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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social art effect : the a/r/tography and complexity of theatre education learning systems, developmental stages, and change mechanisms Beare, David Merritt


This study examined how the Compassion Project, a collective theatre and social learning program, fostered positive youth and group development. The Compassion Project involved over 200 secondary students who participated in four theatre-making and social learning phases, where they inquired upon the topic of safe and caring schools. Through the process of collective theatre-making, students co-created two original plays (The Flip Side and Focus) about their social and emotional experiences in school. A/r/tography, the arts education research methodology for this study, emphasizes living inquiry and reflective practice through the examination of the in-between spaces of art-making/researching/teaching (a/r/t). Expanding upon the field of a/r/tography, this study introduces the rendering of the fourth wall as a theatre education research lens. By conceptualizing the theatre classroom as a stage, the rendering of the fourth wall directs attention to several perspectives: to the students, teacher-directors, players, and audience on both the classroom and stage sides; to the spaces in between the imaginary world of the play and the real life experiences of the inquirers; and, to the theatre-making and reflective practices. Based on observations, interviews, circle talks, and students’ written reflections, stories, and scripts, the data are analyzed and presented throughout the dissertation. The findings are conceptualized as the social art effects, which are the benefits that result from students’ social and theatre-making actions and interactions. The conceptualization also combines psychological, pedagogical, and theatre-based theories, such as positive psychology, complexity in education, and collective theatre. As a way to organize the data, the findings on the social art effect are categorized into three components: learning systems, developmental stages, and change mechanisms. This study illustrates how students’ social conditions are critical, and precede learning conditions. Furthermore, this study emphasizes the importance of integrating social learning and complex systems theories into the curriculum as a way to optimize learning spaces and to foster positive youth and group development.

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