Theatre techniques involve bringing drama strategies into the classroom to support a variety of soft skills, in particular communication, by focussing on the voice, body language and non-verbal communication. Improvisation activities can help develop leadership and the ability to deal effectively with uncertainty.
Digital tools are not essential for this activity, but a video recording of the scenes played out can be a powerful tool for supporting self-reflection and peer-feedback, as the facilitator and learners can focus on particular moments for analysis.
Improvisation: status change
“Many times, in the business world, people don’t change their status when they speak. One person keeps a high status, while the other one has a low status. In dynamic and effective conversations, each person moves freely from one status to another to help gain trust, set limits, or influence the forward momentum of the scene.” (Giardella, 2015).
The principle of “status change” is thus to develop learners’ awareness of the ‘status’ adopted by others, in addition to their ability to change status in order to help a situation evolve. The actors in a particular scene will start from one status (high or low) and will each change this status at least once during the course of the scene.
Learners each write a challenging situation on a card (e.g. a woman is being harassed on a train). All the cards go into a box or a hat, one is pulled out and the situation read out to the whole group.
Each actor decides, without telling the others, which status (high or low) s/he will take at the beginning of the activity.
The actors play out the scene, changing status whenever they deem it necessary to move the situation forward.
At the end of the scene, the teacher/coach facilitates a reflective debriefing around the following questions:
- How noticeable were the changes in status?
- What effect did the change of status have on the situation?
- How did you as an actor experience the changes in status? What emotions did you feel? What emotions did you notice in others?
- Was the situation resolved to the satisfaction of all involved?
- What would you do differently next time?
*In small groups (up to 10 participants) the activity can involve the whole group. In larger groups, some will be performers and the others spectators/observers. More time will be needed for everyone to get the chance of performing.
Status change can be improved through regular practice. It is thus recommended to repeat this activity several times throughout the course or semester.
Assessment can focus on the following aspects:
Expert observation, focussing on criteria such as engagement and participation, progression in terms of self-awareness.
Video observation can support the assessment process.
Giardella, D. (2015). Trends in Business Schools: Theatre techniques help managers develop their management skills. Clarin iEco, Retrieved June 20, 2019 from http://www.daenagiardella.com/clarin_english.pdf
Training Industry, Inc. (2018). Theater as a Medium for Soft Skills Training, Retrieved June 20, 2019 from
On video observation:
Fadde, P. & Sullivan, P. (2013). Using Interactive Video to Develop Pre-Service Teachers’ Classroom Awareness. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 13(2), 156-174. Waynesville, NC USA: Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education. Retrieved June 20, 2019 from https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/42133/
Centre for Education Policy Research, Harvard University (2015). Best Foot Forward: Video Observation Toolkit, Retrieved June 20, 2019 from https://cepr.harvard.edu/video-observation-toolkit
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