This essay argues that the current crisis in history education at the K-12 levels requires creative interventions and interdisciplinary collaborations. It also offers a series of strategies for teaching critical historical thinking skills to young people. Drawing on the author's recent collaboration with a theater educator, the essay examines the radical potential of one pedagogical method in particular—a theater-based strategy called “process drama.” A philosophical and experiential approach to teaching and learning, this method draws on theatrical ideas to trouble the traditional dynamics of the classroom and provoke students into critical investigation. The author roots her reflections on the power and potential of process drama for history education in a lesson she developed for a group of public school teachers from the Bronx. Interested in introducing these teachers to a diversity of visual primary source documents and in complicating the story of the Civil Rights movement, she asked participants to use a series of theater exercises to examine a set of photographs taken at civil rights protests. This work, the author argues, suggests the power of critical and creative pedagogies in the history classroom; demonstrates the importance of interdisciplinary instruction, even at the K-12 levels; and offers a model for social justice history education that does not ignore the practical demands that weigh heavy on classroom teachers in this current standards-saturated public school educational climate.
Rachel Mattson; Theater of the Assessed: Drama-Based Pedagogies in the History Classroom. Radical History Review 1 January 2008; 2008 (102): 99–110. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01636545-2008-016
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