Drama-based strategies in the elementary classroom : increasing social perspective-taking and problem-solving




Combs, Austin Beasley-Rodgers

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Educational Psychology

Built from a diverse background of theatre-based education and social change theories, drama-based instruction (DBI) employs active, kinesthetic learning strategies to engage students in classroom activities. Much of DBI is grounded in scaffolding students through a Describe, Analyze, and Relate (DAR) thinking process. DAR requires students to consider information in a systematic way, leading them through the steps of Bloom’s Taxonomy and moving from lower-order to higher-order thinking skills. Examining information at this deeper level is a process similar to the automatic thought-stopping mechanism of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). As in CBT, rather than making hasty assumptions, students are guided through steps that allow them to analyze details and to examine stimuli thoroughly. Yet the context of DBI is different from many CBT therapeutic settings because DBI is situated in a classroom environment. DAR is delivered as a whole-class intervention with peer interaction occurring throughout the thinking and questioning process. Social perspective-taking involves one individual’s efforts to discern the thoughts and feelings of another individual, a skill that has been linked to more effective problem solving. When teachers offer structured exposure to thought-stopping and perspective-taking processes, students gain practice with social perspective-taking and problem-solving skills. The current study proposed a multiple baseline, single-case design to explore how practice using the Describe, Analyze, Relate (DAR) questioning technique affects students’ capacity to engage in social perspective-taking and social problem-solving. The school in this study participated in a year-long, campus-wide initiative to train teachers in how to use DAR across subjects and grade levels. Two fourth grade teachers, one fifth grade teacher, and one visual arts teacher were identified as demonstrating proficiency in the DAR technique. In each of the three core teachers’ classes, a letter was sent home explaining the project and requesting opt-in from interested parents. From those who responded, students with special education placements were removed, then two students were randomly selected per class. The researcher met individually with the selected participants to conduct repeated measures of the Interpersonal Negotiating Strategies Interview for baseline, intervention, and follow-up phases of the study over the course of the 2012-2013 school year. Additionally, participants’ teachers were asked to complete the Social Skills subscale of the Behavior Assessment System for Children for each phase of data collection. Post-intervention interviews were conducted with the teachers to assess for their perceptions of the DAR strategy and DBI-based pedagogy in general. Visual analysis was used to assess the effectiveness of the treatment on student social perspective-taking and problem-solving. Overall, the quantitative results of the current study did not conclusively link DAR with social perspective-taking and problem-solving. However, the qualitative data from teacher interviews yielded positive feedback related to the utility of DAR questioning on improving higher-order thinking in their students. Further research is necessary to clarify and deepen understanding of this effect.



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