Transcript of The Drama GP

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the Drama GP podcast (41:31).

Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the creative arts curriculum team from secondary learners educational standards directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education.

As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all First Nations People hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders, past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today, who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.

Ravenna – Welcome to the Creative Cast podcast series. My name's Ravenna Gregory and I'm a creative arts curriculum officer with the New South Wales Department of Education. This episode, we're going to be talking about ways of navigating the often intense highs and lows of the HSC group devising process and my guests are two drama teachers from opposite ends of the state.

Now in her 18th year of teaching, Simone Museth taught at Ashfield Boys and Lithgow High before moving to her current role as drama teacher and relieving head teacher TAS at Byron Bay High School. Simone is a passionate director of school theatre productions with particular strengths and interest in directing contemporary physical theatre with a minimalist design approach. She is also a singer, a musician who has fronted a variety of Sydney based bands and has run concerts and shows in the alternative music scene for over 15 years.

Bro Reveleigh is a drama and English teacher at Smith's Hill High School in Wollongong. He is currently completing a master of education at the University of Sydney, researching the potential use of Augusto Boal forum theatre in teacher collaboration and professional development. He is excited to read up more about critical pedagogy and the role that it can play in refocusing education on valuing community. He also likes a crumbly blue cheese Welcome Simone and Bro.

Simone – Thanks

Bro – Thanks for having us.

Ravenna – So bro, can you start off by telling us about your favourite blue cheese please? Sorry, can you just share a little bit about your journey as a drama teacher and maybe a little bit about what is the place of drama at Smith Hill High.

Bro – I started my career, and still, standing on the shoulders of giants. So, my drama teacher who kind of taught me a lot of what I know as a drama teacher retired, Sharne Sjostedt, and I was lucky enough to, in no way could I ever replace her, but I was lucky enough to kind of pick up the baton and keep running with it and keep being silly in the classroom. So, I have been operating in a very well established culture of drama at the school and my colleague Brian Cutler who runs fantastic school productions and writes them himself. Yeah, it's a very exciting place to work for someone that's as enthusiastic about our subject as we all are.

Ravenna – Thanks. So, Sharne was your drama teacher?

Bro – Yes

Ravenna – And then you became the drama teacher in that school. Amazing, that's the kind of story that, you know, as drama teachers that keeps us going through the group devising process. I heard already about Brian Cutler and the amazing work that he does in writing productions down in Wollongong. Got quite a name for himself there.

Bro – Yeah, he works fantastically in that area, across like all aspects of the production, so really showing the students how it comes, what's that old adage, from the page to the stage.

Ravenna – yeah, okay, thank you. And Simone, you've got a long career as a drama teacher, can you tell us a little bit I guess about some of the highlights and maybe challenges about teaching drama at Byron Bay High?

Simone – There's a lot of highlights working in such a creative and vibrant community as Byron Bay. The community is a very supportive school community and beyond that the entire community is very focused on the arts, music, theatre, visual arts and obviously a lot of fantastic cultural production has come out of this community. So, what I find working with the students here is that they are really actively creative. So, they spend a lot of their spare time, their lunch times working on artworks in the art classrooms, working in the music studios and developing their pieces, they're all in bands, and then they love dance and drama. We don't have dance running at the school this year, it's something that they're really trying to build, but when there has been dance. Obviously as a drama teacher I see the performing Arts centre is always full at lunch times, full of students working on their pieces. So, I find that the students here are more driven in the arts than any school I've ever worked out in terms of their passion and then of course that translates through to talent because we all know how much hard work and passion drives that developing talent and that developing confidence. I would say that whilst we have that strong community backing and that strong cultural leaning towards the arts in this community, there's a lot happening in this community and the students are very involved in a lot of different things. So, I guess one of those challenges is juggling all of those commitments that students have and juggling all of those extracurricular opportunities that the school offers them. So I find, teaching drama, that can be a real challenge is just juggling the spasmodic attendance that can occur around lots of different commitments and of course being collaborative and particularly in terms of the GP, which we're talking to today, just trying to keep those students moving forward when, you know, it might be a week or two weeks where they don't have a full group and it's usually just because these students are so active.

