This presentation will describe preliminary progress on, and invite contribution to, an informal research project intending to examine and compare how different national and cultural contexts have shaped or affected drama’s relationship with formal national curricula. The comparison will be based on interviews and documentation concerning current or recent drama curricular initiatives (or abortive curricula) in national education systems including – at the time of drafting – countries or states that have ‘succeeded’ in establishing drama in their national curricula, such as Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, Ontario, Peru and Taiwan, and countries or states where drama has not (as yet) had a sustained establishment in spite of sustained advocacy, such as Eire, England, Japan, Norway, and South Africa. It will examine some of the principles of formal curriculum and their shifts over time and place, and the corresponding shifts and counters made by drama ‘the shape-shifting art-form’ to meet, adapt to or counter prevailing trends. The researcher and presenter was the Lead Writer for the Arts and for Drama in the 2009-2013 Australian (National) Curriculum. The author’s experience will form a brief case study, and this will be critically compared with other contemporary state and national initiatives world-wide to establish drama, in terms of a number of key drivers and assumptions of schools, the countries’ formal curriculum structures and their drama advocates, leaders and teachers. This research project, intended as a possible pilot to a larger project, will form a snapshot of current drama education principles and practice in formal schooling systems within their historical contexts. This presentation will be made near the beginning of the project, with the intention of soliciting ideas and possible participation from IDIERI delegates, rather than reporting on outcomes.
John O’Toole was Foundation Chair of Arts Education at the University of Melbourne and previously Professor of Drama and Applied Theatre at Griffith University, Queensland. He has been teaching and working in drama for half a century, with all ages and on all continents, and has been intensely involved with the development of drama and arts education in Australia and elsewhere – he was a founder-member of Drama Queensland, Drama Australia, IDEA and a participant at IDIERI 1. He has written and co-written many books, including standard text-books and research books – translated into several languages. He was Lead writer for the Arts and for Drama in the Australian Curriculum: The Arts, 2013. In 2001 he was awarded the American Alliance for Theatre and Education Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2014, he received an Order of Australia award (AM) for services to drama education.