Drama and the Holocaust : a qualitative study of student and teacher experience in a high school social studies classroom / James Pecora.
The Holocaust as curriculum is a hotly debated topic (Fine Habits of Mind; Schweber; Langer Preempting). People argue over what methods to use, which moral lessons are appropriate to emphasize, and whose sources are best. Some have argued whether it is a worthwhile subject to teach at all (Schlafly). A particularly emotional issue in Holocaust education is the use of dramatic activity. What exactly is meant by drama is often confused. At times the terms simulation, experiential and drama are all lumped together as one category (Totten and Riley; Singer).This dissertation follows eight students and their teacher as they use process drama and theatre in education techniques during a course about the Holocaust. Conducted at Apollo Academy (a pseudonym), a high school for students who have dropped out or been pushed out of other settings; the study is qualitative, practitioner research that engaged students as co-researchers. The project is guided by the questions: What are the experiences of a teacher and his students in a course that uses drama to teach the history of the Holocaust? What characterizes the interactions of a class using drama as a tool for exploring difficult material such as the Holocaust? What issues arise for the teacher facilitating this type of work?The data, presented as an ethnodrama, was gathered over the course of a sixteen-week semester. Numerous themes emerged, including student enjoyment of dramatic activity, the importance of non-dramatic activity, student transformation, the use of critical language, and student conflict.Also discussed is the metatheme control. The use of drama, as well as other progressive educational techniques, created a classroom environment where control was, at times, shared. The effects of this change in the traditional power structure on both teacher and students are explored. A final chapter examines additional findings and implications for four areas: Social Studies education, Holocaust education, Educational Drama, and Teacher Research.
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