Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Supervisor

Tarquam McKenna


The main purpose of this study was to investigate the development of the problem-solving skills of eleven year olds in a Western Australian Primary school when the teacher and the children were in-role within the drama. The teacher, as teacher in-role, and the students role-played a variety of situations in which effective problem-solving skills were used. As the study progressed the nature of the children's use of symbol and metaphor became an important issue. In the first session the teacher in-role as the Mayor of a small town informed the children in-role as the town council that an alien spacecraft landed in their imaginary town. The children brainstormed ideas about their characters, the town and the situation confronting them. In the second session the teacher in-role as the Mayor read out a letter from the aliens and then introduced a painting to the children, played music and encouraged the children to draw symbols to represent their town to the aliens. The children created a fluid sculpture using these symbols and then reflected and discussed the lesson. Session three focussed on group skills and involved games, discussions and journal reflections about the town's dilemma. The fluid sculpture was developed in session four. The children made final preparations for the alien landing in session five and organised a meeting place, before meeting the teacher in-role as the alien. The in-role teacher observed the participants in drama sessions over a period of five weeks. Data was gathered from the five 45 minute sessions and collected in the form of: audio-taped interviews; work samples- letters, symbols, drawings and a suggestion box; journals; memos - observational notes and ideas and literature related to the data collated from the drama sessions as shown in Table 4.1. This data was recorded onto checklists and coded for analysis. The data was put into categories to see if there was any development in the children’s problem-solving skills. A case study approach was used with an emphasis on 'symbolic interactionism'. The results showed that in-role drama appeared to enhance the development of the problem-solving skills of eleven year old children. The data analysis showed an improvement in conflict resolution, decision-making and making value judgements. The symbolism encouraged the creation of a universal language and helped to develop the children's emotional awareness. Future researchers could look at the effect of in-role drama techniques on emotional awareness, socialisation, critical thinking and empathy.

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