas of skill development, integration and time management were initially identified as
a focus for professional learning, with classroom and behaviour management added as
school-based issues arose. Establishing a ‘common understanding of drama’ was
acknowledged as critical for effective collaborative learning to take place. Personal
factors including confidence, experience and belief, and the contextual factors of
parental expectation, outcomes, time, space and past professional learning were found to
facilitate or constrain drama use. The research found that professional learning,
characterised by a respect for past experiences, assisted in the creation of a ‘safe space’
for learning. Tailoring professional learning to needs and the school context was also
found to motivate teachers and was effective in enhancing the teaching of drama. My
role as ‘facilitator’ became embedded in the collaborative process, adding to a personal
understanding of role and school-based learning.
This study is significant for teachers, professional learning facilitators and those
working in drama education. It contributes to the minimal research emphasising
professional learning for drama, and strengthens existing arguments for needs-driven,
school-based teacher development.