Professional Development in Drama-Based Instruction With Drama for Schools


This project, in collaboration with the UT Austin Department of Theatre and Dance, serves as the research component of Drama for Schools. Drama for Schools is a professional development model that partners UT faculty members and students with school districts across the country to research the impact of drama-based instruction across the curriculum (videos of drama-based instructional strategies are available on the Drama-Based Instruction Network website). Through Drama for Schools, teachers participate in ongoing, intensive, “in situ” training in a drama-based pedagogy and practice to engage every student in the classroom. More information about the Drama for Schools professional development program can be found on the project’s website.


Across multiple sites, the project has found drama-based instruction to have a significant, positive impact on the learning culture of classrooms and, when implemented on a large scale, on schools and districts. Example findings include the following:

  • Teachers grow in their use of authentic instruction strategies.
  • Teachers often use drama-based instruction with new lesson plans.
  • Teachers broaden their conceptualization of student engagement from a focus on quiet, independent activity to collaborative, expressive activity.
  • Drama-based instruction can improve retention of academic content.
  • Teachers’ view of students shifts from recipients of information to co-contributors to classroom discourse.
  • Sustainability for drama-based instruction requires strong leadership at the campus and district levels.
  • Training in drama-based instruction requires both time and funding.
  • Summer intensive trainings, particularly for teacher cohorts, are a strong facilitator of later success.

Project Design


The purpose of this project is to investigate the process and outcomes of training in drama-based instructional strategies facilitated through a collaborative, dialogic professional development model. Drama-based instruction is a research-based practice that supports differentiated instruction for diverse learners, including those who are English language learners or have disabilities. The project examines changes in teacher self-efficacy, teacher attitudes toward students, level of authentic instruction, student engagement, student achievement, and school systems.


The project employs a mixed-methods approach to data collection, based in a constructivist and advocacy philosophical assumption. This project has used teacher surveys, self-efficacy and academic identity scales, focus groups, classroom observations, student records, single-case designs, action research, arts-based measures, and interviews in its study designs.


The majority of participants are K–12 teachers and school or district administrators. All subjects and grade levels are included; representation varies by site.