Exploring moral values with young adolescents through process drama
Gervais, M. (2006). Exploring moral values with young adolescents through process drama. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 7(2).
This qualitative, arts-based research study examines adolescents’ experiences in a process drama program and explores the general decision making processes of junior high school students (grades seven, eight, and nine) related to their moral values. The researcher used storytelling on themes such as family and friendships to elicit the participants’ identification of their moral values. When experiences of dramatic cognitive dissonance (experiences in which youth realized that their professed values did not always match up with how they acted) arose, the researcher led a debrief through group discussion and reflection that led to greater self-awareness and understanding. The research culminated in a script co-authored and performed by the students.
The researcher illustrates the benefits and unique qualities of this moral education project, as well as how process drama can be used as a tool for moral values exploration among adolescents. Student benefits included an increase in conflict resolution skills, changes in attitudes, changes in understanding and behavior related to moral values, increased self-confidence, and more positive self-identity. Additional benefits included building a sense of community characterized by caring, respect, and mutual commitment, and developing a greater respect for peers and family.
The project engaged young adolescents in expanding their ability to understand themselves and to know when their behavior was hurtful or caring toward others. As they gained a greater understanding of context as it related to moral decision-making, students showed an increase in their abilities to receive reinforcement and support from each other through positive comments when sharing personal experience. Judgmental comments, put-downs, insults and swearing that were prominent at the beginning of the process, were completely absent from all recorded transcripts after the fifth rehearsal. The students learned to see themselves as agents of change through the process drama project scenes and from the group discussions that emerged from these scenes.
The project found that participants developed a deeper commitment to global issues as a result of their understanding evolving from superficial to the realization of the complexity inherent in issues with no easy resolution. They requested a longer listening time to all viewpoints for deepened understanding before moving on to collaborate on creative solutions. Students became interested in learning about global issues and became involved in planning and executing fundraisers to address social issues of interest.