Dicks, J. E., & Le Blanc, B. (2009). Using drama for learning to foster positive attitudes and increase motivation: Global simulation in French Second Language classes. Journal for Learning through the Arts, 5(1).
Researchers conducted a formative evaluation study to determine whether the use of a dramatic role play module introduced in core French classrooms resulted in an increase in motivation and desire to learn French. The researchers developed a dramatic role play module that included planning scenarios, script writing, and video recorded performances, to be implemented in seven ninth- and tenth-grade core French classrooms in New Brunswick, Canada. Researchers gathered data through teacher interviews and student pre- and post-program surveys. Student survey results indicated significant increases in value and enjoyment of French as well a significant increase in the desire to study French. Students’ likelihood of using French outside of school also increased.
Students gained more enjoyment from learning French as a result of the drama module. Students also gained a better understanding of the importance of learning French and reported being more likely to use French outside of school. Though teachers reported that students were more motivated to learn French during the drama module, students’ confidence levels regarding the use of French went down when comparing post-test to pre-test survey responses. This finding may reflect the students’ increased awareness of challenges in speaking French in less structured and more spontaneous situations.
Significance of the Findings:
These results of this formative evaluation suggest that dramatic play increases student motivation, enjoyment, and valuing of learning a second language. In an ever expanding and globalized society, second language acquisition is an important skill for students. The dramatic play module could lead to improved academic outcomes in French and other languages.
Teachers of seven ninth- and tenth-grade French core classes agreed to participate and use learning through drama to help students learn French and to increase student motivation and enjoyment of speaking French. Six teachers participated in post-intervention interviews and four classes of students took pre- and post- test surveys on attitude and motivation to speak French.
Prior to the start of the intervention period, researchers met with the seven teachers to solicit input on the design of the intervention and to train the teachers on the particular learning through drama protocol to be used. Teachers implemented the new dramatic play module 30-50 minutes four to five times per week for four to six weeks. Teachers were responsible for teaching their own classes using the dramatic play protocol co-developed by the researchers and teachers. The protocol included prompting students to imagine a place with people involved in a situation. Students then imagined themselves in roles, created the physical space in which to act out the situation, wrote scripts, and performed these scenarios—most of which were recorded on video, allowing students to watch the performances.
The researchers conducted the formative evaluation through the use of teacher interview and attitudinal and motivation pre- and post- student surveys.
Limitations of the Research:
Interpretation of study results is limited by lack of fidelity of implementation. The authors indicated that teachers followed the protocol differently, noting that the time period of implementation ranged from four to six weeks and sessions probably differed by intensity and duration, depending on the teacher’s preference. This variation makes it impossible to know whether the results accurately reflect the program as it was designed to be used. The absence of researcher observation contributes to this issue.
The study lacked a control group to compare gains in student outcomes for the treatment group. Without a control group, it is more difficult to establish strong correlational relationships between the intervention and the measured outcomes.
Questions to Guide New Research:
The study should be replicated with the inclusion of a control group and more structure around the implementation of the intervention (the dramatic play module) so that independent variables that affect the student outcomes can be isolated.
In addition, a similar study protocol that also includes classroom observation would give information on what happens during the process of learning a language through drama and would help ensure implementation fidelity.