An inquiry into the relationship between drama, traditional stories and the moral education of children in primary schools
This thesis is an inquiry into the relationship between drama and traditional stories and their potential contributions, when used together, to the moral education of young children. The stimulus for this inquiry has stemmed from my own academic interests and professional practice as a teacher educator for the primary age range. It is underpinned by a belief that this is an area which has been both under-researched and under-theorised but that it is nonetheless of interest and importance for drama teachers, primary teachers and others who share an interest in the moral development of young children. The research has proceeded with two parallel but closely related forms of inquiry. The one has been an academic investigation into those theoretical issues which underpin the project and the other has consisted of fieldwork within primary classrooms, centred upon my own teaching. In its final form, the thesis is presented in two parts of roughly equal length, the one concentrating on theoretical concerns, the other consisting of a critical analysis of my own classroom practice, where issues of theory are investigated as they directly impinge upon it. However, it has been a key aim throughout this project to relate theory closely to practice, so that the one might continually inform the other as the research progressed. In the introduction, I give an account of the genesis of the inquiry, provide an argument for its significance to the contemporary educational debate and give a clear exposition of its parameters. In Part I, I begin with a discussion of current developments in moral educational theory and make the case for the importance of narrative and narrative literature in the development of moral understanding. In applying these theories to literary versions of traditional tales, however, it becomes quickly clear that the area is problematic and informed by contradictory theories and profound disagreement. I propose that the narrative form of these tales is inappropriate to didactic moral teaching and argue that a perspective which is informed by their mythic and oral origins is best placed to help our understanding of how they can be harnessed for the purposes of moral learning. I argue that there are historical and artistic reasons for seeing an important role for drama. in this process and examine how moral processes are engaged and informed by the dramatic event. In Part IT, I introduce the fieldwork with a critical look at how the practices of drama in education can be used to engage children in ethical exploration as defined within the parameters of this inquiry. I provide a detailed account of the research methodology followed by three case studies, each of which recounts and analyses a series of lessons with three separate classes of children, centred around three distinct traditional tales. These case studies are discursive in nature, each focusing upon issues and questions generated by the particular stories and lessons. They are informed by the theoretical exposition in Part I but generate their own theoretical perspectives and hypotheses which I propose to have implications for general classroom practice within this area. In the concluding chapter, I propose that the theoretical thrust and practical findings of the project signal an important role for drama in a school's moral education policy and suggest particular areas of inquiry which would further inform this argument.