An evaluation of the impact of the drama production ‘What’s the Difference?’ - designed to help enhance inclusive practice (2005)

Contact: John Dwyfor Davies, John Lee

Sponsor: Fair Game Drama Company

The research team undertook an independent evaluation commissioned by the Fair Game Drama Company of its production, 'What's the Difference?' This was a drama presentation developed by the company involving young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder aimed at raising public awareness about disability generally and Autistic Spectrum Disorder in particular. The local education authority funded the production and its development.

The actors, director, musician, designer and young people with learning difficulties collaborated to establish a story line, characters and style for the theatre piece. Fairgame initially ran training sessions with young people with learning difficulties, in which some learned to operate professional video camera and sound recording equipment, while others worked on acting skills and devised scenes for the forthcoming video shoot'. The tutors were all professionals in their field and the older and more able students took on a mentoring role for the younger participants. The production toured secondary schools, local theatres and in other public arenas.

The evaluation drew on visual, documentary and interview data. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a variety of interested participants including members of the production team, young people who participated, teachers and members of the audiences. Contemporary field notes and recordings were also used. The focus of the interviews was on the educational value resulting from participation and the extent to which the project had succeeded in meeting its original aims. Members of the production team were also asked about the extent that engaging in this activity had helped them refine and develop their particular skills. Particular attention was also paid to the extent to which the young people participating in the production had gained in self-confidence, technical skills and the extent to which they felt the project had enabled them to communicate information about specific disabilities. All interviewees were asked to comment on the educational and social value of the project and also to speculate on the use of similar work in the future. Teachers were also asked to identify other themes or topics that would be suitable for addressing through this kind of production.

The data was analysed using the following categories:

  • Main strengths and limitations of the production
  • Engaging with others and raising awareness
  • Technical development and new experiences
  • Exploring emotions and raising awareness
  • Support for the curriculum and pupils' learning development
  • Views about the relationship building between the schools involved:
  • Views of special school staff about the way that the work could be further promoted:
  • Staff views about how the experience could have been enhanced on another occasion:

Concepts such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder and ADHD are heavily contested, very emotive and often ill understood by the general public. The fact that the project enabled them to be explained and described in a sympathetic manner is very important. The response of students and staff in both special establishments and mainstream schools showed that they felt able to discuss issues in a way that they could not do previously.

The research demonstrated that using drama and theatre is a very powerful mode of teaching and learning. It is particularly applicable to addressing the affective domain of the curriculum that is currently somewhat neglected.

Back to top