Ravenna – So just on that then, I think that's a really sort of nice segway into talking a little bit more about the group performance and certainly one of the biggest challenges and one that teachers are probably right now grappling with or have just made their way through and they're dealing with the aftermath of the fallout is the formation of the groups for the group devised performance. And you talked a little bit about that, that idea of the competing kind of priorities and competing interests that students have. And I guess every school I have worked in, I've taken a different approach to forming groups dependent on the needs and the culture of that particular school and that group of students. It will be really interesting to hear from both you and Bro about how you go about that group formation or how you've just been through that group formation, its term two, week two as we speak, Monday. And so yeah, really interested to hear about that.

Simone – I do have a pretty well tested strategy here. However, the one year that my group got into on stage, I didn't use this strategy, which is interesting. So, generally the strategy that I use is that I like the students to have some input. However, I don't let them create the groups themselves. So, what I do is I hand out a small piece of paper to each of them and I ask them to write down the names of four people, no less, but definitely more, if they like four people that they would really ideally like to work with from the class and they shouldn't be putting them in any priority order either because then you are really setting yourself up for a difficult, sleepless night. What you're doing is saying, who are the four students you would really like to work with? Obviously not all the groups are going to have five, but I like to have a big number to work with from there. I try to make everybody happy with being placed with at least one person on their list. Sometimes it'll work out that they’re with two. Often, you'll find the students have talked to each other and write each other down. That's not very helpful because there's always going to be students who miss out in that sort of structure, so giving them some input, then you obviously looking at that and tweaking it to find a bit of an equitable spread and that's the important one. So, making sure that there are really strong students working students who might benefit from their mentoring and guidance. I don't like creating super groups, I think that's a real problem and it's not equitable.

And another thing I will say is got to consider that sometimes and this is what happened in 2019, sometimes the class will have decided already who is working with whom and that didn't happen when they presented to me with their formations, there were twins, I had to make, obviously, we're not going to have two identical twins in the same group, looking at attendance issues and trying to spread them through. So, you do have to let them have some sense of autonomy and if they feel that they've done that as a group of 14, which they had, go for it. But other than that, the best strategy is for you to form the groups based on some suggestions from them

Ravenna – A part of my sense of humour that loves the idea of putting identical twins in a group and differentiating them only through a different colour for the markers, but don't do that at home, people, don't do that at home. So, thank you, Sim. Bro, what do you do it at Smith’s Hill in terms of that formation of groups?

Bro – I'm sitting here furiously nodding as Sim’s talking. It's pretty much identical to what Sim said. I think some things I picked up on there that we absolutely encourage as well is the students need to write down names of people they would like to work with or can work with. The longer that list can be, the better. And something we're very conscious of is at the start of the year 11 course, we teach at the academically selective school, so the students are very cognisant of what's happening at the end of the HSC course, even at the start of your 11, so we say, if there's anyone in this class that you can't see yourself working with at that time, then you need to come and have a chat with us because it's within the spirit of the syllabus and the spirit of the community of the syllabus. You need to be able to put your personal apprehensions aside and start to build those interpersonal skills, which is again, I'm probably jumping ahead a little bit here, but it's something that's really valuable about the GP experience.

Ravenna – I love that way of framing it, really important. And I also think that experimenting with different groups throughout year 11 is so important too. I often will say that by the end of that year 11 course, please have worked with everybody in this course or in this class so that you know what the challenges are. And sometimes there's some lovely unexpected creative partnerships that come out of that.

Bro – Absolutely. We definitely encourage that in year 11 as well, that they try and work with everyone in the class in formal and informal group work. So, they kind of discover new relationships and that collegial approach is that they have with each other in that group work, so they're not just sticking with people that they know within the class. So, it really opens up some opportunities. I don't know whether you found this Sim as well, but sometimes when there has been a little bit of discussion before the GP process starts the term of the HSC course, some students will write down the names of their friends, but that's not necessarily reciprocated. You'll get some lists that have kind of mixed it up based on previous groups that have worked well together. So, for the students there's a huge range of things that impact their choices. But at the end of the day, I think the same, assume it's a conversation, but ultimately, we're putting the groups together, trying to weigh the best interests of the students with their preferences for working together.

