Date of Award

1-1-2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Carlisle Sheridan

Second Advisor

Dr Elizabeth Parry

Abstract

Learning involves cognitive, psychological, sociological, historical, philosophical, aesthetic, emotional and spiritual aspects. This study argues that the spiritual dimension of the psyche is overlooked in the research into education. Spirituality in education is not easily addressed in secular settings and needs exploration and explication. The thesis probes the interstice between the act of dramatic performance and the spiritual awareness of the individual. Case studies allow the exploration of the experience of performance for senior high school drama students, drama teacher trainees and an adult actor. The students attended a school and university in Western Australia. The study posits that in the moment of dramatic performance the individual may experience epiphany or insight. The heuristic and qualitative methods adopted in this study are to observe and describe the experience of dramatic performance when the individual is changed; through genuine focus in performance the performer may be aware of a sense of personal transformation; on reflecting upon the phenomenon the performer may be aware of transcendence. The power of focused performance is such that it can change the performer and spectator and this change embodies a spiritual dimension. The link between dramatic performance and spirituality is an exploration of a neglected educational terrain (Carr). By identifying this dimension of the psyche this research adds to the understanding of dramatic performance and suggests that the participation in drama in schools will be beneficial for students if it were to enliven the spiritual aspect of learning. The participants were invited to explore performing through a series of movement based workshops. The workshops' emphasis was self-awareness through dramatic performance involving creative and authentic movement. They were requested to reflect in journals about this experience of dramatic performance. Fourteen participants were interviewed. Drawing on research by Courtney on the importance of drama for cognitive and aesthetic learning and the writing of Carr and Miller on the importance of the spiritual in education, this study describes the experience of dramatic performance for eight senior secondary students, five university students and an adult actor.

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