Act 2: Becoming Somebody Different – A response from Yeow Poon, People and Organisation

“Real understanding is a process of coming to understand: we cannot ‘give’ someone our understanding. Real understanding is felt. Only if the understanding is felt can it be integrated into children’s minds, or anyone’s” – Geoff Gillham, 1994.

Instinctively, my heart agreed with the above statement, which provided the context for exploring What is drama? What is drama for? How does drama work? How can drama help the child?

My mind however had questions.

First, a bit on who we are and why we were in Sheldon Community Centre with Big Brum and a group of dedicated drama teachers.

We began a journey with Big Brum TIE about 6 months ago on a two-year evaluation project funded by Paul Hamlyn Trust. Using action learning methods, we hope to better understand the impact of Big Brum’s programmes on young people, teachers and schools.

As evaluation specialists, we have undertaken assessment of programmes in areas such as community development, homelessness, reproductive health, gender development, capacity building and public administration reforms both in the UK and emerging third world countries. This is the first time however that we are evaluating the impact of Theatre in Education.

Hence, our participation in the conference to learn more about theatre and education from the research presentations, as well as to consult the teachers on ‘Making the case for visiting theatre companies in schools’, which was facilitated by two of my colleagues.

I had the roving role to attend all presentations. So, what were my impressions?

Listening to all the presentations, I realised that there are 3 aspects of drama. Firstly, the teaching of drama as a subject and the struggle to make drama alive for the pupils. Secondly, the application of drama as an educational tool to make lessons more exciting for the pupils and hopefully leading to better learning outcomes. Thirdly, the use of drama to challenge and help people make meaning of their lives and the world around them.

Coming back to the notion that we cannot give someone our understanding and that real understanding is felt, a feeling I had through the day was how our perceptions might be constrained by our professional discipline and experience. I come from a science and engineering background, where cause and effect is perhaps easier to quantify and understanding can be expressed in a ‘hard’ formula. I also grew up in the Far East, from a culture where knowledge is given and understanding absorbed through repetition. I began to wonder how much of the understanding expressed in the Sheldon Community Centre is based on Western constructs of the world.

Yet, I do agree that, besides acquiring knowledge and skills, education is also about learning to be human, knowing who we are and our rightful place in the world. Is there a way of bridging this seeming gap between a ‘felt understanding’ that changes our perceptions of self and the world and ‘hard knowledge’ that equips us to live and prosper in a challenging world that could be harsh and unforgiving? If anyone has some ideas, please let us know!

This is a critical question for us as Big Brum wants to ensure that its programmes and services continue to be relevant to schools and other educational providers (currently driven primarily by economic priorities and rather ‘hard’ educational attainment targets), whilst remaining true to its vision, ethos and artistic approach. Hopefully, by next July, we may have useful insights to share.

For more on People and Organisation: www.peopleandorganisation.com

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s