Ravenna – On that, that the best interests of the students working together, how do you structure the facilitation of the GP? Do you have a way of structuring? And I'm aware as I'm asking this, that that shifts every year, but sort of thinking about how do you approach the open ended sort of freedom of the group devised performance in order to create those restraints that create a constructive creative environment?

Bro – Yeah, I think you've hit the nail on the head there with it is very class dependent, particularly in terms of the dynamics and size of the class. But typically, the last few years I've been teaching HSC course, we're coming off the back of the approaches to acting topic and I'm lucky in my particular context, and it's a deliberate choice on my part in terms of the design of the course, that they're dying to try out some of the activities from Boal, some of the movement exercises from Lecoq that they didn't get a chance to cover in that eight weeks or so that were doing the content in term. So, bring that back into the GP process to actually start looking at how to build shapes, image, theatre, all those sort of rich, really useful, starters for the GP process. So, it's about generating as much of that material up front as possible, not sitting around hard scripting anything, playbuilding it, getting it up, testing the material as quickly as you can so that you can start to filter through it, you can start to say no to things. I try and as like a rule of thumb for my students because we work off like individualist milestone goals for each group, just like in terms of conversation they kind of keep track of that in their log books. But in terms of milestoning with each group, they're trying to come up with at least twice as much material as the 8 to 12 minute mark. And then filtering through trimming back, having a discussion about what sort of dramatic form or theatrical style they're thinking about that gives them more criteria to kind of have to think about what their performance purpose is, what their relationship to the audience is and how you might define or frame. That's all those lovely moving parts that we juggle as drama teachers, particularly within the GP task itself. It's really about a milestoning process that suits the needs of each group, particularly in terms of size and direction. And then kind of coming off the back of that approaches to acting topic, which I think is fantastic, particularly in terms of the practitioners that have been selected for that list. So, I know we're ending the cycle of the current prescriptions, but I'd give that a plug to anyone just to go and have a look at some of those activities, particularly Boal. I think Boal is fantastic as my bio might suggest.

Ravenna – So that beautiful connection between Lecoq and Boal and you see it as well, when I've taught black comedy, of that influence creeping into so many of the group performances. That's something for teachers to think about, I think. Sim do you have any particular ways for facilitating the HSC, any steps or timelines that you can talk about?

Simone – So being a taurian, I am very structured. Obviously, there's that beautiful combination of discipline and anarchy involved in this. I totally agree with you Bro. I think that teaching approaches to acting is just the most beautiful pathway to beginning the GP. I too find that I never cover everything I want to cover in that unit and it's a great thing because all of those fantastic training activities that really loan themselves to group work and chorus work, you're able to use those in the development of the group performance very effectively. So, I have a process called the nucleus development that I use. And the first thing I do before we start the nucleus development is we create or I guess really re established group culture or class culture. I'm really big on class culture and having students really define what that is and how we relate to each other and giving really positive comments to each other, finding those positives, writing them down. A lot of self affirmation and group affirmation. And from there we give them a toolkit and the toolkit is really important. It's just a hard copy booklet. But for me it has everything they're going to need that term. And yes, there are milestones in a little calendar there, but there are lists, the ingredients you might need for a GP, a list of dramatic techniques that could be used, which is incredibly long but not exhaustive. A list of comedy strategies goes in there, a list of approaches to rehearsal and feedback goes in there. And I even put a page in there for questions for log reflections as well. So, once they have that, we start this nucleus process, which is, they have mind mapped every single topic on that list with connotations and associations. And they will pick their favourite mind map and they'll pick some of their favourite connotations from that list and they'll connect them or pair them with some of the ingredients in the toolkit or some of the dramatic techniques listed in the toolkit or dramatic techniques that aren't there, ones that they've come up with themselves. And from there we start this sort of moving image creation. Now, once you have those three moving images, we might start with three and then we link those together, we have this fairly random but beautiful moving image that is littered with techniques and ideas that then they get feedback on and that feedback might be these characters seem to be emerging. These are the themes that seem to be emerging, wow, that's really comedy or that feels like it's a darker mood and it's just that investigation, feedback and play, really it's play. I mean, obviously we do a lot of improv warmups before we do this. And so, once they have that little nucleus, which could be anything from 10 seconds to a minute long, we then start a 2nd nucleus. We let go of it, we start a second one and we do it in the same way with a different topic from the list, with a different mind map and a different set of connotations and associations and build that one. But when I do the second one, I often get them to have conversations and lists in their logbook beforehand of what are your interests? What are the things that you'd like to explore? What are your talents? Can you sing, can you dance? Do you play football? Because I've even seen people use ball skills in performance beautifully. Can you do any of these things? Can you think of some interests you have? Can you think of some pop culture sayings and pop culture references to litter this one with? Right. So, they then create this nucleus, but they actually backward map in a way from what the group is interested in and find the topic list item with a mind map that really suits what they're looking to do. Does that make sense?

