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Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and


Performance
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Building Relationships Through Drama: the Action Track Project [1]


Construire des échanges grâce au théâtre: le projet d'action Track
Fomentando Relaciones a Través Del Arte Dramático: el proyecto 'action
track'
Phil Bayliss; Cherry Dodwell

To cite this Article Bayliss, Phil and Dodwell, Cherry(2002) 'Building Relationships Through Drama: the Action Track
Project [1] Construire des échanges grâce au théâtre: le projet d'action Track Fomentando Relaciones a Través Del Arte
Dramático: el proyecto 'action track'', Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 7:
1, 43 — 60
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/13569780120113139
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Research in Drama Education, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2002

Building Relationships Through Drama: the


Action Track Project [1]
Construire des échanges grâce au théâtre: le
projet d’action Track
Fomentando Relaciones a Través Del Arte
Dramático: el proyecto ‘action track’
Downloaded By: [University of Bath Library] At: 14:25 13 February 2010

PHIL BAYLISS
University of Exeter, School of Education, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU. UK
(e-mail: P.D.Bayliss@exeter.ac.uk)

CHERRY DODWELL
University of Exeter, School of Education, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU. UK
(e-mail: C.Dodwell@exeter.ac.uk)

ABSTRACT Drama and theatre can be used in a variety of ways to support personal
development. This paper reports the ‘Action Track Project’ where a group of children
with severe learning difŽ culties from a special school and a group of mainstream
children from a neighbouring high school in the South West of England worked
intensively together to produce a show ‘Together Again’ which was performed for an
invited audience. The project took place over a week and it formed the focus for
research to understand if such a project can develop ‘communitas’ which in turn
supports the development of ‘membership’ which underpins the concept of ‘inclusion’,
across the disabled–non-disabled dimension. Quantitative and qualitative methods were
used to investigate the complexity of such a project and outcomes indicated that
communitas and membership did occur for both groups of pupils which had positive
intergroup effects. The article argues that such collaborative work should form a
necessary part of a school curriculum.

RÉSUMÉ Le jeu dramatique et le théâtre peuvent être utilisés de multiples manières pour
contribuer à l’épanouissement personnel. Cet article rend compte du ‘projet d’action
Track’, qui Ž t travailler ensemble un groupe d’enfants avec de graves difŽ cultés
d’apprentissage, issus d’une école spécialisée et un groupe d’élèves scolarisés dans un
lycée ordinaire du Sud de l’Angleterre. Le résultat fut la production du spectacle ‘De
nouveau ensemble’ qui fut représenté devant un public d’invités. Le projet se déroula
ISSN 1356-9783 print; 1470-112X online/02/010043–18 Ó 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd
DOI: 10.1080/1356978012011313 9
44 P. Bayliss & C. Dodwell

pendant une semaine et servit de point de convergence à une étude visant à savoir si un
tel projet peut développer le sens de la communauté, ce qui à son tour développe le sens
de l’appartenance à un groupe, sur lequel repose le concept d’inclusion, en dépassant
l’aspect handicap-non-handicap. Des méthodes quantitatives et qualitatives furent utili-
sées pour mener à bien un projet aussi complexe et les résultats indiquèrent que le sens
de la communauté et de la participation étaient apparus dans les deux groupes d’élèves,
ce qui eut des effets positifs sur les rapports ‘inter groupe’. L’article démontre que ce
genre de travail de collaboration devrait faire partie intègrante des programmes scolaires.
RESUMEN El arte dramático y el teatro pueden ser empleados de diversas maneras para
fortalecer del desarrollo personal. Este ensayo presenta un informe acerca del proyecto
‘Action Track’, en el cual un grupo de niños con graves dificultades del aprendizaje de
un colegio especial, y un grupo de niños sin tales dificultades de un colegio vecino en
el sur-oeste de Inglaterra, trabajaron juntos intensivamente para poner en escena una
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función llamada ‘Otra vez juntos’ (Together Again), que fue representada ante un
público invitado. El proyecto duró una semana, y se convirtió en el punto de enfoque
de la investigación para llegar a comprender si un proyecto de esta categorõ´a pudiera
desarollar ‘communitas’ que ayuden a establecer relaciones de ‘camaraderõ´a’, (member-
ship), que establezca las bases para reducir el concepto de ‘inclusión’ a través de la
dimensión minusválida/no minusválida. Para investigar la comlejidad de tal proyecto se
emplearon métodos cuantitativos y cualitativos. Los resultados indican que estas dos
categorõ´as de ‘communitas’ y de ‘camaraderõ´a’ (membership) sõ´ se establecieron entre los
dos grupos de estudiantes, lo cual tuvo un efecto positivo para ambos grupos. Este
artõ´culo sugiere que proyectos de similares caracterõ´sticas colaborativas deberõ´an de ser
una parte necesaria en el plan de estudios de cualquier escuela.

