Process drama is a method of teaching and learning where both the students and teacher are working in and out of role. For example, a teacher might work in role as the Pied Piper leading the rats (performed by the children in role) to their deaths. Or they might lead a whole group meeting on, for example, discussions about building a new motorway through a village. As a teaching methodology, process drama developed primarily from the work of Brian Way, Dorothy Heathcote, Cecily O’Neill and Gavin Bolton and other leading drama practitioners.

Process drama is not about creating a ’product’, i.e. it doesn’t have the end result of a play or a performance, it is about defining and creating a role and going through a ‘process’ of thinking and responding in that role.

Process drama is unscripted although there is an amount of planning, agreement and preparation which happens in advance of the drama. The drama itself is improvised and usually spontaneous, with the teacher setting the boundaries and expectations for each process drama experience. Usually the teacher works in role to establish and maintain the drama and this doesn’t have to be an Oscar-winning performance! If the drama setting has been firmly established then simply announcing that you are now in role as a character and adopting the attitude of that character will be sufficient. Working in role enables the teacher to move the drama forward by questioning, challenging, organising thoughts, responding, involving students and managing difficulties. Working in role means that the teacher can develop, differentiate and direct the drama more easily. 

Process drama is simply an experiential method of working that differs from other forms of drama in that it isn’t a means to an end product, the process is a product in itself.

Process Drama Reference Books

Dorothy Heathcote on Education and Drama by Cecily O'Neill

Structure and Spontaneity: The Drama in Education of Cecily O'Neill edited by Philip Taylor and Christine D Warner

Putting Process Drama Into Action by Pamela Bowell and Brian S Heap

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