Drama and enacted storytelling as a tool for supporting young children's development of social imagination

Year: 2017

Author: Dolan, Kathryn, Davis, Susan, Ambrosetti, Angelina

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Empathy is considered by many to be one of the most important 21st Century learning skills. Greene (1995) advocates for empathy building and its link to imagination when she discusses 'social imagination' and the capacity to invent visions of what should be and what might be. There is a need for specific pedagogies that will allow children to engage in socio-dramatic play that supports them in using their imagination to acquire a strong sense of identity and develop the ability to empathise. This work must begin when we are young, with children getting ample practice at 'putting themselves in someone else's shoes'. There is substantial agreement in current research on the values of socio-dramatic play, however teachers are still left with the dilemma around their role in the play and how they can foster meaningful play experiences inclusive of all children. The objective of this research was to explore the use of some dramatic frameworks as a tool for supporting the development of a child's imagination within a co-constructed learning design. These dramatic experiences were implemented in a kindergarten classroom to engage children in multiple opportunities to exercise empathy. The methodology for this research aligns closely with the theoretical school of thought from Vygotsky's cultural historical theory. This paradigm for theory on education and learning reinforces the idea that learning experiences should be authentic and engaging for students and should build on their cultural backgrounds and knowledge. The outcomes of this research project strongly advocate for learning that encourages children to participate in society from an early age, which supports their motivation and agency. This presentation will specifically address how the introduction of dramatic frameworks into pedagogy can support students with significant learning needs. It will present the findings from a case study on three children with varying learning difficulties. Through the analysis of the case study and my commitment as a reflective practitioner/researcher, there is strong evidence to support the positive effects that the dramatic frameworks had on each child's growth and development of 'social imagination' and their ability to empathise.