Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Cynthia Dixon

Abstract

This thesis is concerned with determining the effectiveness of using drama in presenting spiritual material to school students. As a performer in schools I often wondered if the "magic" of the stage was what the students identified with or whether in addition they were also understanding and learning spiritual truths. As an undergraduate religious student I was exposed to the research of Goldman who concluded that Scripture teaching in Primary Schools should be minimised because he believed the students were incapable of understanding parables and miracles. I looked back on my school performance years and the warm reception given to the plays I was involved in and wondered at the limitations of Goldman's study. His cognitive approach was well founded and affective, but was he missing a part of the picture. My hunch was that children may well understand spiritual concepts by intuitively grasping symbols, character stereotyping and story dynamics even when not equipped necessarily to understand words or complex religious thoughts in a cognitive sense. I was intrigued to find out if the growth patterns described by developmental psychologists could be demonstrated to be in effect when children were exposed to live religious theatre. In order to determine these questions I organised three different research episodes in schools. In the first I interviewed Primary School children following a forty-minute religious play to ascertain how and what was learned. what (if anything) that they had understood spiritually, my third research experiment was done with a school of deaf children where few words were spoken/ signed during an enactment of Jesus healing. Analysis of this data suggest that children can understand spiritual truths intuitively when exposed to religious theatre. It also showed that students' developmental stages affect their cognitive understanding and therefore some knowledge and recognition of children's limitations would be helpful in maximising the positive effects religious drama can produce.

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