An examination of the nature and purpose of drama in the special school curriculum: based on the analysis of a research project carried out in a sample of Scottish schools for severely and profoundly mentally handicapped children

McClintock, Ann B. (1984) An examination of the nature and purpose of drama in the special school curriculum: based on the analysis of a research project carried out in a sample of Scottish schools for severely and profoundly mentally handicapped children. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information:


The research was prompted by the anomaly which appeared to
exist between the view of drama as it is presented in the
literature, and its representation in special schools curricula. In
the literature drama is presented as a desirable curricular element
which can be a valuable means of benefiting pupils over a variety of
learning areas. In practice, many special schools make no provision
for drama, and in only a small proportion of schools is it taught on
any regular or systematic basis.
The project established that the extent of the neglect of drama
in special education was considerable, and that the reasons for the
neglect lay more in staff's ignorance of its educational potential
than in their perception of its value or lack of value. Analysis
suggested that it would be necessary for staff to experience, at
first hand in their own classrooms, the teaching of drama and the
outcomes of that teaching in order that they might arrive at a
personal assessment of its value to them in their work.
In order to achieve this, a curriculum research and development
project was carried out. This involved:
a) the analysis of the educational justification for drama in
special educational curricula, its possible aims, the methods
appropriate to teaching it, the activities it may comprise, and
the role of the teacher in the drama lesson;
b) an examination of the extent to which theory was bourne out in
practice under a variety of classroom conditions within schools
for severely and profoundly mentally handicapped pupils, and in
collaboration with staff within the schools;
c) the development of lesson plans and teaching materials which
would embody the principles outlined and which could be
disseminated for use and critical testing to a wider
cross-section of schools.
The following are the main conclusions:
1. Although it may be crucial to the development of profoundly
mentally handicapped pupils to ensure that they have adequate
stimulation through the provision of activities in movement and
music, the provision of regular drama lessons by general staff
may be less essential since
a) many of the pupils may not be sufficiently developed
to comprehend the symbolic aspects of drama as an imaginative,
enactive means of representing and interpreting
b) the pupils who can respond to the process of drama wAy be
those autistic or behaviourally disturbed children who may
need specialist help if drama is to be made accessible to
them on a regular and systematic basis.
2. Severely mentally handi"capped pupils can benefit from drama in a
variety of important ways, depending on the nature of the drama
provision offered. Staff within the present project were more
willing to learn and use the simpler drama techniques. While
the more complex techniques can be used as a means of stimulating
problem-solving abilities and imaginative development, the simpler
techniques are useful in stimulating language development, in
improving social skills, in reducing passivity in the more
lethargic pupils, and in encouraging the emergence and development
of corporate imagir.ative play.
3. The pupils who appeared to benefit most from the provision of
drama in the present project were those lively Down's Syndrome
children who appear to have a natural aptitude for dra~A, and
some of the more passive or withdrawn children. Host noticeable
benefits were in the development of communication abilities,
in the extension of dramatic play, and in the reduction of
4. In this project, behaviourally disturbed and hyperactive,
severely mentally handicapped pupils appeared to benefit least
from normal classroom drama provision. There may be a need
to make specialist provision for such pupils. There is a
need for further research to clarify their reactions and the
reactions of profoundly handicapped pupils with similar problems.
5. As a result of their involvement in the project, staff from over
forty schools were enabled to try out drama on a systematic and
regular basis, and to arrive at a personal assessment of its
value to them in their teaching.. Over two.thirds have gone on
to include drama in their curricular schemes.
6. staff involved in the collaborative research have acquired a
degree of expertise in the curriculum research and development
process, and in the teaching of drama. The author recommends
that this expertise be utilised and exploited by encouraging
such staff to regard their schools as resource centres and to
be willing to help staff from other schools in the development
and planning of lessons. Skill-sharing of this kind might go
same way towards compensating for the lack of specialist drama
teachers in this field of education. The anomaly between the
neglect of drama and its value as represented in the literature
is largely explained by a lack of appropriate teaching materials,
staff's lack of knowledge of drama and its practices, and staff's
unwillingness to attempt the more complex drama techniques.
Skill-sharing might also help reduce some of these barriers to
the adoption of drama in schools.
The author also re-examines, in the concluding sections of the
thesis, the rationale underpinning the method of curriculum research
and development adopted in the project. She attempts to illuminate
some of the strengths and weaknesses of this methodology by reference to
the practical difficulties experienced in the course of the project •.
She argues that these reflect a more general disquiet in the research
literature about the methods applicable to curricul~~ research, development
and evaluation. She suggests that there maybe a .need for a
reappraisal of curriculum theory to encompass the kind of practical
difficulties which appear to be concomitants to collaborative research
in education. And she argues that this reappraisal may be particularly
important where, as was the case in this project, the research design
incorporates the development of teaching materials and the dissemination
of these for field testing within a sample of schools which have not
been involved in the initial research and development.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Dunn, Mr. W.
Date of Award: 1984
Depositing User: Ms Mary Anne Meyering
Unique ID: glathesis:1984-4830
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2014 14:35
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2014 09:48

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