Introduction
The inclusion of children with learning difŽ culties and/or disabilities (LD/ D) in main-
stream education has become a global agenda (Pijl et al., 1997). Inclusion differs from
a process of integration, in that ‘simple’ participation in ordinary settings may not
guarantee any sense of belonging to the community of the school—the child with
signiŽ cant disabilities may not achieve the status of ‘being one of us’ (Kunc, 1992;
Bayliss, 2000). Research has shown (Avramidis et al., forthcoming; Harry et al., 1998)
that some children with LD/ D may not develop peer relationships with the other pupils
and experience exclusion from peer culture through different forms of neglect, social-
communicative breakdown, con ict and rejection—‘peer cultural exclusion (takes)
many forms, ranging from passive neglect to overt rejection of the children with
disabilities’ (Wolfberg et al., 1999, p. 81).
Social-communicative breakdown results in patterns of interaction between disabled
and non-disabled children which are characterised by directive communicative pro-
cesses, whereby ‘able’ children act as ‘helpers’ to the ‘helped’ (Bayliss, 1992, 1995;
Finkelstein, 1981) or as ‘guides’ (Lewis, 1994) without achieving equitable social
processes which support belonging and membership of a group or class. Membership
can lead to friendships developing between children across the dimension of disability
and Meyer et al. (1998) point to the importance of the socio-cultural context in which
Building Relationships Through Drama 45

children with and without disabilities participate and how this in uences the develop-
ment of ‘group membership’ and the possibility of friendship.
Membership is characterised by positive relationships among students, friendships,
and social and communicative interactions between students and teachers (Williams &
Downing, 1998); it is also associated with a high sense of belonging and results in higher
motivation and academic engagement (Goodenow & Grady, 1994) and friendship can
be seen as a social dimension which ranges from rejection, acceptance to intimacy
(O’Brien & Lyle-O’Brien, 1993). The fostering of ‘belonging’ is dependent on the
development of a peer culture which supports positive relationships as necessary for the
inclusion of children with disabilities.
While educational processes cannot guarantee friendship between children (and, some
may argue, should not seek to), socio-cultural contexts can be structured to provide
opportunities for children to move along the dimension from outright rejection (social
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exclusion) towards acceptance and possibly, friendship.


This process is highly problematic given the context of the UK’s educational system
which supports a robust (segregated) special education system, together with a highly
prescriptive National Curriculum. Although the revision of the National Curriculum
(National Curriculum Council, 2000) includes a Statement of Values relating to inclusive
processes, the curriculum favours cognitive outcomes (‘national standards’) (Vlachou,
1997), rather than social development within the context of a community of learners,
which comprises both able and learning disabled children and adults. Where parallel
systems of special and ‘mainstream’ schooling exist, for example, where children from
a special school attend a mainstream school for speciŽ c sessions or experience their
education in a ‘Unit’ attached to a mainstream setting, integrational processes confer
‘visitor status’ (Lewis, 1995) on children with LDDs which are constrained by ‘ordinary’
children’s general understanding of disability and their attitudes to it.
Generally, integration and inclusion have become an area of increasing importance as
children with signiŽ cant disabilities are offered opportunities for being educated with
their peers. However, the process of integration/ inclusion is problematic, especially in
the development of signiŽ cant relationships between disabled children and their peers;
friendships for children or adults with severe learning difŽ culties are generally su-
perŽ cial (Clegg & Standen, 1991). This is compounded when young children are offered
‘integrated’ education, but as adolescents and adults they become increasingly isolated
as they fail to cope with the cognitive curriculum.
Relationships are dependent on a variety of factors: attitudes, shared areas of interest
and understanding (mutuality) and a willingness to share the other’s point of view
(reciprocity). For children with severe learning difŽ culties, the opportunities to partici-
pate in activities from which mutuality and reciprocity with their peers may develop, are
few. Also, where interpersonal behaviour is made difŽ cult by communication
difŽ culties, the few opportunities that do arise may not be used appropriately. Often the
situation is seen as that of helper/helped with the ‘disabled’ adopting a passive role.
Given the UK context of special education, the barriers to inclusion for children with
severe learning difŽ culties are large. We were concerned to explore ways of understand-
ing how inclusion (seen in terms of membership of a group) can be supported through
the use of drama and theatre.
46 P. Bayliss & C. Dodwell

The aim was to move beyond Chesner’s (1995, p. 12) view that ‘dramatherapy seems
to be of value with this client group’ (people with learning disabilities) and to examine
ways in which drama and theatre can fundamentally re-structure the basis of groups or
personal consciousness and support a social emancipatory discourse (Fulcher, 1990),
rather than a medical discourse of a pathology of ‘need’. The focus for the research was
less on personal (drama-therapeutic) outcomes than on investigating how the use of
educational drama and theatre can act as a vehicle to support the development of
interpersonal relationships between two groups of children who differ along a dimension
of disability. Thus, the project aimed to set up an ‘immersion’ opportunity. In this case
a special performance-orientated activity and analysis of the co-operative group work
developed to see if it supported inter-dependence between the two groups of pupils.
Where quality of opportunity exists, in the sense that tasks and outcomes are negotiated
by the children themselves, then inter-dependence (Fullwood, 1990) should arise. This
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should allow for reciprocal patterns of interaction and the development of peer relation-
ships. This form of interactive learning situation should develop real relationships which
show equality between the two groups of children (Bayliss & ParŽ tt, 1993). There is little
research in this area and the aim was to put these ideas to the test. Educational drama has
been used for a variety of purposes and the project was designed to promote educational
goals for all pupils and to support processes of integration. The process is one of
integration, rather than inclusion, because the children experience segregated education
and were together for the project week only they did not experience ‘inclusive practice’.

