Last week we shared the story of how our drama program came into being; this week we share how it’s been adapted to the online learning environment. No easy feat for a subject that relies on classroom activities and performance … or is it?
By Trinity College Drama teacher Vanessa Montoya
Missed last week’s article about the establishment of our drama program? Read it here.
When the days of studying at Trinity College have long passed, students always fondly remember one subject in particular: Drama. If all subjects at Trinity were organs of the body, Drama would definitely be the heart. Because just like the human heart pumps blood to all areas of the body and is vital for the body to work effectively, the skills learned in Trinity’s Drama program enhance the way students experience and participate in their other academic subjects. And life in general.
At Trinity, Drama is used as a vehicle to transport valuable skills to students such as communication skills, collaboration skills, building of confidence – especially in moments of uncertainty – and using creativity to solve problems. Developing these skills ensures Trinity graduates are not only academically competent, but also well-rounded individuals who are able to express themselves clearly, easily relate to and work with others, adapt to unfamiliar circumstances confidently and approach problem solving with innovative perspectives. What is learned in the Drama classroom are lifelong skills that students can call upon at any time in their personal and academic lives or, in the midst of a pandemic.
After COVID-19’s unexpected arrival, many aspects of our lives quickly changed and all learning at Trinity swiftly transitioned to an online format.
The question on everyone’s mind was, how will Drama be taught online?
Some said it wasn’t possible, others couldn’t see how it could effectively work. The Drama department said, ‘Let us show you how’.
As the Drama department worked to redesign classes to suit a virtual environment, the learning outcomes of the program remained the same – we knew students still needed to receive the highest quality education. The only difference was that the ‘classroom’ shifted to an interactive live video conference – and it worked.
The use of video conferencing means all students are connected to their teachers and peers in real time to replicate the experience of a face-to-face classroom. From the comfort of their own room, students follow and participate in physical movement exercises, voice exercises, team-building games, creative problem solving, and whole-class and small-group tasks that let them practice communication, teamwork and English language skills. All class content is communicated through a combination of verbal and written instruction and students can call upon their teacher and peers at any time, just as they would in a face-to-face setting.
Both students and teachers have shown their versatility during the switch to online learning and, as teachers, we see it as an exciting opportunity to further equip students with another vital life skill: adaptability.
The ability to confidently adapt to new and unfamiliar situations is an important area of learning that is woven into the fabric of our Drama curriculum. Many activities encourage risk-taking by pushing students out of their comfort zones. As a result, our students grow into university-ready individuals who can easily and calmly adapt to new situations and who can problem solve with confidence.
Alongside a formal curriculum, Drama at Trinity College plays a unique role in fostering a positive, safe environment where students are encouraged to freely express themselves.
The online environment also fosters conversation and socialising, so, just like a real classroom, friendships are still developed and maintained. In Drama classes, individual differences are not only respected, but valued, and as a result, a deep sense of community is formed that carries through our entire Foundation Studies program.
During this challenging time of social distancing, the online Drama classroom has become a destination students flock to as they feel drawn to an educational setting that extends beyond academic learning. It’s where they build interpersonal skills and social connection, and discover the best version of themselves.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Drama at Trinity hasn’t changed the ‘what’, it has only changed the ‘how’. By opening the door to imagination, we’ve taken what could have been a barrier and turned it into an opportunity.
And really, that’s what the subject is all about.