Drama teachers engaging in performed identity work

In this presentation we look at performance as a mode of investigation into teacher identity through two performed research projects about teachers, performed by teachers, for a teaching audience: Artistry, Identity and the Drama Teacher: A Performance by Kelly McConville and The First Time by Michelle Ludecke. Our works have similarities and individualities. The similarities include our use of performed research to inquire into teacher identity, and teacher-performers’ experiences of representing themselves and others to an ‘expert audience’. We compare the teachers’ use of performance to investigate and present their own experiences in Kelly’s work with the experiences of teacher-actors’ employed to represent other teachers’ identity transformation in Michelle’s work. Both of us used performance as a way into our data. In Kelly’s study, performance was used as the mode with which to generate and analyse data. Michelle employed the processes of scripting and rehearsal as tools for data analysis, challenging the notion of ‘data reduction’. We both used performance to present our data, thus opening up conversations between performers and audience. The performers themselves had their own individual experiences with performing, where their identity work largely took place. The audience played a large role, showing how identity is contingent on those around us, not just internal work. In this paper we consider how a performative inquiry yields insights into the teacher-performers’ identities, and how performing identity can be empowering for teachers. This paper also looks at who performs performed research, and includes a rationale for employing teachers to represent teachers in such works. We take an ethnographical and phenomenological approach to consider how these teachers engaged in performed identity work. Our own experiences as ‘facilitators immersed in the creation of performed research works, provide the basis for an analysis of the performers’ subjective experiences and interpretations of research-based performance to an ‘expert audience’. Some of the most interesting findings from this research include: the benefits of performance approaches to analysing and presenting data; that performing to an ‘expert audience’ of teaching professionals has a profound impact on the creative and rehearsal processes; the ethical responsibilities we and the performers felt towards representing teachers; and how the opportunity to perform was anxiety inducing yet vital to the teacher-performers’ professional learning and drama teaching, assisting them to ‘practice what you preach’.