Drama, Theatre, Critical Events and ‘Communitas’


Drama, educational drama and theatre have been used in a variety of contexts to
support a variety of outcomes. Drama has been used to support the development of
community where this, for example, has been disrupted through war and mass evacua-
tions (Lahad, 1999). It supported the development of hope in ‘inner city slums’ (Gersie,
1995) and the development of community (Garcia, 1998).
Drama and theatre have been used to support the personal and socio-political
development of people with learning difŽ culties (Price & Barron, 1999) and drama can
contribute to what Woods (1993) calls ‘critical events in education’ where groups of
children working through a drama process experience signiŽ cant changes in the way
they regard themselves and each other. This use of drama is distinguished from ‘drama
therapy’ (Chesner, 1995; Jennings, 1990) or ‘drama for helping and healing’, where ‘the
medium of drama is used in a structured way to activate the group although the use
made of drama and the use made of the structure of the group are ultimately for the
beneŽ t of the emotional development of each individual in the group’ (Cattanach, 1996,
p. 7). It is also distinguished from the use of drama with segregated groups of children
as ‘a means of working across the curriculum in order to help children with special
educational needs’ (Kempe, 1991) or a process of developing skills in children with
learning difŽ culties (McClintock, 1981).
Theatre is a collaborative activity which allows the exploration of artistic expression
as a collective and requires ‘ensemble playing’ where ‘the spirit of the ensemble implies
an unselŽ sh support for the others with whom one works in harmony. The strength of the
Building Relationships Through Drama 47

group is only as strong as its individuals’ (Welch, 1993, p. 162). Boal (1995, p. 16) states
that ‘theatre studies the multiple interrelations of men and women living in society, rather
than limiting itself to the contemplation of each solitary individual taken in isolation’.
The common thread running through these uses of drama has been to empower
individuals or groups to change (Boal, 1998). The process of drama is supporting what
Turner (1969) and Woods (1993) call ‘communitas’ which: ‘has a quality that is both
intensely real and intensely unreal. Latent or suppressed feelings, abilities, thoughts and
aspirations are suddenly set free. New persons are born and, almost in celebration, a
new collective spirit, uncommon excitement and expectations are generated. All know
that this is something special, though exactly why is difŽ cult to explain. Something is
always lost in the attempt. After all, the more successful the magic, the more impen-
etrable the solution’ (p. 362).
This almost metaphysical call to action has little or no place within a curriculum
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which has a realist-technicist focus (Fullan, 1982) of enabling children to develop skills
which are marketable. Instead, the rhetoric of ‘communitas’ must be redirected to a
rhetoric of ‘community’ which is based on collaboration and co-operation.
This process of developing a collaborative culture re ects a process of learning. A
constructivist approach to learning (Vygotsky, 1978; Wood, 1988) is located outside of a
traditional school focus (Desforges, 1995). Such an approach offers an opportunity for
co-operative work which can support social development across a disabled/non-disabled
dimension (Rynders et al., 1980). However, developing a ‘true’ co-operative programme
which supports interdependence, solidarity and the building of ‘communitas’ or ‘com-
munity’ in a population who are passive, and whose cognitive abilities in many ways
preclude them from the social processes of relationships, intimacy and, most important,
the everyday communicative abilities which cement friendships, requires a different
approach to supporting social development. There is a need to ‘scaffold’ the co-operative
work in ways which do not require the group themselves to have the resources to build
‘communitas’—here, the need for the ‘critical other’ (Woods, 1993) is vital, and the
medium of drama or theatre can provide the structure to develop a sense of communitas.
Communitas comprises (Woods, 1993, p. 362, in discussion of a school play Godspell)
of:

· a special culture developed by the group and strong affective ties;


· discovering others;
· levelling (‘experience is a great leveller’);
· mutual support;
· expansiveness (‘the beneŽ ts of communitas reach out to others, rather than being
inwardly directed in the creation of a differentiate group or elite’).

Woods describes critical events in terms of stages:

· conceptualisation;
· preparation and planning;
· divergence (‘this is an explosion stage when the pupils are encouraged to be innova-
tive and creative, explore opportunities, stretch their abilities, experiment with
48 P. Bayliss & C. Dodwell

different media and forms of expression to Ž nd optimum ways of working, test and
develop their relationships with others’);
· convergence (‘the integrating stage where the products of the previous stage are
examined to Ž nd those that best serve the aims of the enterprise’);
· consolidation;
· celebration (the performance, which acts as both goal and closure).

Woods argues that critical events support holistic learning and are real—the products
of learning are not ‘academic’, but relate to the development of the ‘person’, seen in
terms of empowerment and, most importantly, enjoyment. Woods also argues for the
presence of the ‘critical other’—an ‘expert’ who enhances the role of the teacher(s). The
charisma of the critical other relies on:
· being ‘other’, which challenges the taken-for-granted, introduces novelty and cuts
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across routines (in the context of children with learning difŽ culties, such a person also
brings different expectations of individual children);
· personal qualities, emerging from ‘self’—critical others contribute to communitas
through inspiring others;
· qualities emerging from the ‘profession’ which validate and authenticate the group
activity.
If all of these elements are put together, we were concerned to understand whether
the process of establishing communitas through the use of ensemble theatre for a mixed
group of able and learning disabled children from different educational contexts
(‘mainstream’ and ‘special education’) would result in holistic learning and a greater
sense of ‘inclusion’, seen in terms of belonging and membership.

