Testing the waters: Drama in the Japanese university EFL classroom

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Donnery, Eucharia
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Department of German, University College Cork
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This paper explores the rationale for including drama-based pedagogy into the curriculum of the Department of English at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) in Japan. Traditional Japanese teaching practices are explained, followed by an outline of the parallels between drama-based pedagogy and teaching practices of the Japanese elementary school. Contrary to popular expectation, drama-based pedagogy is compatible with existing traditional and cultural systems of education in Japan. Therefore, drama-based pedagogy was included in the Fundamental English language course at APU to provide the students a bridge to move from teacher-led styles of junior high and senior high schools to return to the more learner-centered styles of education of the elementary educational system. This would seem a reasonable way in which to facilitate more cooperative, rather than competitive, styles of learning. Secondly, within the course subject matter of “Intercultural Communication”, drama-based pedagogy could be employed through role plays and self-reflection inside the classroom to allow the students to experience awareness of differing communicative styles when engaged in social interaction with the international students outside of the classroom. Likewise, the process of self-reflection in drama and theatre practices is a complex mix of introspective interrogation and affective engagement, which forms the catalyst for dramatic communication. The purpose of this paper is to present one specific case where drama-based pedagogy was incorporated into the English language curriculum of a rather unique Japanese university.
Donnery, E. (2009) 'Testing the waters: Drama in the Japanese university EFL classroom', Scenario: A Journal of Performative Teaching, Learning, Research, III(1), pp. 17-33. doi: 10.33178/scenario.3.1.3