Teaching can often be a lonely job. Despite being in the company of a number of learners, colleagues and teachers, I often felt that what I was trying to achieve in my practice was at risk of being swallowed in the variety of school agendas, policies and processes. This risk of isolation has, arguably, been augmented with the recent election of a group of ‘educated’ politicians make decisions about the future of Britain’s education system. More testing for children; a greater focus on EBaCC subjects; a narrowing curriculum; and little monetary investment in real terms.
With this in mind my spirits were revived when Big Brum Theatre in Education Company, my colleagues at Birmingham City University and I launched our Masters in Teaching and Learning programme (MTL), with the hope of creating both an authentic space for teachers to develop their own reflective practice and planning, and a learning community for those people in which their practice, in collaboration with like-minded people, might be formally accredited. This Community of Practice is intended to link theory and practice explicitly and aims to connect drama teachers across the West Midlands.
The structure of the MTL will see teachers responding to the artistic input from Big Brum, a world renowned theatre company. In order to develop their thinking further, teachers will then be encouraged to explore, create and deepen their understanding, where it matters, in the classroom with our children. In essence this collaborative relationship between Artists, Teachers and Children will be central for everyone’s learning as we all wrestle to understand what it is to be human, particularly at a time such as this.
There are three groups within our community of practice as can be seen in the diagram below:
Group 1 will commit to involvement in a core group, including completing MTL units for accreditation; Group 2 will commit to involvement in a core group, but without completing MTL units; whilst group 3 will attend occasional meetings and occasionally contribute (e.g. via online conversations.
From this process of response, creation and reflection participants will create resources that can be used for the wider drama in education community. This might include lesson plans, schemes of work, reflective analytical documents or critical commentaries about the learning. What this will allow is that useful resources for teachers will be created by learners, teachers and artists.
During our first introductory session we discussed the fine balance between the drama form and content. What is it we could be teaching in drama? How might we do this? Implicit within our learning was the feeling that schools are increasingly focusing upon the performance of education and the data that this produces. In the light of Ofsted’s inspection policy, ‘organizations will concentrate their efforts on those things they are judged on’ (Muijs & Chapman 2009:41), which means that school leaders may prioritise Ofsted’s needs over the aims of the community, or indeed the children, that the school serves. How might we, as drama teachers, work within this framework?
Furthermore, the issue of preparing young people to work with Big Brum was also considered. Should we prepare young peoples’ ‘mindset’ or should we be helping them into a ‘frame of mind’, from which they can explore the rich content that Big Brum provide? Much of Big Brum’s methodology is open-ended and dialogic, which for some teachers operating in an ‘observation culture’ can be difficult to handle, particularly when this open-endedness cannot always be measured in terms of progress or demonstrated to a non-conscious observer (Giddens 1991).
From the first meeting I learned that in my role as a teacher educator I might want to focus on how I enable teachers to consider the content of their intended learning just as much as the form that it takes. Linked to this is the notion of ‘frames of mind’; how do I prepare my trainees for learning, given the meta-cognitive way in which my sessions are run?
Interested? We are always looking to increase our community of practice, should you want to know more then please contact me.
Muijs, D., & Chapman, C., (2009). Accountability for Improvement: Rhetoric or Reality? In Radical Reforms, ed.
Giddens, A., (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity (35)