The Action Track Project [2]


The project was designed to bring together pupils from a mainstream high school and
pupils with severe learning difŽ culties from a special school through the medium of
theatre. There were 23 pupils aged between 12 and 13 from the comprehensive school
(Year 8) and nine pupils of a similar age from the special school. The special school
children included two non-communicating children with signiŽ cant and complex needs
(one child with autism, the other with signiŽ cant challenging behaviour).
Each group was a tutor group whose members knew each other but not the group
from the other school. The children were supported by the class teacher and three
classroom assistants from the special school, and the drama teacher from the main-
stream school. The Action Track team provided the ‘critical others’: two drama
specialists, a design artist and a musician.

Conceptualisation
Both schools were known to the principal researcher and prior to the start of the project
permission was sought from both headteachers to proceed. When both headteachers
agreed, both groups of children were approached and asked if they would like to be
Building Relationships Through Drama 49

involved in the project. Finally, permission to proceed was sought from parents. The
adults involved met prior to the project to discuss the work and logistics. The children
had two meetings before the actual week, one in each school lasting an hour when a
series of introductory ‘ice breaker’ drama games were played. During the previous term,
the comprehensive school pupils had also been involved in a drama project (as part of
their English curriculum) which explored issues relating to the integration of a pupil
with Down’s Syndrome into a mainstream school.

Preparation and Planning


The project took place over a week (Monday to Friday) and was situated in the special
school, where a space (the school hall) was provided for the full week. The project also
had access to dedicated classroom space and a full range of art and craft materials.
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Pupils met for the Ž rst time on the Monday of the project week and then had a full
week together, including breaks and lunch hours. There was an extended day on the
Thursday to allow for a dress rehearsal and, on the Friday, there were two perfor-
mances, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. All willingly agreed to this
timetable.

Divergence
The Monday programme was involved with a range of drama ‘warm up’ activities with
the whole group and small groups—where children from both schools were represented.
The children were encouraged to improvise around the ‘warm ups’ and to explore
different media in response—improvisation, painting/drawing—and to try their hand at
writing song lyrics.
Tuesday saw the group beginning to focus on several emerging themes relating to
topics of their choice (fame, wealth and pop music). It was important that the
programme was not about disability in any speciŽ c way but conformed to the idea of
a creative arts discourse (Corbett, 1997) avoiding a disability discourse of deŽ cit or
difference seen negatively. The performance was devised by all and was not imposed by
any one constituency on the other.
The themes explored through the small-group work were presented to the group as
a whole and ideas were accepted or discarded. The Action Track crew mediated the
children’s responses (from both groups) and the school staff acted as observers,
intervening when they thought necessary.

Convergence
On Wednesday, the themes determined by the group were more clearly focused by the
Action Track team. Group members were then supported through more focused
improvisation, the beginnings of dance routines, the development of props and scenery,
and the further development of the song lyrics.
On Wednesday evening, the Action Track team worked at producing a script for the
play ‘Together Again’, which was presented on the Thursday morning.
50 P. Bayliss & C. Dodwell

Consolidation
Casting took place in the morning and then the whole team went into production—
learning lines, rehearsing dance routines, learning songs and choruses and working with
the design artist to produce ‘withy sculptures’ as props. The roles and responsibilities
were divided across both groups—all children who took part in the project were active
in acting, making, singing and dancing. The Thursday session was extended into the
early evening to allow more rehearsal time.

Celebration
Friday saw continuing rehearsals and the performance for an audience of parents,
teachers and friends, which took place at the special school at 7.00 p.m. in the evening.
Many pupils (from both schools) stayed on very late to help pack up equipment.
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The Research Project


The aim of the week itself was modest; the working hypothesis was that a co-operative/
collaborative theatre project would result in ‘communitas’ and ‘membership’ for all
children within the two dissimilar groups, which, if pursued long term, could develop
into a social process of inclusion. Would the use of drama foster a sense of well-being
and belonging (Maslow, 1954; Kunc, 1992) which underpins an inclusive ethic, and
would the group see itself as a coherent entity with all participants acting as ‘members’?
We were concerned to understand ‘membership’ as characterised by:

· positive relationships among students (attitudes);


· friendships;
· social and communicative interactions between students and teachers;
· high motivation and academic engagement.

