A case-study of process Drama in the classroom
: Developing participation and speaking opportunities for advanced EAL Learners in an international school

  • Dearbhla McDonnell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The purpose of this thesis was to investigate to what extent using process drama in an international primary classroom context could develop participation and speaking opportunities for advanced English as additional language learners (EAL learners). In order to investigate this, I set out to answer four research questions: 1. To what extent does process drama affect the participation of advanced EAL learners in lessons? 2. To what extent does process drama provide advanced EAL learners with more speaking opportunities? 3. What are pupils’ perspectives on their participation during lessons that adopt a process drama pedagogy? 4. What are pupils’ perspectives on the amount of speaking opportunities during lessons that embrace process drama? In this thesis, process drama refers to a teaching strategy that uses drama conventions e.g. role play and improvisation to structure lessons. The research took place in an International School in the Netherlands. Using a qualitative methodology, this research undertook a case-study approach. Six pupils were selected from a Year 5 class (9-10 year olds) who were advanced EAL learners. Alongside being the researcher, I led a series of nine videoed science lessons on the topic of ‘lifecycles’ using process drama. Triangulation was used to consider if participation and speaking opportunities were developed through the researcher’s observations of the videoed material, the class teacher’s written observations, a research journal, two interviews and a focus group using the case-study sample. Content analysis was used to reach the findings. This research suggests that by using process drama as a teaching methodology, participation does increase but not immediately. It also suggests that process drama improved speaking opportunities for those pupils who did not previously participate in classroom interaction. Pupils’ perspectives suggested that they considered that their participation increased and speaking opportunities either remained constant or increased when compared to their other lessons.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorAisling O'Boyle (Supervisor) & Sheila McConnellogue (Supervisor)

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