No Innovation without Imitation: Using group dramatherapy to explore relationships and interpersonal learning processes with adolescents in special education
AffiliationMelbourne Conservatorium of Music
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Amanda Michelle Musicka-Williams
This thesis details a constructivist grounded theory study that explored relationships and interpersonal learning using group dramatherapy with adolescents in special education. The adolescent participants engaged in both group dramatherapy and a creative interviewing process to reflect upon their experiences and ways of being with, and learning from others. Their reflections give insight into the unique ways that adolescents with intellectual/developmental disabilities seek to establish relational connection and learn from other people, both within the dramatherapy space and wider social contexts. In constructing and reflecting on the research specific attention was given to exploring the use of dramatherapy techniques as accessible research tools, which enabled participants to be more actively engaged as co-contributors in both the research process and the subsequent framing of outcomes. Embedding dramatic techniques into reflective interview practice, and art making into different stages of the data analysis served as inclusive research practices. Incorporation of creative methods aimed to position the adolescent participants as experts of their own therapeutic needs, and consider further dramatherapy’s potential contribution to research conducted alongside people for whom thinking and talking are not key strengths. Within the data collected through semi-structured interviews participants reflected on a common phenomenon; that being their tendency to “copy”. They described consciously copying others as a way to “learn from”, “play with”, “join in with” and feel connected to others. This human tendency to imitate others is linked to dramatherapy’s foundation in “dramatic imitation” and viewed as a potential pathway to support personal growth through imitative learning. Participants reflected on ways to use dramatic practice to extend themselves beyond “straight copying” or high fidelity imitation, to a capacity for imitative flexibility, where “you start by copying and then find a way to make it your own.” The research findings presented within this thesis focus on presenting the words and insights of the participants themselves as the experts of their own relational and learning experiences. Recommendations for future practice and research are discussed in recognition and support of the participants’ own capacity to demonstrate insight into what represents for them meaningful therapeutic goals and encounters.
Keywordsdramatherapy; relationships; interpersonal learning; (dramatic) imitation; imitative learning; learning; play; connection; belonging
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