The effects of creative dramatics on vocabulary achievement of fourth grade students in a language arts classroom: An empirical study

Joseph, A. (2014). The effects of creative dramatics on vocabulary achievement of fourth grade students in a language arts classroom: An empirical study. Seattle Pacific University.

Abstract:

This experimental design research study provides statistically significant evidence that the two treatment groups outscored the control group when exposed to a creative dramatics intervention. Creative dramatics is defined as a dramatic enactment of a story, setting and/or characters led by the teacher. This study examined whether and to what extent the use of creative dramatics interventions increased the vocabulary achievement of fourth grade students in a language arts classroom. Fourth grade teachers and their students were randomly divided among two different treatment groups utilizing creative dramatics interventions, and one control group using established district strategies. Students in every group were administered pre-, post-, and retention tests. Statistical analyses were conducted to determine which group had greater vocabulary achievement based on the test scores. The study found that students who participated in the creative dramatics demonstrated higher vocabulary achievement in comparison to students in the control group.

Key Findings:

Findings provide statistically significant evidence that the students who experienced both sustained creative dramatics interventions had greater vocabulary achievement versus the control group without creative dramatics, following 17 consecutive school days of creative dramatics treatment as reported in the pre-test and post-test results.

Significance of the Findings:

An experimental design study can be successfully conducted within the confines of school district requirements and schedules, during the school day, utilizing a district-required language arts basal, and with random assignment of an entire grade level of students, as well as random assignment of an entire grade level of classroom teachers.

A replicable and generalizable pathway for replication was developed, connecting this study with the research of Podlozny (2000) and others, and addressing the gap of research regarding causal relationships for creative dramatics and vocabulary achievement. The study is useful for policymakers, administrators, and teachers exploring the effective use of arts integration – specifically creative dramatics – in vocabulary acquisition; especially in low-income and multicultural school settings.

Insight gained from this type of empirical study and linkage has cognitive implications; whereas, one academic subject – the arts (which includes creative dramatics) – could positively impact another academic subject – language arts (which includes vocabulary achievement).

Methodology:

The 20-day study was conducted across five weeks of school — for 45 minutes each day — during the normally scheduled language arts instruction block in the school day. It included a pre-test, 17 consecutive school days of sustained creative dramatics instruction, and a post-test. A retention test was administered five weeks later.

The dependent variable was a teacher-researcher developed criterion-referenced vocabulary test covering the unit of instruction. Two experimental groups employed 15-20 minutes of sustained creative dramatics interventions, each day. The control group students experienced the district adopted language arts Readers' theatre component, without investigator training for the teacher to teach Readers' theatre in alignment with state arts learning standards.

Teachers were taught the creative dramatics treatment interventions, in alignment with state arts learning standards, by the investigator, during individual 30-minute trainings, in compliance with district contractual agreements. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the demographics of the sample, while inferential statistics were used to calculate the differences between groups.

Limitations of the Research:

Several key limitations were identified within this study:

1) The study was narrow in scope, specifically examining the effects of two different creative dramatics treatments on vocabulary achievement of one district-required language arts unit of instruction (four stories and 31-vocabulary words), with at risk, fourth grade students in a rural school, during the school day, and with classroom teachers providing the treatments.

2) Creative dramatics academic achievement was not measured.

3) Vocabulary research was limited, due to the focus on creative dramatics connections to a required unit of study in a district adopted and required language arts basal unit of instruction.

4) The quantitative nature of the study only reveals the test results and does not allow for the perspective of the students or teachers in terms of their experience with the art integration intervention. Student personal or social and civic outcomes are not measured through this research design.

Questions to Guide New Research:

The narrow scope of this study begs questions about potential greater impact of arts integration into academic subjects and academic as well as socio-emotional growth.