Ravenna – So amazing. Amazing.

Simone – And that is often the one they go with because it's richer. But I will say this, the group who did Story of a Hat in 2020, the 2019 class actually picked images from both nucleus or nuclei, I guess to put together because one was a pirate ship, moving pirate ship and I think another was the Wild West. And obviously they found ways to put that in a sort of absurdist style and mix genres.

Ravenna – I love the fact that this is such a structured approach in some ways, but then obviously has that incredible freedom because it's driven by the students and their interests and their creativity, which I guess is the GP really in a nutshell, isn't it.

Simone – the third time they do this, they may do it a third time, they're doing it on their own. So, I guide them through those first two and then I go, if you don't like them, start again. Yeah, and that's fine.

Ravenna – You talked about milestones earlier, Bro, can you tell us a little bit about how you manage the school based assessment of the GP? I'm really interested in the different ways that schools approach this. You talked a lot about kind of formative feedback cycles throughout and that seems to be the approach to GP. But can you tell us about that kind of, more formalist school based assessment?

Bro – Yeah, I think anyone that's moved through the course is going to be familiar with a sort of rapid verbal formative feedback cycles that we're engaged in the drama classroom all the time. We're testing material for its aesthetic value, its engagement, but also its underlying purpose, and its relation to dramatic form. So, there's lots and lots of different things that we're trying to focus on as we guide the students towards the pointy end of the term. In terms of the way that we map it out logistically, with this current cohort, I sat down with year 12, at the start of the HSC course and we discussed what they would prefer in terms of how the assessment was structured. So, I gave him the option of whether the logbook was just purely verification of the process or if you'd like it to be included in the internal assessment. And they liked the idea of this being included in the internal assessment because some of them were thinking about their confidence in terms of performance. We have a few people who haven't done drama before the senior course, so they liked the idea of being able to kind of sure up their internal assessment by putting effort into the formation research ideas, and reflection that is included in the logbook. And that happened for the IP as well. So, at this stage we're assessing it as a GP logbook submission. That will happen in the last week of this term as a way of thinking about early term three when we're going to have like a trial performance night for their IP submissions. But they'll also have an opportunity to perform the group performance informally and just get some feedback that isn't assessed as part of the internal exam schedule that gives them multiple iterations, like formal iterations of performance in order to kind of act on broad audience feedback.

Ravenna – I love that you've negotiated that with the year group to find out what they are going to be invested in and that's a lovely idea of them taking ownership of that when they perform it. They're receiving formative feedback rather than an accessible mark, is that correct?

