Drama in practice is a creative process which makes meaning by the application to the human condition of aesthetic understanding, but drama in schooling is part of a system which makes meaning through a division of human understanding into subjects and courses. The discourse of drama education suggests that drama is a transformational process of personal development and social intervention. When schools offer to their students a subject called Drama, however, questions inevitably arise about the way in which the subject is validated. Is it a teaching and learning strategy, a means of intervention in dysfunctional situations, or a public relations exercise for the school? Which is more important, a polished performance or the spontaneous expression of students’ ideas, feelings and understandings? Is Drama undertaken primarily as recreation, or for the more “bankable” skills and strategies which can be gained from participating in it? Are such skills to be generically appreciated or vocationally targeted?
It is a premise of the study that the school subject is both represented and shaped by the documents which set out the requirements for teaching and learning: the syllabus and its attendant texts. The Western Australian senior secondary school syllabus in Drama has been subjected to a process of deconstruction which considers information from the linguistic structure of the text, from the sociocultural contexts of theatre and schooling and from the situational contexts of curriculum development and teaching. This information has been used to recover meanings inherent in the document which can be used to define the domain being represented there. Thus the research consists in an analysis of the text itself, as the medium through which meaning is communicated, a review of the contexts which are represented in the document, and the identification of ways in which the school subject of Drama is validated.