This thesis reports on the findings of a phenomenographic study exploring the role of different types of engagement in process drama for language education. This study provides a framework for describing in detail the participants’ subjective experiences of the phenomena of dramatic engagement and subsequent aesthetic engagement. The framework emerged from the findings and is useful for understanding dramatic engagement in all process dramas and its application in language education in Australia and internationally. The research was at an Australian University English Language Centre where a facilitator with experience in using process drama in language education was video recorded conducting three workshops over three weeks with ten adult international students.
Linking two decades of research in dramatic engagement in process drama for language learning (Piazzoli 2018; Kao and O'Neill 1998), this study addressed the interaction of role, narrative and tension during process drama and its impact on language education. Sociocultural learning theory from the works of Vygotsky (1980, 1997, 2004) and transformative learning theory from the works of Mezirow (Mezirow 1991, 1997, 2000, 2003) were used to explore the transformative capacity of dramatic engagement in process drama from a sociocultural perspective. Phenomenography was used to crystallise the dramatic engagement occurring in the dramas. Using the key phenomenographic techniques of bracketing and reduction (Åkerlind 2008), this research investigated the phenomena of dramatic engagement for four specific cases and provides a multifaceted and systemic description of how an adult student of English learns through process drama when they are engaged with the art form. Three key moments of dramatic engagement were investigated through observation and video recall. Quality and quantity of multimodal linguistic devices were demonstrated when students were dramatically engaged and analysed from language education, process drama and dramatic engagement perspectives. The research revealed that during dramatic engagement, participants managed the dramatic elements narrative, role and tension through playbuilding, roleplaying and sensemaking processes. Metaxis, metacognition and meta-emotion acted as catalysts for dramatic engagement with the participants and contributed positively to the process drama and language learning experience.
The thesis concludes that language education can be improved for international students studying English in Australia to provide a transformative learning experience through dramatic engagement. A framework for exploring aesthetic engagement through dramatic engagement is proposed. This research is significant for Australia’s third largest export industry, international education, and for aestheticians, process drama practitioners and language educators who are synergizing teaching and learning practice between these three growing pedagogies.