Bro – So they'll receive a mark and feedback as part of the formal assessment schedule at the end of this term when they submit the logbook as well. And then we'll have a performance night before our whole school trials about week three of next term, where they will be submitting and performing IPs and they'll also perform their GPs, but that won't be formally assessed. That's just another opportunity to present their performance, test it with a different audience show, a little bit more refinement in terms of previous feedback. So, what it does, which I think is really valuable, is on top of the formative feedback we give them verbally and in written forms across the term because I think it's important to give them feedback in multiple forms so that they have that to refer to when they're reflecting in their logbooks. And even, I'm sure Sim probably does this as well, give them a scaffold to kind of minute verbal conversations. I think that's really important as well. You're giving important, valuable feedback and they're buzzing and they're excited that they've just performed something and then it's either worked really well or they're a bit dejected because it hasn't quite worked the way they wanted it to and then you tell them something and then five minutes later, like, mm what did you say again? So, like if they’ve minuted it, at least then they can kind of stick it into their book. They can reflect on it. They can act on it next lesson. So, on top of all of those formative forms, having the feedback for the internal assessment of the GP at the end of this term knowing that they're going to get performed again for their friends and family and for panel of markers from other schools. Because we get our trials, it's fairly standard practice to have other drama markets if you can or other teachers come in to give a range of different feedback on performance nights if they know that they're going to have that week, three term, three next term, then suddenly the instead of a summit of comment for their GP. In terms of assessment, it becomes a formative comment. So, it's an iterative process that I think is really valuable in the development of the G.P.

Ravenna – Yeah, it's wonderful such a swift sort of cultural change for students in seeing the value in that as well. That’s great Bro, thank you. Sim, do you have a way of assessing the school based or doing a school based assessment of the GP? That's different to that? It seems to be very different in lots of schools.

Simone – It's similar. I mean I obviously assess it during the trial HSC period as a finished work and I actually get them to hand their logbook in at that date. And the logbook is part of the holistic GP mark for me. But it's formative. I mean, I used to assess it at the end of term two or towards the end of term two as a work in progress. I don't do that anymore. I like to give them regular, and with increasing regularity, I guess these performance goals. Right next lesson, you're all performing this much of your piece and giving them those milestones and giving them that peer feedback and teacher feedback regularly and with increasing frequency. That formative assessment is really what drives them. And I think relieving that pressure of a summative work in progress assessment for the GP works for my students and giving them also that live performance experience in between the trial and then with the audience is also really great for them.

Ravenna – One of the approaches that I've taken recently is building the audience as well. So, the first showing is for the teacher, the second showing is for their class, the third is for their cohort, right? And the fourth is kind of for that school community and obviously the finished product is for that HSC. I think that we've talked, you've both talked about ways of kind of scaffolding the challenges that exist, but we haven't really talked that much about group dynamics yet, which for me, I think, has been one of the consistently most challenging parts of the group performance, but also one of the most wonderful. So, for you Sim, what is the biggest challenge of the GP process and how do you deal with it? Can you, can you whittle it down to one?

Simone – I think so, I think the biggest challenge where I work is that desire of the students to sit and chat and talk and discuss ideas.

Bro – Here, here.

Simone – And that procrastination and that wanting to get it right. And I think it's changing the culture that is changing, and partially that's me being really cruel to them and telling them they can't sit. So really it is right from the very beginning, encourage them to stand to move as they're speaking and as they're discussing ideas. And this year it's been working really well. The students have, the only time the students have sat down is when they've been looking at their mind maps and picking their phrases to work with and all of the discussion happens whilst they're moving. And I think that that really is the biggest roadblock is students, particularly creative students with brilliant minds as they often do have in wonderful ideas, just having those discussions, they're never going to know until they're up experimenting and improvising with ideas what they want to work.

Ravenna – Great. A very common one, isn't it? Having them sitting around in circles rehashing an idea. I think part of that also that challenges, overcome through your approach to group formation, which is not putting all the people who are going to just sit and think and not get up and do in the same group together. Hopefully, Bro I heard you're here, here, cheered during Sim’s biggest challenge. But do you have another one that you'd like to share or is it exactly the same?

