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The effect of drama education on children's attitudes to the elderly and to ageing Bramwell, Roberta J. T.


The objective of this study was to support the claim that drama education is no "mere frill" in the curriculum but is, in fact, important to the formation of attitudes and values in young people. The study moved in two directions. The literature was explored to establish a position on what is intended by the terms "attitude" and "drama education" and to demonstrate a connection between these two terms. Following a review of the literature which demonstrated that there was reason to believe that children's attitudes to ageing and to old people are less than ideal, the two strategies of a practical investigation were begun. In examining the attitudes of Grade 5 children to the elderly and to the ageing, quantitative and qualitative investigations were undertaken. The quantitative investigation employed the Children's Attitude Towards the Elderly (CATE) (Jantz, Seefeldt, Serock, and Galper, 1976) instrument to examine attitudes in one control and two experimental groups. The qualitative investigation consisted of the analyses of: (a) interviews with the teacher, and children of both experimental groups during and after the three units of drama education, (b) pre- and post-drawings by children from these groups, (c) the reflections written in their journals by children of the experimental groups after the drama education units, and (d) field notes taken during participant/observation in the drama classroom. The experimental groups were taught drama employing two different methods. Group A pursued the topic "Young People/Old People" in the drama classroom in child-directed drama, while Group B explored the same topic in teacher-directed drama. The results of both strategies were compared and contrasted under the rubrics of the theoretical positions on "attitudes" and on "drama education" adopted for the study. The research results converged to support the claim that, for the children of both experimental groups, doing drama had asssisted them as they rebuilt their attitudes to old people and to ageing. No such improvement had occurred for the Control Group. Positive attitude change consisted in (a) greater knowledge of old people and ageing, (b) a diminution in the fear of ageing and old people, (c) positive feelings toward the elderly, and (d) identification with the interests, feelings, goals, and means of elderly people. In addition, the qualitative study revealed that some children recognized that drama caused them to re-value the people in their own lives.

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