Learning to Teach Drama 11-18

Author(s) Andy Kempe, Helen Nicholson
Publisher Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.
Published 2007
Pages 272
Price £19.99
ISBN 0826491685
Reviewed by Mrs Sharon James
College of St Mark & St John
Review published 22 June 2007

This textbook is aimed at a large audience including those who are considering applying for initial teacher training (ITT), those who have begun and are unsure of their subject, those who may be attending a module or some sessions on teaching drama within their subject area, but mainly those who will be “teaching drama in the context of secondary education”. As an enthusiast who has taught drama in a variety of situations including secondary, middle and primary schools, and adult education it is hard to imagine anyone choosing to enter this field without a passion for the subject! But even reluctant tutors could use this book to lead, challenge and enthuse their students. As the authors themselves say “Although it is primarily intended for those who are undertaking initial teacher training as drama teachers, learning to teach drama is a continual process. Drama teachers are always learning…”

This book holds all the basic staple ideas with a suitable range of tasks and reading to match the chapter headings. It begins with a clear instructive chapter on “Beginning Training” walking prospective students through entry into college and thence into the profession. Anyone following the authors’ explanation on how to observe a lesson, and how to interpret what they see in the context of a school, will find themselves in a good position entering initial teacher training. This is a sure guide, which, if followed, would make the pre-course school visits a worthwhile experience rather than an aimless “look-around”. The following chapters on “Subject Knowledge and Understanding” and “Planning” also hit the spot for those in the first year of ITT tackling many of the issues that students find muddling at this stage. This is also true of the final chapter on “Transition” on applying for jobs, interviews and the Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year.

The other chapters include the essential starters “Managing the Drama Classroom”, “Monitoring, Assessment, Recording, Reporting and Accountability” and “Working in Partnership: Mentors and Trainees” with many pieces of sensible advice placed within the context of the drama classroom. I particularly liked the suggested further reading within the notes at the end of each chapter but would have liked to have seen more academic articles and journals included in the lists. There were, I feel, some missed opportunities where common misconceptions shown by trainees could have been discussed more deeply e.g. reflection in evaluation or the role of drama in a cross-curricular context.

The thorny issue of “Working in Context: Professional Responsibilities” is suitably addressed for trainees but is not strong enough as a timely reminder to those who are new to the profession, of the duty of care that remains if you are working outside the classroom, perhaps on a theatre visit or organising extra-curricular clubs or even the school play! Here the book remains firmly in the context of initial teacher training limiting this discussion to the viewpoint of an accompanying trainee rather than one whose responsibility it is to take charge.

This is a good starting point as a textbook, which will in many ways, appeal to the trainee. It is readable, offers manageable tasks and encourages further reading to develop the topic. It certainly sets the subject in context for those new to drama and to initial teacher training. I thought the second chapter on subject knowledge had the merit of balancing practical suggestions with pedagogical considerations while touching on a few of the current debates within drama.

I can see that this book could have a place as a core text to establish the first module in the first year as it opens the debate and discussion although I would want to supplement it with others to get a range of thoughts and to widen the trainees viewpoints. It is more suitable as a supplementary reader and on a trainee’s own bookshelf.