Powerful Questions

Whilst at the NZ Drama conference Miranda Hart discussed the use of questioning to increase intimacy and trust between learners. I began thinking about ways I could use this in my teaching and was considering exploring this first with my classes who are less bonded together.

However, it was during a presentation by Erica McWilliam on ‘Collaborative learning and the future focused clssroom’ where she was discussing student feedback/forward and not stepping away from ‘hard learning’ that I began to compile a list of ‘powerful questions’ to use with my learners to help them dig deep into their own enquiry.

These questions are inspired by my training in life coaching, where you are looking to facilitate others to do their own ‘hard learning’.

The questions I have compiled so far are as follows: 

  1. What impact did your piece have on your audience? How do you know?
  2. What impact did you intend for your piece to have on your audience?
  3. How did your piece challenge the world we live in today?
  4. If you could create and rehearse the piece again and knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do differently?
  5. What uncomfortable thoughts/feelings or experiences did you have in this learning?
  6. How did the work you did change you?
  7. What surprised you about the final product?
  8. How did the piece reflect your own life?
  9. What surprised you about your role in the project?
  10. What impact did you, as an individual, have on the work?
  11. What impact did others have on the work?
  12. How did you generate new ideas in this project?
  13. What are you grateful for about your research/creating/refining or performance process?
  14. How have you learned through this project?
  15. How can this work help you in another subject?
  16. How did the way you approached this project, or the way you learned make you ready for your future?

These questions are designed to move away from the ‘stock’ surface level questions we usually employ to evaluate drama:

1 – What worked in your performance? Why? How?

2 – What could you have improved? How will you do that next time?

These are valid questions of course, however the thinking behind them is inherent in the ‘powerful questions’ yet these also ask the learner to consider themselves in the work and the work on their world and the larger world.’

One of our department aims for our ‘future learners’ is that they will be ‘activated’. This will show in the impact they have on their work, their world and the whole world’

Considering that drama can be a tool for change, this is a purposeful and necessary aim for our students and the world they will live in when they leave us. Therefore these powerful questions have been created to support them to be ‘activated’.

These questions also reflect the reading I have done on ‘whakawhanaungatanga’ and the need for a holistic teaching approach which enables students to exercuse ‘mind, body and soul’ connecting all learners, including Maori students to something bigger than themselves. In that way these questions are enabling ‘cultural protection’ of the students and the drama whanau.

I have tried some of these questions (3,5 and 6) on my year 9 and 10 learners as their reflection on their work. These questions produced very interesting results where the students were talking about not only their drama work but their self confidence, their world at school and the wider world and contemporary issues.

For example, one learner felt uncomfortable having to work with an ‘all boy’ group at first as he felt uncomfortable having to create an emotional piece of theatre with boys. When asked ‘why that was uncomfortable?’ he felt at first that this was ‘weird’ to ‘touch other boys and stuff’. However, having created a really impressive piece about the Syrian refugee crisis and having seen other boys working in close proximity to their fellow actors, he feels he has changed as an actor. He feels he has matured and understands that the piece is not about him, its about the audience. This was a really excellent result and helped the rest of the group give similarly mature and reflective feedback.

One of my year 9 sets found the questions more difficult to answer at first. The maturity level needed seemed alien to them and so a lot of responses were silly, or comic. However, with some more guidance they were able to answer the questions but will take longer for the full impact of them to take effect I think. The class will need more experience with them and I hope that the more they get used to answering these types of questions, the more they will mature and bond as a ‘learning home and whanau’.




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