The role of drama on cultural sensitivity, motivation and literacy in a second language context.

Bournot-Trites, M., Belliveau, G., Spiliotopoulos, V., & Séror, J. (2007). The role of drama on cultural sensitivity, motivation and literacy in a second language context. Journal for Learning Through the Arts, 3(1).


This study examines the relationship between learning through drama and student cultural sensitivity, motivation, and literacy skills in a French immersion classroom. Two middle school French immersion classes participated in a unit on the deportation of Arcadians from Eastern Canada. A class of fifth and sixth graders received drama-based instruction while a class of sixth and seventh graders received traditionally-delivered content (the “library group”). Qualitative data in the form of observation, teachers’ journals, and interviews along with pre- and post-tests using Garner’s (1985) measure of motivation suggest that the use of drama fostered student motivation, cultural awareness, and literacy development.

Key Findings:

The drama group outperformed the library group in the areas of integrative orientation (a measure of motivation), interest in a foreign language, desire to learn French, enjoyment of the unit, and in several categories of writing including overall quality, genre, and cultural content. There was no difference between the two groups in regard to motivational intensity, attitudes toward French Canadians, attitudes toward French European people, attitudes toward learning French, parental encouragement, and French class anxiety. There was no variance between the two groups on the writing skills measures of accuracy, cohesion, emotions, and context. Research observations revealed that students in the library group focused on and worried about tests more than those in the drama group. There was more peer-to-peer interaction in the drama group.

Teachers of both groups expressed an awareness of their teaching role; however, the drama teacher reported feeling that the students shared responsibility, while the library teacher noted a preoccupation with the right answer. The drama group had a more student-oriented approach versus the teacher-centered instruction that occurred in the library group.

Significance of the Findings:

This study suggests that drama-integration enhances literacy skills by enabling students to connect to curricular content through their own process of creating meaning and fosters emotional intelligence by giving students opportunities to reflect critically on cultural perspectives and understandings.


This mixed methods study included a pre- and post-test of student motivation, observation of class sessions, analysis of teachers’ journals, and teacher interviews. The researchers conducted the study in two intact French immersion (80% of all instruction was taught in French) middle school classrooms, using the drama group as the treatment group and the library group as the control group. Both groups of students took a motivation pre-test and post-test based on Garner’s (1985) work, which gauged intrinsic motivation and instrumental motivation through multiple questions that addressed the following: attitudes towards French people; desire to learn, learning, and anxiety about learning French; foreign language; feelings about the Acadian unit; and parental encouragement. Some of these constructs were addressed during post-test only. The researchers ran statistical tests (Analysis of Covariance and t-tests) to compare the motivation pre- and post-tests across the two groups of students. The researchers also administered writing (composition) pre- and post-tests in which they asked students to write a letter as if they were someone else. They assessed the resulting stories on seven criteria (two readers scored each story). Analysis of Covariance was conducted to measure the difference between the two tests. In addition, the researchers analyzed teachers’ journals, interviews, and field notes to evaluate observations of student and teacher behavior and attitudes in each class.

Limitations of the Research:

Findings of this study may be applicable only to the French language immersion context. Also, results should be interpreted with caution, as intact classrooms were used for the treatment and control groups, and these classrooms contained students at slightly different ages.

Questions to Guide New Research:

Replication of the results of this pilot study would lend additional credibility. Studies in different language contexts would show if the findings in this study extend to other contexts.