This issue of Drama Research contains articles whose authors geographically span the world: UK, USA and Australia and whose research interests are equally diverse, but have one thing in common: the problem of the engagement of students and the means whereby such engagement can be evaluated. ‘Engagement’ is a much-used term in drama and theatre; but it presents particular difficulties to drama researchers in that it is so elusive a concept – how do you know when students are enagaged and how do you evaluate their engagement?
Erika Piazzolli, a native Italian speaker who emigrated to Australia in 2000, discusses, through her reflective practitioner study at Griffith University, Brisbane, the aesthetics of process drama in the teaching and learning of Additional Languages (AL/process drama) especially with regard to this problem of engagement. Piazzoli draws on the evidence of a case study to evaluate both what students say and what they don’t say when they are ‘engaged’. Her fascinating study draws attention to some ‘silent gaps’ in the data and also to the role of the researcher as an ‘intercultural speaker’ in studies of this kind.
Likewise concerned with the problem of engagement of students, Josepha Pace, full time visiting instructor at the College of SUNY, Old Westbury, New York, studied the discussions that students engaged in when studying Titus Andronicus and The Importance of Being Earnest. Because of the multi-modal nature of theatre and drama, and because she believed that students – and people generally – engaged with theatre texts in multi-sensual way, she employed clips of films as well as theatre texts in her research. Her underpinning argument is ‘that methodologies and teaching practices in the 21st century should keep abreast with the fast-paced demands that society is proposing.’
Brian Lighthill’s paper explores the concept of engagement of young people with a simple question: “Have Shakespeare’s plays anyrelevance to the lives of young people today – or is it just a load of ‘Bardolatry’?” Lighthill spent four years of observations and action research in one Warwickshire secondary school (2006-10) exploring whether Shakespeare studies should have an ongoing place in the curriculum. In his article he maps out the arguments for and against Shakespeare study then describes the modus operandi of the research process. A debate follows on how to make Shakespeare ‘relevant’ for young learners’ – if the students are to own Shakespeare’s production can the issues in the fictional stories be made relevant to their real life world?
Pam Bowell, Amanda Kipling, Chris Lawrence, Marie Jeanne McNaughton and Ruth Sayers.
Drama Research Editorial Board.