Bro – No, I think Sim’s absolutely right. You worry for groups that are very excited and they want to kind of negotiate that political element to the group. So, there's a lot of chatting that kind of involves because it's a very social scenario or setting like or it can be mistaken for that is maybe a better way of phrasing that. But I think I would put in a mention for I do spend a little bit of time at the start of the term, building off explicit expectations for group work and responsibilities of group members versus rights. Or another way I kind of phrase, it is negotiating preferences and needs, so just to kind of establish, I think Sim mentioned it before, that idea of making sure that it's an ongoing culture in your classroom that all students need to be included. There needs to be a place in the group performance for students, life gets in the way sometimes and we need to facilitate that. So sometimes someone is going to be sick and their health has to take precedent to that. So you need to, like on the one hand, you need to keep the progress of the GP moving, you need to be making some progress in terms of the play building or decisions that you're making with that person's preferences and role in the group in mind so that you can also include them when they come back and then help them jump back into where they were before and have input into where the process is up to. For the current cohort, we spent a lot of time talking about how to have those conversations with group members. So, one of the things that I put together was just a few little kind of scenarios that have commonly popped up, like someone's got an excursion on a week for drama class and they really want to go to that. How do you have that conversation with your group?

Is it ok for them to go on that excursion? Scenarios without any clear cut answers. And then just getting the students to actually talk through and practice what they would say and suggest what they would say to kind of negotiate those interpersonal situations and give them a bit of practice before they actually arise in the GP process.

Ravenna – And the learning that's coming out of that is just invaluable as in its every team that they're ever going to have to work in in the future. It's what we love about that group performance, no matter how challenging.

Bro – Absolutely.

Ravenna – We’ve talked about the challenge and the advantage at the same time there Bro. The role of the drama teacher as facilitator of the group performance as opposed to the director as opposed to the creator. But the facilitator, the guide for students, I guess that's something that early on in my career was really, that balance was really hard to negotiate and to know what that looks like. And I guess really I’d like to finish up that discussion, Bro, with asking you what's your number one tip for finding that difference between facilitation and direction?

Bro – I think you kind of alluded to it there. I think a good facilitator of a GP will leave room for the group to make mistakes, to pursue lots of different choices or avenues and discover for themselves that some of those avenues aren't the right way to go or make the choice in terms of what their actual purpose is rather than you making those choices for them. Because I think that's a very clear way to define the line and that's easier said than done, knowing how quickly that term can whiz by. So, I guess if I had to phrase it, another way is to kind of build off what I was saying before, encouraging students to generate a lot more material early on than they need because it gives them a chance to say no to things. And again, maybe a mistake’s too harsh a word. They need to be able to generate things and love those things. But at the end of the day, still say within the group, look, this particular scene that we put together just really doesn't fit into what we're going towards. And I like Sim’s idea of the nuclei, the idea that there's an organic development of particular ideas and images that are coming together in that early material generation. That gives groups a bit of a direction. I think being drama teachers, we all have our different metaphors for those. I kind of use like climbing a pyramid idea and the pyramid gets a little bit smaller in terms of surface area, the higher up you go. So, we're kind of narrowing down to our dramatic form or theatrical style or purpose. Yeah, that's definitely one that I would think is crucial to the GP development is get students on their feet early generating as much material as possible so that they have options. They don't feel trapped with a particular idea or so you don't feel like you have to keep pushing them along and kind of crossing that line.

Ravenna – Yeah. And asking them questions then when they're making those choices, helping them to make those choices, is that facilitation, isn't it? And Sim, what's your big tip for facilitation versus direction?

Simone – Yeah, I spent a lot of time nodding as well, Bro, you're right on it, I totally agree with everything you said and what you just said Ravenna about asking questions was my first point. So, in feedback sessions it's really difficult sometimes, particularly when you've got something phenomenal happening in front of you not to go, I love that, keep that, you know, but it's more about asking them questions and asking them to articulate why they feel something is working or why not? So not so much suggestions but questions. I guess like anything, anyone that you want to see achieve a goal and push themselves to achieve their best, it's like having a mentor teacher as well, you know, you ask them, how do you feel that lesson, what do you think worked? Why do you think that worked? And it's the same with students. I think the best thing you can do is invite them to really drive everything through that analysis of what they're doing. And also to ask them, as Bro said, talking about the word purpose, to think about what they're doing on stage and does it serve their purpose or intention, bringing them back to that? How does it serve the intention or the idea of the mood or the meaning of this piece? And that's a really good way to get them to whittle off those things that are probably taking them away from coherency and solid structure. So, I think those sorts of approaches, yeah, really, really allow them to refine what they're doing more quickly and more effectively than if you were to tell them what to do anyway, which obviously we don't do. But I also think that peer feedback is a really, really underestimated, valuable component of how students sort of negotiate and sought and eliminate aspects of the group performance as well.

