Singapore Repertory Theatre

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Applying drama to impart life skills at NorthLight

NorthLight School is a vocational school that utilises a hands-on approach to impart life skills to the students to prepare them for the workforce. Subjects include Info-comm Technology, Retail Services, Mechanical Servicing, and Aesthetics such as Drama are among the core subjects that students are offered.

Partnering with Deloitte, SRT’s L&E team had the pleasure to deliver a 40-hour Devising workshop from January to March 2021 for 101 Year 3 students.

What is Devising?

‘theatre that begins without a script. The script gets “written” as the rehearsal process takes place through a series of improvisations and collaborations.’

- Vanessa Garcia (2013), in The Paradox of Devised Theater on the Twenty-First Century Stage.

Devising is an art form where there is no fixed script or blueprint. Instead, it encourages participants to explore by playing various games and exercises. This in turn requires the participants to discuss, collaborate, and devise to conceive a product. All of these are essential skills that prepare one for the workforce. It was also strategically chosen as the art form to take on a student-centric approach that allowed the participants to share and examine topics relevant to them. Thus, this further enabled the participants to develop their sense of ownership and level of confidence.

The form of Devising also draws similarities to the ‘Mantle of the Expert’ approach as coined by Dorothy Heathcote.

Mantle of the Expert draws on three teaching modalities: inquiry learning; drama for learning (closely related to drama-in-education, or, as it is sometimes called, process drama); and what we might call “expert framing”, which involves children being positioned as adult experts. This reframing asks the children to “frame” or think about their learning in a new way. It also involves a conscious repositioning of power within the teacher-student relationship.’

- Viv Aitken (2013), in Connecting Curriculum Linking Learning.

The methodology of Devising also subverted the traditional teacher to student dynamic, where the participants are seen as fellow co-creators helping to shape the presentation. With the change in dynamics, the programme left an impressionable impact on the teaching artists Eleanor Tan and Dwayne Tan (no, they are not related) who had these words to share:

“A programme such as this one is an important reminder of how drama, music, and other performing arts can have a great positive impact on students who are considered at-risk or face significant challenges in their lives. Not only does drama offer the opportunity for therapeutic catharsis and creative expression it is also a highly effective tool for self-reflection and confidence-building.”

- Eleanor Tan, Teaching Artist

“The big lesson from this was the need for greater empathy for people who are different to us and the need for alternative ways to communicate with them. Drama is one such avenue, allowing them a safe space to share their emotions, creativity, and a bit of their world – once they gain your trust.

Only then might we see that a high-flying society like Singapore can also afford to shift some focus away from competition, to give space to some who simply need to believe in themselves again to try once more; for some who need you to believe in them again.”

- Dwayne Tan, Teaching Artist

As part of the programme, we were also very grateful to have had five Deloitte staff members who volunteered to be teaching assistants. The volunteers from Deloitte assisted with administrative duties, facilitating small group work, and sharing their ideas with the participants.

Below is one of the volunteer’s reflections on the programme:

“It was incredible to see how the teacher channelled the children’s bubbling energy in developing their cognitive functions and social skills by using simple drama tools and techniques. One of the most significant lessons I have learned through this experience is that responsiveness and supporting the participants to better express themselves lead to noticeable change. I had a very educative experience where not only I enjoyed volunteering but also learned a couple of skills myself. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and I’m happy to go back and volunteer at the school again.”

- Shreya Garg, Senior Analyst |Tax – Digital Transformation & Analytics, Deloitte

Through having the various entities as part of this programme, truly encapsulates the heart of Devising. With individuals using their unique voices, talents, and backgrounds collectively to create an honest and meaningful piece of work.

With gracious appreciation to Eleanor and Dwayne for being a pivotal part of this programme and Deloitte for funding the Ideas From Nothing workshop series at NorthLight School.

This article was written by SRT’s Assistant Learning and Engagement Manager, Kimberly Arriola.

Published on: 18-05-2021