Drama: What the Research Shows

Drama-based pedagogy (DBP) is called many things including dramatic play, process-drama, drama games and story dramatization. The major defining features of DBP are that it is conducted by a teacher, teaching artist or facilitator; is focused on process-oriented and reflective experiences; and draws from a broad range of theater and collective story-telling strategies.

While it is difficult to quantitatively measure the outcomes of DBP use in the classroom, it is clear from a recent meta-analysis of twenty-five years of research, that DBP has a “positive, significant impact on achievement outcomes in educational settings” (Kiger, Patall, Cawthon, Steingut 2015, p. 36).

Here are a few of the many benefits of DBP.  Sources and additional reading is included below.

-DBP is participatory and experiential.

-DBP supports students’ need for autonomy, competence and relatedness (Kiger 2015).

-DBP enhances students’ attitudes towards academics and school (Fleming, Merrell, and Tymms 2004).

-DBP has structure and objectives, but feels play-based and student-directed (Kardash and Wright 1986).

-DBP provides opportunities to build problem-solving skills (Kiger 2015).

-DBP provides many possible roles to include children with special needs and English Language Learners (Anderson and Krakaur 2010). Examples include quieter or stationary roles in an active drama for those with sensory or movement challenges.

-DBP increases empathy and other pro-social behaviors (Bournot-Trites, Belliveau, Spliotopoulos and Seror, 2007 and Koksal 2007).

-DBP scaffolds learning through building familiar ideas to relate to larger concepts (Kiger 2015).

-DBP encourages creativity and imagination (Kardash and Wright, 1986).

-DBP provides opportunities to practice and expand language (Anderson and Krakaur 2010).

-DBP provides exposure to children’s literature.

-DBP can engage all the senses.

-DBP provides an appropriate medium for active children and others who are challenged by a more stationary traditional classroom.

-DBP provides opportunities to explore other cultures and develop appreciation of differences – using stories, language, music and art from diverse cultures; 


Anderson, Alida and Linda Krakaur. “Integrated Arts Approaches in Education: Dramatic Arts as a Mediator for Literacy Learning.” 2010 International VSA Education Conference Proceedings. Available Dec, 2014 at: http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/vsa/resources/int_education_conference.cfm.

Bournot-Trites, M., Belliveau, G., Spiliotopoulos, V., and Seror, J. “The role of drama on cultural sensitivity, motivation and literacty in a second language context.” Journal for Learning Through the Arts, 3, 2007. Pp1-35.

Fleming, M., Merrell, Ca. and Tymms P. “The impact of drama on pupils’ language, mathematics, and attitudes in two primary schools.” Research in Drama Education, 9. 2004, pp 177-199.

Kardash, C.A.M., and Wright, L. “Does creative drama benefit elementary school students: A meta-analysis.” Youth Theatre Journal, 1, 1986, pp. 11-18.

Koksal, Aysel and Zaynep Hananci. “The Effect of Drama Education on the Level of Empathetic Skills in University Students.” Bulgarian Journal of Science and Education Policy, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2007.

Kiger Lee, Bridget and Erika Patall, Stephanie Cawthon, Rebecca Steingut. “The Effect of Drama-Based Pedagogy on PreK-16 Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis of Research From 1985-2012.” Review of Educatonal Research. March 2015, Vol. 85, No 1, pp. 3-49.

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