Drama education: A touch of the creative mind and communicative-expressive ability of elementary school children in Hong Kong

Hui, A., & Lau, S. (2006). Drama education: A touch of the creative mind and communicative-expressive ability of elementary school children in Hong Kong. Thinking skills and creativity, 1(1), 34-40.

Abstract:

Researchers used an experimental approach to examine the effect of drama education on creativity and storytelling abilities of first and fourth grade school children in Hong Kong. The treatment group of students received drama education delivered in an after school setting one day per week for sixteen weeks. The drama program sought to teach children elements of role-playing, setting and conflict, improvisation, and to impart positive attitudes toward art and culture appreciation. The control group received other unstructured extra-curricular activities, such as ball games. The researchers collected data through pre- and post-test measures of creativity and communication. Findings suggest that participation in the drama education program had positive effects on students’ creativity, creative thinking, and expressive communication ability.

Key Findings:

Students were found to be more fluent in their creative responses after participating in the drama education program. Creative fluency can be described as the process for applying artistic principles to create stories or solve problems.

Students in the drama group were found to be more expressive and elaborate in their story telling, specifically their work included more new elements and were more unconventional than those of their control group counterparts.

Results of the pre- and post-test administrations of the story telling test revealed that children in the treatment group showed improvement on their communicative-expressive ability. Communicative-expressive ability is the combined achievement in criteria such as consistency with theme, elaborated description, cohesion in structure, appropriateness of voice usage, and clarity of presentation in students’ storytelling practice.

The research also suggests that students of different age levels may express their creative thinking through different channels, as evidenced by first grade students scoring higher on creative fluency but much lower on creative drawing than fourth grade students.

Significance of the Findings:

The drama project examined in this study demonstrated a significant effect in enhancing student’s creative thinking and story-telling ability. These findings provide empirical support of the benefits of drama education on students’ cognitive development.

Methodology:

The researchers used an experimental study design and randomly assigned 195 (96 in first grade and 99 in fourth grade) children from seventeen elementary schools into either the treatment or control groups. The treatment group consisted of 126 students who participated in the once weekly after school drama program taught by professional artists for sixteen weeks. The drama program adhered to standards in drama education, specifically the development of aesthetics and creativity, determined by the Curriculum Development Council. The treatment group consisted of 69 children who participated in once weekly after school activities such as ball games instead of drama education.

The researchers collected data through pre- and post-test measures of creativity and communication administered to both groups of students. The Form A of the Wallach-Kogan creativity tests (WKC) and the tests for creative thinking-drawing production (TCT-DP) measured students’ creative thinking. Two trained researchers rated students’ drawings independently for multiple criteria, and formed an overall score of creativity. Researchers developed a storytelling test to measure students’ communicative-expressive ability, in which students were asked to tell a story based on a picture. Researchers videotaped the storytelling performances and evaluated them based on criteria associated with communicative –expressive ability.

Limitations of the Research:

The current findings are limited to programs that implement a curriculum design similar to the one this study is based upon. The study is further limited in its impact in that it does not include evidence for how creativity is developed through drama education. The study could be strengthened by including multiple types of drama education to better assess how creativity is nurtured through drama education.

Questions to Guide New Research:

In order to further examine the long term and wider range of effects, longitudinal studies are needed. Also, future research might examine drama projects that take place during instructional hours. Further research should also investigate specific elements of creativity, such as problem solving, and how these elements are or are not developed through drama education. Research comparing drama education to other teaching methods or arts-based learning and creativity outcomes could also be beneficial to the field.