UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Histories of forgetting, geographies of remembering : exploring processes of witnessing and performing in senior secondary humanities classroom(s) England, Jacyntha


This thesis explores the roles oral histories and drama can play in questioning and transforming dominant curricular narratives in senior secondary Humanities (Social Studies, First Nations Studies, History, Geography) education. The project centered on two classes (Social Studies 11, First Nations Studies 12) in a secondary school in Langley, British Columbia. In collaboration with the regular classroom teacher, the author designed two eight week study units, one for each course, that incorporated oral testimonies from Canadian marginalized communities into a pedagogical framework of critical analysis and reflective drama processes. The testimonies detailed such experiences as legislated segregation in the City of Vancouver, residential schooling and the Japanese internment. The author used the Theatre of the Oppressed techniques of Augusto Boal (image theatre, cops in the head, forum theatre) to facilitate the students in their responses to the testimonies. Students also participated in class discussions and completed written reflections at the end of each lesson and unit. This project created a curricular opening in which students could critically and creatively engage in personal and collective interrogations of "race", racism, colonialism, nation building and memory in both a historical and contemporary national context. For many of the students the material covered in the testimonies was new and disturbing, and the drama processes proved invaluable in allowing them to express their questions, reactions and understandings openly and without judgment. Many students developed new insights on themselves as members of a "multicultural" nation, and found strategies to help them question dominant curricular and national narratives. The responses from both the students and the cooperating teacher show overwhelmingly that this teaching approach was both useful to them in their development and should be expanded to other schools, subject areas and grade levels. However, serious systemic and structural obstacles, such as outcomes-based school and curricular expectations, unequal social relations in both schools and society, and teachers' lack of confidence in working with controversial issues need to be examined and overcome to bring this work to full fruition. This thesis uses various narrative styles - academic, autobiography, poetry and travelogue - to witness the project's themes and findings.

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