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Neurodidactics of Performing Arts: The Impact of Drama Teaching on Second Language Acquisition

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NPA (Neurodidactics of Performing Arts: The Impact of Drama Teaching on Second Language Acquisition)

Reporting period: 2017-06-22 to 2018-06-21

"Educational Neuroscience has become an emerging field of research which studies cognitive brain functions and interfaces with the educational environment with the aim of improving teaching and learning.In parallel, ""Drama Teaching"", a creative drama-based methodology introduced in the 1970s, is now generating interest, especially in Foreign Language Learning. The main objectives of the current project relate to the advancement in the research field of Education, Neuroscience and Performing Arts to develop new possibilities of application of performative pedagogies in interdisciplinary contexts. The present study aimed at answering the questions about the key elements and the main processes involved in the teaching through Performing Arts.
The first objective was to study Performing Arts, Drama Teaching and Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience to draw implications useful to the practical application in the educational and social environment, confirming that Drama Teaching is an innovative and creative pedagogy that fosters the integration of cognitive, affective and behavioural aspects of learning. The second objective was to verify through a pilot neuroimaging experiment whether students of foreign language can achieve better results when trained with drama-based techniques.
The third objective was the researcher’s career restart and development as leading researcher in Educational Neuroscience and Performing Arts.
In the light of the research objectives outlined, the study of Drama Teaching has been successfully conducted by using a process-oriented approach to knowledge-building, and the inter-disciplinary perspective adopted by the study has contributed to the European discussion on innovative, interactive, creative Foreign Language teaching methodologies. It contributes to the multi-disciplinary inquiries of Educational Neuroscience by elaborating a scientifically grounded theory of Drama Teaching and gives educators guidelines for creative and inclusive education in accordance with the principles of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages."
The researcher completed the training Work Packages (WPs) foreseen for the action, namely Drama in Education Practice, Neuroscience of Performing Arts and Embodied Cognition, Research Methods and Educational Psychology acquiring new knowledge about how to apply it to different learning environments. Other research related activities include the development of a basic curriculum for the course of foreign language, the management of the project and the presentation of ethics applications. She was attentive to the inter-sectoral aspects of the project, by diversifying practices and perspectives, by employing research methods suited to the objective: independent study and research through training; observation of drama teaching classes at schools, conferences and video recordings; attendance at seminars, conferences, workshops, a summer school, study days and on-line classes. The researcher made the most of the training opportunities provided by the action: she attended an average of ten cultural and training events every year. She presented her work as a speaker at three international conferences and five workshops in different countries. She also contributed as a mentor in Cognitive Neuroscience to the Summer School in Drama Education at Trinity College Dublin.
During her participation to international events, she expanded her network of contacts, collaborating at common projects and participating in the current discussion. Adopting a new perspective and bringing together different cultural perspectives, she achieved her main objectives successfully, mitigating the risks and setbacks encountered during the experimental part of the project. With respect to the pilot experiment, she was able to accomplish the first part relating to the organisation of a neuroimaging experiment, gaining experience that will serve to plan a complete trial in her future career as an independent researcher. Another accomplishment is her career advancement in the field of the Neurosciences of Learning and Performing Arts.
A plan for exploitation and dissemination of results was planned by integrating participation to conferences and workshops and outreaching activities; by publishing the scientific results in two articles, one chapter and a monograph. The project results disseminated in scientific publications are deposited in open access repositories of Ca’Foscari (ARCA). All publications show the reference to EU funding.
The outreach activities undertaken were visits to local schools in Sydney and Italy, participation to the Researchers' Night in Venice.
The study contributes to the state of the art in drama-based learning, by providing in depth knowledge of the cognitive and psychological factors involved in learning through drama. In particular this theory is applied to the study of foreign language learning, thus contributing to the discussion on innovative methods of teaching in a multilingual environment like the European Community. This theory of performative learning provides the first contribution in the field due to the cognitive perspective adopted. Although a secondment was not implemented, the researcher was able to make the most of the networking process necessary for the organisation of the secondment phase, by gathering additional information from the experts contacted, and by obtaining supplementary resources to complete her research. The concrete results of the action include four publications, the creation of a valuable network for knowledge transfer, the researcher’s career advancement in the field. The project contributed to the expected impacts as described below: the impact on the researcher's career which has enhanced her potential and future career prospects through the dissemination of the scientific results during conferences, workshops, and seminars on the topic, where the expert community met.The action contributed to establishing the researcher as a leading representative of her research in drama-based language learning and educational neuroscience. The researcher’s next career step is the application for a Marie Curie Plus fellowship at Ca’Foscari University, during which she will apply for an ERC grant. The work carried out enhances the innovation capacity of the pedagogical system, by integrating the performative techniques studied into the curriculum. It has the potentiality to address issues related to societal needs at regional level where performative pedagogies are not yet employed. The scientific results of the actions, applied to social dimensions like the schooling system, or to critical contexts like detention centres and cognitive disability centres, can bring important benefits for society in terms of inclusion and improvement of social behaviour. The study produced relevant innovation at the level of methodology to be considered for integration in standards for the teaching of foreign language in Europe, where a Common Framework already exists, but could be integrated with the performative pedagogies studied, and supported by scientific evidence. Thus, the work carried out has the potentiality to contribute towards European policy objectives in the matter of education.