Learning to empathise: Students learning to understand disability through drama and theatre; implications for teacher professional development

Year: 2005

Author: Davies, John, Lee, John

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The inclusion of all students in mainstream schools is the policy objective for school systems in the developed world. It is argued that students who are not disabled benefit by learning to understand the nature of disability and come to understand that disabled persons rights and that they are persons in the same way as others. (Thomas and Vaughan 2004). This paper reports an evaluation of a theatre in education project aimed at promoting understanding of autism. The methodology adopted focused on "individual and group experiences" (Kushner 2000).

The uniqueness of the paper lies in the data sets. Individual and group interviews were conducted with autistic students who advised and directed and acted mainstream students and their teachers who watched the performance and subsequently undertook related classroom base work. The research raises the question of whether it is possible to teach empathy by using affective methods such as drama and theatre in a context where the policy and practice agenda is dominated by the rationale and the cognitive. An argument is advance that it is as important to deal with the affective domain as the effective domain if students are to develop as social and emotional beings.