Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

Review of: Creating Democratic Citizenship Through Drama Education: the Writings of Jonothan Neelands, edited by Peter O'Connor

Tarry, E. (2011) Review of: Creating Democratic Citizenship Through Drama Education: the Writings of Jonothan Neelands, edited by Peter O'Connor. Journal of Education for Teaching. 37(3), pp. 365-366. 1360-0540.

Item Type: Article
Abstract: The title ‘Creating democratic citizenship through drama education’ may initially lead the reader into thinking this would be a practical guide to teaching citizenship through drama. However, it is a collection of writings written over 25 years, containing predominantly the theory and philosophy of using drama as a way of teaching and learning. It would be suitable as support for undergraduate students on teacher training courses focusing on Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 pupils. The synopsis on the back cover is accurate in terms of identifying its intentional target reader as being one who is specifically interested in drama and drama education. It also highlights the book’s intention to describe the place of drama in the curriculum and the importance and functionality of the theatre, which is achieved. Another aspect that I considered when I reviewed this book was whether it truly addressed the issue of democratic citizenship and whether this could be achieved, as it says, through drama. The book is divided into three sections: Making Sense of Drama, The Argument for Drama and Pro-Social Pedagogy. The selected papers have been chosen to highlight Neelands’ ‘journey of his practice and thinking over the past twenty five years’ (xxiv). The introduction gives an overview, integrating and emphasising the historical context in which the Neelands’ papers were written. The introduction addresses the approach and reasoning to using drama, highlighting the role of a teacher as a facilitator encouraging the pupils to talk rather than being teacher led. As the first two chapters in the book were lesson exemplars I found them the most engaging: Chapter 1 Beowulf, a sample lesson in Section 1, and Chapter 11, The Arrival, in Section 3. The lesson in Chapter 1 is not suitable for the generalist undergraduate primary school teacher but demands a specialist drama undergraduate or somebody who has experience and a lot of confidence. However, Neelands does direct the reader to the adapted version of Beowulf from which this lesson was created for the reader to investigate further. Chapter 11, The Arrival, could be suitable for the general practitioner of upper primary and above, but as with Chapter 2 the practitioner would have to be very confident. Chapter 11 concentrates on oral history researched by the children. It is a practical guide including the required key resources for the activities. The children, through small activities, which are part of a whole, focus on families, communities, highlighting citizenship and encouraging global awareness. The children are encouraged to enthuse and empathise with other people’s differing perspectives and opinions, giving credibility to the title of the book. In contrast, the other chapters in the book are predominantly theory. For example, Chapter 3 identifies what drama is and what drama aims to achieve, highlighting the difficulties teachers may encounter. It attempts to define the relationship between the learner and the teacher, and the relationship between story, play and language development. Neelands describes the importance of story and play in the development of Key Stage 1 children’s language development, leading to the natural progression of role-play in Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3. It makes links to the National Curriculum of England and Wales (HMI 1988) and the HMI (1985) document Drama 5–16. Unfortunately, the concept of democracy and citizenship is tenuously linked in the very last sentences of the last paragraph. Another example of the theoretical grounding can be found in Chapter 6. It is supported by a number of references, although as this is a historical journey they are from 1914 to 1993. Again, it is suitable for an undergraduate student interested in drama as technical language is used and prior knowledge is required. There is an emphasis on the Euro-American theatre and the ‘growing tide of criticism of the educational drama tradition’ (79). Considering the aim of the book was to create democratic citizenship, it is surprising that this is not discussed or defined in detail. It is only really addressed in the last section, Pro-Social Pedagogy. This section contains four chapters, one of which is The Arrival that I mentioned earlier, and is the most interesting and purposeful; relating more with society and democracy. As this is a collection of Neelands’ writings over 25 years it is not unexpected that the last section is more up to date and relevant to today’s perception of democracy and citizenship. Overall, I was slightly disappointed with the collection of writings as they failed to address fully the practical or the theory side of drama, or the issue of democratic citizenship. The book attempts to address too wide a focus and does not do any one area justice. However, I would suggest that the editor of the book has given the reader an introduction to Neelands’ writing, highlighting Neelands’ extensive experience, and would lead the reader to further writings of specific interest by Neelands.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN3171 Drama in education
L Education > LC Special aspects of Education > LC980 Types of education > LC1090 Political education > LC1091 Citizenship
Creators: Tarry, Estelle
Publisher: Routledge
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities > Education, Children and Young People
Faculties > Faculty of Education & Humanities > Education, Children and Young People
Date: 2011
Date Type: Publication
Page Range: pp. 365-366
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Education for Teaching
Volume: 37
Number: 3
Language: English
ISSN: 1360-0540
Status: Published / Disseminated
Refereed: No

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