Conference report: the 7th DiE Days

The 7th Drama in Education Days took place from September 9-12 2021: About 80 participants from 26 countries came together online via video conference to exchange ideas on the topic of “Foreign Language Learning with Theatre Methods”. The conference offered a mixture of theory and practice with 20 workshops and 10 lectures. Three keynote speakers focused on critical issues in (drama) education.

The online format enabled even more international teachers to participate in the bilingual conference (German/English) than in previous years. A participant from Australia: “It was extremely motivating to be able to go ‘abroad’ for a weekend and exchange ideas with so many talented, committed, similarly thinking practitioners.”

For the plenary lectures, the organizers Eva Göksel (University of Zurich/Switzerland) and Stefanie Giebert (Kempten University of Applied Sciences) were able to attract three well-known speakers. Carole Miller and Juliana Saxton joined the event from Canada. The emeritus professors of theater education are known in the English-speaking world for their life’s work in the field of applied theater far beyond Canada. In their presentation, they showed how working with theater techniques can also help students’ literacy skills in general.

Almut Küppers from Goethe University in Frankfurt provided a different focus. The teacher trainer took a critical look at the school system. She posed the question of whether a school whose modes of operation have not changed fundamentally since the 19th century can still prepare young people for the world of today and tomorrow. Performative methods, on the other hand, with their focus on collaboration, open-ended tasks, and the rejection of classic teacher-student roles, tends to be closer to what experts today define as the conditions for good learning.

The topics addressed in the keynotes were then applied in practice in the approximately 20 workshops. Teachers could actively try out various methods of performative teaching and learning, for example: developing foreign language writing skills of young people through joint storytelling and improvisation, experiencing principles of democracy in a role play about Europe, promoting soft skills of students in an online setting.

In the paper sessions, researchers answered questions about their projects that they had previously presented in pre-recorded talks on the conference website. Papers focused for example on language support for multilingual children through theater (University of Kent/UK), on training foreign language teachers in drama methods (University of Göttingen/Germany, Hogeschool Utrecht/Netherlands) and on language training for refugees (Hellenic Open University/Greece).

The audience showed – despite a dense program in terms of time and content – (almost) no signs of fatigue even on the last day of the conference and the feedback was overall very positive, such as that of an Austrian participant: “- it was a really all-round very successful conference with participants:inside from all over the world – great exchange!!!!!” The timing of the conference, just before the start of the semester, also proved very practical for some participants: “Thanks to you, I’m starting my preparations totally inspired!” said a German lecturer from Italy.