Dissertations, Theses and Capstone Projects

Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Teacher Leadership (Ed.D)


Teacher Leadership for Learning

First Advisor

Dr. Ugena Whitlock

Second Advisor

Dr. Dawn Kirby

Third Advisor

Dr. Corrie Davis

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Aaron Levy


An increasing disconnection exists between students and schooling as these formal institutions continue to prioritize high-stakes testing and quantitative measures over the specific needs of individual learners. Drama attempts to interrogate spaces in all echelons of social and economic standing and seeks to bring together dichotomous perspectives in the spirit of irreverent collaboration. The narrowing of creative, synthesis, higher-order cognition in courses meant to be free-thinking and expressive signals a dangerous turn towards even more sterile subject matter in education. This qualitative study examined social justice in drama spaces by investigating student development and process in collaborative playwriting, as well as teacher/researcher’s bias concerning the specialness of aesthetic arts classes and aesthetic arts students.

The data sources for the study involved student interviews and focus groups, observations, student reflections and biographies, and student-created dramatic pieces. This data was peer reviewed and member checked, as well as crystallized – an advanced form of triangulation – to increase accuracy. Four findings were discovered from the data analysis and reflection: (1) student collaboration and group dynamics require further investigation on basic levels for effective classroom use; (2) intuitive leaps between learning concepts and creating connections across diverse perspectives are problematic for even AP and Honors students as educational expectations have become rigidly standardized and extrinsically motivated; (3) student challenges concerning creativity and imagination are illustrated by a lack of ownership, a forfeit of agency, and an easily discouraged learning mindset; and (4) Drama spaces must be continually questioned and interrogated for social justice practices as cultural, racial, and class (SES) divides exist within them, but are not openly discussed.

Recommendations for teachers of all subjects include direct instruction with formal and informal collaborative projects, as well as continued development of creative and imaginative skill sets that may address decreases in ownership and learning agency. Further research in high school theatre arts is needed to construct a stronger literature base that speaks to the complexities of course curriculum and the complicated relationships between students, teachers, and dramatic learning spaces.