Ravenna – Yeah, wonderful. I was going to use that word, intention is so important to me and I think if we teach them about artistic and creative and directorial intention in the year 11 course and before that, then that becomes much clearer for them and much easier to say goodbye to the things that you desperately cling too. But you know, they're not serving your intention. Let's finish off today, I was thinking about this podcast and I thought last year without the group performance obviously was a really challenging year for everybody. I mean more counts than that. But the impact of not being involved in that group performance in 2020 had further reaching affects than I even imagined. And I really noticed that that lack of that collaborative creativity fed through to second guessing themselves in individual performance and individual projects and a whole raft of things. And it really solidified for me the importance of the group performance as part of this course. And I guess we've talked I think about many of the advantages, but I'm really interested in advocating for the group performance. What is it that makes this such a valuable part of the course for you, Bro?

Bro – It's kind of all the things we've touched on. But at the end of the day, it's one of the few instances at the highest level of our curriculum where students get to practice and develop interpersonal skills in a problem solving situation, like it's an aesthetic problem, but it's also a problem of expression and when I say problem, I mean I'm problematizing it kind of in the Paulo Freire sense of we're coming together and thinking about something that is of import to us and we need to express that and become literate in it. So, I think for me, definitely often the creative arts are kind of lumped into this purely aesthetic, everyone should be just aspiring to a performance only kind of mode of thinking that it's just like the window dressing of the broader curriculum. But I think that's a completely unfair assessment of the creative arts because at the end of the day it takes all that interdisciplinary knowledge, all that interdisciplinary thinking. And it offers students a chance to collaborate and express their thinking and their ideas and in the development of the GP actually refined those thinking and ideas. And I if you ask anyone what they would like to see what you even ask the generation themselves and what they would like to equip themselves with in terms of skills and what they think they're going to need in terms of ability and thinking for the future, it's exactly those sorts of things. They need to be able to understand how to work together to solve problems collaboratively, diplomatically but inclusively as well to make sure that everyone's voice is included in everyone's perspective is included.

Ravenna – And Sim?

Simone – How beautifully and articulately worded that was, I totally agree with every word. I guess just confirming that, and I think it really keeps students invested in what they're doing when somebody else's or other people's lives and goals and ambitions and successes and experiences are at stake too. So, I feel that it drives students, and even those who are perhaps less motivated in other subjects I find often are more motivated in drama, because of that real investment they have in the group and knowing that it's not just them that their lack of enthusiasm or lack of motivation or commitment will impact upon. I think, connecting this to Boal, the idea that we can achieve so much more than we ever thought possible together and so much more than we could alone in any situation really in the world, than considering some of the issues that face the world today, it's drama, The drama classroom is really a microcosm of the way the world should be operating, which is that people are working together to serve each other's interests and thinking creatively and critically. And it really developed every skill necessary for life, the group performance, not just for the workplace. I mean obviously, we know we're going to be living in a world where people do need to be able to communicate effectively, collaborate effectively, be critical creative thinkers, those four c’s of the 21st century education focus, but I think really it's also about developing empathy and that's something that very few other subjects I think can boast, that they do so beautifully. Is that sense of connection and empathy to others in the world and that's something that cannot be underestimated.

Ravenna – Simone and bro, it's been such a pleasure chatting to you both today and thanks for sharing your collective wisdom about the complexities and challenges and rewards of the group devised performance and how you negotiate that with your students. And it is an incredibly important and unique component of our course and I know that teachers listening will gain enormously from your expertise and experience. So thank you both.

Bro – Thank you.

Jackie – This podcast was brought to you by the creative arts curriculum team of secondary learners, educational standards directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining our statewide staff room through the link in the show notes or email our Creative arts curriculum advisor, Cathryn Horvat at The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton and audio production by Jason King.


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