These factors are amenable to observational data gathering. The ‘Communitas’


factors mentioned earlier are amenable to both quantitative and qualitative methods of
data gathering.
The measurement of change in holistic learning processes or the development of
relationships proved difŽ cult in practice. One important constituency of the week was
not capable of self-reporting changes or completing written standardised tests to
measure ‘attitude’ change or changes in ‘self-esteem’. The ‘mainstream’ children also
had difŽ culties with this. The research approach was therefore to use video observation,
semi-structured interviews with pupils and staff and measures to look at the way
students interacted with each other. An attitude questionnaire was used with the
mainstream pupils to see if there were any recorded changes in the way that they viewed
‘disability’ as a construct.
Standardised tests were devised and used, although they proved unreliable. This was
due in part to the small test sample, but various other problems, including the wide
spread of ability and the difŽ culties for some in understanding written questions, made
quantitative written data difŽ cult to collect. The questionnaire was used to look at
Building Relationships Through Drama 51

group perceptions of the other group (test/re-test), but it proved a blunt instrument for
so subtle a subject.
As the quantitative aspects of the project were problematic, a more fruitful
qualitative approach was expanded. The comprehensive pupils were asked to produce
personal written responses to events. A wide range of staff and many of the
pupils, including members of the Action Track team, interviewed before, during
and after the week. Video box interviews were conducted with the mainstream group
before and after the project. All these interviews were transcribed and were
analysed using AtlasTM software qualitative analysis tools. Discourse observation
schedules (Bayliss, 1992, 1995) and proximity measures were taken during the week.
The proximity measures used a grid which mapped the physical mixing and close-
ness of children over time-sampled observations. A simple coding system for children
from the two schools was used and individual children were targeted for speciŽ c
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periods to understand movement within structured (group and small-group activities)


and unstructured (playtime, lunch time, the beginning and ending of the sessions)
activity.
Three months after the project, both sets of pupils were interviewed in small groups
by the project leader. Six mainstream pupils visited the special school 3 months later and
this encounter was observed and recorded. Pupils who had visited the special school as
part of a community placement programme were also interviewed for their different
perspective of encounters with their peers. In all some 30 hours of video material is
available.

Research Outcomes
Observational Data
Positive Relationships Among Students (Attitudes). Analysis of the data showed
overall very positive responses from both groups of pupils. For every measure, the
feedback from all pupils pointed to the overwhelming pleasure in the week’s
activity. One issue concerned the deŽ nition of ‘special educational needs’. It became
apparent that ‘normal 13 year’ olds experience a variety of learning needs which
can be described as special which, qualitatively, did not differ from the needs
exhibited by the special school group. For example, reading proved problematic
for several mainstream students, while some special school students coped well with
the script. ‘Behaviour’ was seen as more of a problem for the mainstream group
than for the special school, but expectations of ‘poor’ behaviour from the main-
stream group (by special school staff) were not realised after the work started
to progress. This was particularly important in that the performance company directed
the work and their expectations related to the performance, rather than control of
learning per se. This gave the proceedings an air of reality and importance which
generated a sense of responsibility and ownership of the drama. Instances of bad
behaviour diminished, including during the unstructured social times (break and lunch
times).
52 P. Bayliss & C. Dodwell

Friendships. The proximity schedules taken at regular intervals each day provide clear
evidence of constant mixing across and between groups in work and play situations.
The discourse analysis is similarly rich in evidence of complex conversations across and
between the groups. The mainstream peer responses to two children, called ‘special
care’, was supportive and gentle. The video footage showed both children being
accepted at a physical proximity and contact level. Negative behaviours reported by
staff for both children (slapping, pinching, rocking or self-injury/biting) were not
present. Two mainstream children who were persistent truants previously (and after the
week) turned up daily and took part in all aspects of the work and the Ž nal perfor-
mances.

Social and Communicative Interactions Between Students and Teachers. It is clear from
both the audio and video recordings that the pupils were very positive in their
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acceptance of the project and there was sound interaction across and between the
groups from the Ž rst encounter. For the special school pupils the day-to-day mixing
with the mainstream group provided a constant stimulus and an opportunity to mix
with their peers, which they appeared to relish. The structured work within the design
and performance groups showed good, focused on-task behaviour with a lot of banter
and humour between the groups, including a fair amount of spontaneous informal
movement between groups ‘to see what was happening’. The unstructured break/lunch
times showed good co-operative play focused on football (for the boys), tag games and
the use of playground equipment, as well as more sedentary activities (using the
computer, painting and drawing). Meals were communal and did not result in two
groups of children separated by distance. Instead there was interest in what others were
eating and sharing of food across the mainstream and special divide.
The patterns of interaction showed reciprocal conversations with initiations shared
between both groups of pupils. The mainstream pupils acted as peers, rather than as
‘helpers’, while the special school group related to the mainstream group as friends,
rather than as visitors or guides. The recorded activities showed a lot of good-humoured
banter and ‘social’ (i.e. not task focused) conversations about common interests outside
of the speciŽ c focus of the activity. The drama sessions showed a great deal of mutual
support. Being in the right place at the right time was peer mediated, rather than
controlled by adults and the support staff from the special school gradually relinquished
their control of their charges as the week progressed.

