Performative arts and pedagogy : UK report

Elliott, Meretta and Fleming, Mike and Frimberger, Katja (2019) Performative arts and pedagogy : UK report. Scenario: Journal for Performative Teaching, Learning & Research, XIII (2). ISSN 1549-8526 (In Press)

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    The aim of this report is to provide an overview of the history and current state of ‘performative arts and pedagogy’ in the United Kingdom (UK) and, in doing so, identify key terms that have been dominant in the associated discourse. In compiling the report, there are clear challenges that need to be acknowledged. The first of these is the danger of making over-generalised statements without acknowledging the diversity of contexts, for example: different sectors (school, higher education, community), different phases of schooling (pre-school, primary, secondary), different countries within the sovereign state of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland). Any statement about drama practice in a country can easily mislead if it is assumed to apply equally in all contexts. One possible solution would be to avoid too much speculation and attempt to stick to empirical data, numbers of drama courses in schools and colleges, numbers of trained drama teachers, etc. However, even the reporting of facts involves some selection, and therefore has the potential for bias. Moreover, the avoidance of opinion and analysis can sacrifice insight for a form of bland neutrality. The dangers of over-generalisation in part determined the approach to the structure of this report, with the decision to address different sectors in separate sections rather than create a single chronological account. Having three authors with different backgrounds and experience also provided a source of different insights (Mike Fleming: schools; Meretta Elliott: higher education; Katja Frimberger: community). It was also decided to include one specific case studys to provide concrete examples of current practice and to balance the more general statements. The identification of key terms was also challenging. This was not just to do with making a choice but rather because in many cases their meanings could not be described in simple definitions. Meanings evolve and change over time, as theoretical perspectives alter and more nuanced characteristics are identified. Even the meaning of a basic concept like ‘drama’ changes when it is being used to describe a type of literary genre or to make an ideological point about its relationship to ‘theatre’. Such considerations serve once again to re-emphasise the relevance of context and the importance of analytical discussion rather than simple lists of terms and narrow definitions.