KERIS PRICE: I’m Keris Price. I’m a drama teacher in the Hills region. I’ve got a mix of students ranging in abilities, some whose drama is their whole entire life, and others who just really love that practical learning structure. Teaching and learning in the preliminary year is vital in preparing students for the HSC. The course basically mimics the HSC, and the students get to experience all the different individual options.
After Damien had completed the design portfolio for Ruby Moon, I knew exactly that this would be the option that he would excel in. It’s really great in outlining expectations and requirements so that the students know exactly what’s expected. The IP is introduced at the start of the HSC year. I always spend their first week unpacking the rubric and going through the options so that the students know exactly what’s expected and where their skills are best suited.
I show them exemplar responses and ensure that I take them to exhibitions like Onstage, and I really try to organize for ex-students to come in and talk to them about the whole process. I think it’s really important to set really clear boundaries and expectations when structuring the IP. Students need to know that there’s a really intricate balance between developing their ideas, but making sure they meet all their course expectations and having the confidence in their idea and that it’s their best.
Supporting and engaging the students through the IP process, I think, works on an individual basis. As the teacher, we need to be both flexible yet foster a sense of ownership with the students so that they are proud and that they feel like this truly is their own individual project. Some students like Damien are truly just exceptional, and they just need gentle guidance. Other students, still exceptional, need a lot more prompting and assistance during this process.
It’s really important to schedule that one-on-one time with the students so that you can get into depth exploring the directorial vision and ensuring that it meets the expectation of a complete theatrical journey. That’s so important over all of the IP options. When structuring the IP course, it’s essential to try and allow time for that one-on-one conversation. This really helps in developing the student’s directorial vision, ensuring that they have that complete theatrical journey that’s so essential in all of the IP options.
I also set designated IP lessons once a week, which, of course, in a school environment, you would modify depending on your student needs and the particular ability of that cohort. Due to the changes in the logbook, it’s really become an internal tool that’s vital in recording and refining the students’ process when developing their IP.
It’s a tool documenting the process of the IP, allowing them to record their ideas, their inspirations, and making sure that they have a complete directorial vision. Being the only drama teacher, I’m so lucky that I have such a supportive teaching community. I rely on my colleagues, especially the Art staff and the English staff, to really help guide the students’ ideas and help clarify their concepts.
We always have a showcase night with the parents in the community so that the students have a chance to be proud of their work, and it gives them such a sense of confidence. We are so lucky here that we have such supportive parents who come to every showcase night. They deal with their students’ stress, and they really help them in developing the confidence to have faith in their ideas.
Like in all subjects, there are always complex challenges that you have to encounter. As drama teachers, it’s about creating that honest and open relationship and making sure the students set realistic expectations. As their teacher, it’s really important that you take the time to unpack the marking criteria so that they know that your feedback is coming from the rubric, not from your belief in their abilities.
Time is probably the biggest challenge. I think we have to be aware that drama’s not their only subject. We need to be flexible and really make sure we work within the school environment. I find that including parents in this is the best way to make sure that students stay on top of the due dates and can meet the expectations.
Formative assessment is so great in making sure that the students’ ideas are developing and progressing throughout their HSCU– lots of one-on-one conversations, checking in, going through their works, helping them to clarify their ideas and things that might not be as clear to others as it is to them. In terms of summative assessment, it’s so important to take that time to unpack the criteria. I always make sure I go through, and I highlight keywords, and I show them how to apply each criterion towards their own project.
The key thing is the complete theatrical journey. And you need to ensure that the students meet this through their designs. I think any advice I can pass on to my colleagues would be to really take that time to analyze the text and its contextual implications. The main thing is to guide the students in thinking about these issues and how to apply them and develop them within their directorial vision.
For example, Damien already had this amazing directorial vision. My role was to guide him in applying contextual issues such as sustainability or ethics, or even adding a feminist perspective, so that he could really reflect and comment on the world around him. I think the main piece of advice I could give to drama teachers is just making sure that their students’ work, no matter what the option is, reflects that complete theatrical journey that is common across all marking criterias.
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Content updated 22/9/2020