High Motivation and Academic Engagement. There is video evidence of the perform-
ance and design groups showing positive ‘on-task’ behaviour over lengthy periods of
time. The main rehearsals in the hall showed highly positive on-task behaviour for most
pupils most of the time, demonstrating that all were capable of highly focused work for
long periods of time, especially on the Ž nal rehearsal days, Thursday, (which did not
Ž nish until 7.30 p.m.) and Friday. Both groups coped well with complex problem-solv-
ing tasks. The level of interaction and discourse between the two groups was positive
in all aspects of the research measures. The two non-communicating children from the
special school showed clear focus for on-task behaviour and good concentration for
lengthy periods of time during drama work.
Building Relationships Through Drama 53

The high school pupils showed themselves to be highly positive in their response to
the work and to the new peer group. They remained highly motivated and committed
throughout the week. There were few concentration problems and all in the group
remained on-task and determined to succeed in their performance goal, including the
one boy who had to be removed on the Ž rst day after difŽ cult behaviour. He was
re-admitted and remained focused and on-task for the rest of the week. The written
work, their video box interviews, the group and individual discussions all witness the
high level of enjoyment, the sense they had of their own self-esteem and the positive
attributes they have for their new friends. Their perceptions are supported by the
proximity measures, the language analysis, and the audio and video evidence.
The Ž nal performance was very well received by the guest audience of parents,
teachers, friends and siblings of both groups and their reward was having become a
performance company and making new friends.
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The Qualitative Data


The interview and Ž eld-note data were transcribed and analysed using AtlasTi [3].
Three main ‘code families’ are reported: outcomes (seen in terms of pupil responses);
process (the process of the drama); and teacher responses. The codes families are
presented below in Tables I–III.

Outcomes. See Table I.


T ABLE I. Code family: outcomes

Codes (30)
[appropriate response] [attention seeking] [behaviour] [being unkind] [bullying] [change in
attitudes] [communication] [concentration] [conŽ dence] [coping] [ET student response] [fun]
[intolerance] [learning] [learning special school] [learning St James] [mainstream expectations]
[making friends] [mixing] [mutuality] [one group] [protoprofessionalism ] [recognition]
[relationships] [respect] [response to week] [self-esteem] [mainstream school student response]
[taking the mickey] [terrible experience]

The code family ‘outcomes’ relates both sets of pupil responses as seen by different
‘constituencies’ of the project. At the individual level, learning outcomes were not seen
in academic terms, rather pupils were seen to improve their concentration, conŽ dence,
on-task behaviour and their general sociability: making appropriate social responses,
generally being more communicative, with improvements in self-esteem; while antici-
pated outcomes seen in terms of attention seeking ‘behaviour’ (i.e. disruptive or difŽ cult
behaviour) and the lack of ability to ‘cope’ with the week, were not realised. The group
were seen as a coherent whole—and the performance reinforced the understanding of
mutual dependence (interdependence) between children.
The general outcomes related to changes in attitudes towards the disabled group—
with a lowering of ‘intolerance’ and a sense of ‘other’ which was linked to disability.
Bullying and ‘taking the mickey’ were generally seen by the children as not being
possible ‘when you know someone’. There was an increase in respect for each other’s
54 P. Bayliss & C. Dodwell

abilities (as opposed to a ‘protoprofessional’ response to disabilities focusing on


impairments and lack of ability) which was located in a sense of ‘making friends’, ‘fun’
and ‘mixing’ with others over a prolonged period of constructive/collaborative work—
but also in the mutual respect afforded to each other for the sense of achievement.

Mainstream Post Project Group Interview.


Peter: You know, it was quite interesting ‘cause the people from (the special
school), … didn’t just have little parts, they had quite big parts. They
didn’t have main parts, but they didn’t just have little like (dancing)
things yea, they weren’t told—you stand there, you stand there and
don’t say anything, they had parts and were patient with them. I …
Interviewer: Did that surprise you?
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Voice: Yes, I thought they would be there like dancing and singing and that,
I didn’t think they would have parts and that. I thought that we’d be
the main thing and they would stand there and be the crowd kind of
thing but they weren’t.
and:
Watching from the sidelines, seeing what pupils could achieve in the time and
given their joint creative wills to want to do it, was quite an experience. The
strangest thing was that pupils who are regarded as difŽ cult behaviourally
within the normal school timetable were the ones who put an enormous
amount of energy into achieving the goal. They were main characters in the
performance and the two most difŽ cult boys not only took on main acting
roles and remained focused on doing those well, but whenever there was a
break for them in the rehearsal they would slip out and join the design group,
not to cause trouble but to help with the construction work! It never occurred
to the ‘well behaved’ pupils that it was possible to be in both groups! The ones
that took the risk got away with it. Nobody minded. They were also very
outgoing in their relationships with the special school group and were visibly
upset at the end of the week when they realised it was all over (Drama
teacher).
The value to pupils is hard to quantify, but comments from the comprehensive
children show their sense of enjoyment and personal fulŽ lment. A group interview
conducted with pupils at the end of the week, but before the Ž nal performance, showed
a great deal of enthusiasm and enjoyment gained from working with ‘their friends’.
It’s been a brilliant week Miss, when are we going to do it again? (Clive).
I’ve had a brilliant week. I’ve learnt so much. I didn’t think I could perform
like that. I was really pleased with how it all came out, and I’ve made so many
new friends. I really am a very lucky person. I know from now on life is going
to get better for me (Amanda).
Why can’t school be like this all the time, we’ve had so much fun (Lizzie).
Building Relationships Through Drama 55

These comments are typical and show that, for many of the students, the week
provided unique opportunities at many different levels. There was a shared understand-
ing that their time together was a joyous occasion. Their differences were acknowledged
and celebrated and their sense of positive identity as unique, caring, responsible and
capable individuals was focused through the creative process. Their energy was fully
focused and the sheer pleasure and delight they took in the task was spiritually uplifting.
No problems here about integration. They did not see the week as an ‘us and them’
situation. The accounts from all are of the genuine value they place on the contribution
of their newly acquired friends. A comment from a comprehensive school pupil—‘I
didn’t think they would be able to do so much’; and a comment about the comprehen-
sive children from the special school—‘It’s more fun when they’re here’—is supported
by the close relationships that quickly built up across the groups and a strong sense of
loss from many as the project drew to a close. For the pupils at the special school, the
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week provided opportunities for collaborative work with other pupils within a support-
ive framework.Interviewer: Did you see when you were doing the project, did you see
yourselves as kind of—we’re (high school) and they are (the special school)—did you see
yourselves …
Gary: No as one whole. George (a special school pupil) was best. No, not the best. No
as one whole group. Helping them and them helping us.
Interviewer: But that kind of working together where you were helping them and they
were helping you so that you were kind of one group is that what drama’s about?
Group: Yes (Post-project interview—mainstream).

Teacher Factors. See Table II.


TABLE II. Code family: teacher factors

Codes (16)
[behaviour] [change in routines] [levels of ability] [nature of adolescence] [normal] [normal
curriculum] [our kind of children] [overprotective] [prior expectations] [reinforcing failure]
[special educational needs] [structure of week] [teacher expectations] [teacher expectations
mainstream school] [teacher response] [unstructured settings]

Staff views were highly supportive of the activity and general views were that the
week was highly beneŽ cial to the pupils; outcomes were described in terms of
‘conŽ dence’ or ‘better concentration’ or ‘enjoyment’. Expectations of the week were met
and surpassed. The special school staff assumed that ‘their’ children would ‘not get a lot
out of the week’ and were surprised at the integration and that the behaviour of the
mainstream group was supportive and friendly, rather than being exploitative or based
on bullying or teasing. They were positive about the week and initial apprehensions that
their charges may have acquired bad habits from the comprehensive group were not
realised. These outcomes were highly positive. The comprehensive group accepted
responsibility for the drama and settled to it with a strong sense of purpose. This was
transmitted to the special school group, although a full understanding of the week’s
intention may not have been fully understood by a few of the group until the actual
performance.
56 P. Bayliss & C. Dodwell

Teachers were concerned about changes in routine and the range of responses
expected from children with different levels of ability. Expected outcomes related to
cognitive factors as opposed to socio-emotional (‘person’) factors and there were several
comments relating to ‘getting back to normal’ after the project. Early fears about the
need to ‘protect our children’ were not supported over the week.
There were concerns from the special school staff that unstructured situations would
be detrimental to their children and that the week would/did reinforce failure in the
special-school children—particularly for the two children with complex and signiŽ cant
needs (the child with profound and complex needs, and the child with autism). When
asked about this, staff showed surprise that both children had behaved ‘appropriately’
and had ‘enjoyed the week’.

Process. See Table III.


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TABLE III. Code family: process

Codes (24)
[access to resources] [artwork] [being real] [change in routines] [changes over week]
[collaboration] [creativity] [critical other] [getting it wrong] [normal curriculum] [opportunity]
[personal contact] [placement activity] [process] [recognition] [response to art] [response to
drama] [response to music] [response to week] [structure] [structure of week] [unstructured
settings] [use of drama] [working together]

The outcomes of the week were linked to process—the activity that took place within
the context of the project.
The different constituencies (both children and staff) related the achievements of the
week to the process of constructing the play, seen in terms of acting, singing, dancing
and making. The changes in routine were seen (by the children) as offering different
opportunities than those generally afforded by school (the normal curriculum)—this
was seen as ‘being real’, allowing them to ‘get it wrong’, to experience pressure (and
stage fright, nervousness). The data from the project were compared to data gathered
through interviews with two students from the high school who had volunteered for a
community placement programme at the special school. The creative collaborative
process was seen as allowing personal contact which differed from the community
placement where the special children were seen as ‘threats’ or ‘problems’. The children
on the project experienced the week as ‘fun’, whereas the students on the community
placement programme experienced bewilderment and anxiety in trying to understand
the special school children as a ‘protoprofessional’ understanding of disability which
was beyond their capabilities.
The drama/theatre process relied on the Action Track team providing the role of the
‘critical other’: the team structured the week and allowed unstructured responses to the
programme. The high school and special school children were allowed to move between
groups freely during the social periods of the project; this allowed mixing and a student
directed pattern of social interaction—it was here (as the observational data show) that
the students developed their relationships with each other through collaborative activity
based around meals, playtime or creative (artistic) activity within the project groups.
Building Relationships Through Drama 57

The team also kept the group on-task and emphasised the nature of performance—
which increasingly became ‘real’ as the week progressed.

Discussion
A drama experience offers a co-operative enterprise which is ‘owned’ by all. Feger (1991,
p. 287) describes how co-operation between groups requires compatibility of goal
attainment. ‘Co-orientation is the cognitive activity of at least two persons or groups
directed to a part of their world deemed as commonly accessible.’ That this was not
obvious for the special school group until the Ž nal performance underlines what Woods
(1993, p. 364) calls celebration. The performance legitimised (through the recognition of
the work by signiŽ cant others) all that had gone before in ways which, for cognitively
impaired children, are not immediately obvious. There is an assumption that equal
cognitive ability is required for a group to collaborate; where there is a divergence in
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ability, a scaffold is required (Vygotsky, 1978; Wood, 1988; Wood et al., 1976) which
can allow a social network to develop in ways which emphasise solidarity rather than
difference. The compatibility of goal attainment constitutes the frame for developing
relationships between groups (Feger, 1991, p. 286) while the framework of a dramatic
co-operative activity (directed by a professional company whose raison d’être is per-
formance) allows co-acting which supports the learning of synchronisation and timing
of behaviour and resources which requires ‘supervised training of the interlocking
speciŽ c actions’ (p. 287). Here, to echo Nick Brace, Action Track’s director, the process
is collaborative: the company has a voice and an interest in producing a ‘product’.
The week was directed, it was not a laissez-faire week of activity which was designed
to ‘make the non-disabled group feel better about the disabled group’. It was a week of
hard work and the Ž nal performance tested the capabilities of all. The ‘reality’ of the
creative arts discourse (Corbett, 1997) supports the view that both disabled and
non-disabled children are capable of work which supports both the development of
community and personal critical thinking (Bailin, 1998). That this process supports a
view of ‘other’ as being ‘the same as us’ attests to the power of the process.
The week was ‘brilliant’ and ‘really good’, but did it result in real learning outcomes
for the group? They certainly learnt very little formal mathematics or science. They
learnt a great deal about themselves and about others, including those who are seen as
‘disabled’. The high school group saw their peers as personalities, as individuals rather
than as pathological ‘cases’ in need of ‘care’ or ‘help’. This process could be subsumed
under a heading of personal and social development (PSE) and given a place in the
timetable. But where such a teaching vehicle may exacerbate differences and lead to a
‘helping’ culture for the able-bodied children, an ‘Action Track’ week can re-structure
children’s perceptions of themselves and others in ways which lead to a greater sense of
well being and belonging to something which supports growth of personal identity and
community.

Did the Week Provide ‘Membership’ and ‘Communitas’?


The study shows that the drama process can support the development of positive
relationships among students (attitudes), which led to expressed ‘friendships’. There was
58 P. Bayliss & C. Dodwell

little contact between individuals from the two schools after the project—this was an
effect of the difŽ culties of logistics. The high school students were very keen to maintain
contact but were defeated by geography. To visit the special school required transport
between the two schools and this was not readily available. There were some visits to
each other’s schools, but it is difŽ cult to see that the project resulted in ‘true’ friendship
between the two groups. The project did, however, result in good social and commu-
nicative interactions between students and teachers and in high motivation and aca-
demic engagement by both groups of children. In this sense the outcomes of the project
show that for the period of the project, a sense of membership, of being one group, not
‘us’ and ‘them’, an embryonic sense of communitas did develop. The affective ties
between the two groups were strong and there was a sense of ‘discovering others’—be-
tween the mainstream and special groups, and within the mainstream group itself.
There was a sense of levelling where both groups of children ‘rose to the occasion’ and
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exceeded expectations through mutual support and celebration. The experience was
expansive and extended to all members of the group, rather than being inwardly
directed in the creation of a differentiate group or elite.
For the high school group, the group’s tutor (and another member of staff) attested
to the beneŽ t of the project in developing a sense of group identity that the project
fostered. The high school group gelled and was a noticeably better group to work with,
especially in their transition from year 8 to year 9.
The outcomes for the special school group were harder to judge in this respect. The
project was seen as being a good thing, but did not Ž t within the perceptions of an
educational process as a whole. There was a clear sense of returning to ‘normal’ after
the project which argues that such work is not seen (by the special school teachers and
support workers) as being of value for individual children. There was a difŽ culty of
recognising value in this area of the curriculum by teachers who do not have a
background in the Ž eld. The teachers who contributed views tended to see outcomes in
generalised terms like ‘good’, or ‘fun’, without having clear understandings of the
development of ‘self’ or ‘person’, or for this study, more importantly, for ‘inclusion’. A
view was expressed that ‘one week will not make a monumental difference to a life, but
the short term effects were positive’. This argues that a clearer understanding of the
nature of drama and theatre will move projects like Action Track away from being
peripheral to ‘real’ learning, and be seen as a fundamental aspect of the school
curriculum which can build communitas and contribute to the development of true
inclusion for all children.

Notes
[1] The project was supported by a grant from the NufŽ eld Foundation and both authors would
like to thank the children and schools who took part in the project for their support and
enthusiasm.
[2] The Action Track Theatre Company (director Nick Brace) is based in Somerset, UK and works
with a range of different groups, children and adults. The company specialises in ‘showbuild’—
conceptualisation, devising, writing and performing a play for an audience, within a given time
limit.
Building Relationships Through Drama 59

[3] AtlasTi is a software tool that allows hermeneutic interpretation of text through visual
qualitative analysis of interview data. Texts are coded and codes can be assembled into ‘code
families’ which illuminate relationships between codes within the ‘hermeneutic unit’. The
presentation of data is related to the ‘coded families’ developed through the qualitative analysis
of the interview data.

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