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Oral Fluency and Drama: The Effect of Drama-Based Pedagogy on English Oral Fluency in Key Stage 2 EAL Learners in UK Primary Schools

Allder, Luke (2023) Oral Fluency and Drama: The Effect of Drama-Based Pedagogy on English Oral Fluency in Key Stage 2 EAL Learners in UK Primary Schools. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.100356) (KAR id:100356)


This thesis is an experimental and reflective investigation into the design, implementation, and impact of drama pedagogies with Key Stage 2 English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners on their oral fluency and expressive language production.

Drama has long been recognised as a valuable approach within many pedagogical settings, utilising and promoting imagination, expression and communicative confidence (Bowell & Heap, 2001; Heathcote & Bolton, 1995; Neelands, 2000; O'Toole, 1992; Bowell & Heap, 2001; Wagner, 1998) and, in more recent years, within the field of language learning (Di Pietro, 1987; Even, 2008; Kao & O'Neill, 1998; Maley & Duff 1984; Piazzoli 2011; Smith 1984; Stinson & Winston 2011; Wessels 1987; Whiteson 1998; Winston, 2011). This study builds upon a wealth of research previously undertaken globally, whilst being uniquely framed within the context of a state UK primary school (Key Stage 2). The research demonstrates the power of drama-based pedagogy within the language learning classroom and reveals significant advantages to young EAL learners' academic and social experience.

The participants were all pupils at an East London state primary school, selected for its diversity of native languages spoken, and their requirement for EAL support. Seventy-three children aged 7-8 took part in the study, 12 of the participants identified as speaking English as their 'home' and 'native' language, whilst 61 participants identified as speaking one of 17 other languages. The 73 participants formed three groups (two experimental and one control); there were no attainment, or pre-defined differences between any of the three groups. The experimental groups were exposed to a series of drama-based lessons that were designed to promote collaborative learning, problem solving, and expressive language production, often based upon the curriculum-outlined literacy programme, whereas, the control group received 'traditional' English language and literacy teaching. These lessons took place weekly over the course of two academic terms, bookended by pre- and post -testing.

A selection of tests from the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, fourth edition (CELF-4; Semel, Wiig, & Secord, 2003) battery were administered to assess and measure differences in our young learners' language and communication skills. The tests selected were chosen for their appropriacy of age, standardisation of task, timing, and their focus on oral fluency, as used in similar studies with participants of this age and demographic (Bowyer-Crane et al., 2016; Kane et al. 2019; Murphy 2017; Valentini & Serratrice, 2019). The tests selected included Word Structure (WS), Formulating Sentences (FS), and Expressive Vocabulary (EV). These tests were evaluated alongside the participant's National Curriculum Grammar assessment (NC), Raven's Progressive Matrices, and observational diaries assessments.

The results indicate a significantly beneficial difference in English oral language production (EV and FS) for those participants who undertook drama approaches to learning in comparison to the control group. There were no significant differences between the two experimental groups, except in the assessment for WS, which can be attributed to one class having higher pre-test results and therefore having less opportunity for significant improvement. There were no significant differences in the other assessment results, with both the experimental groups and control group making gradual, expected progress.

Based on these findings, this thesis will outline considerations for drama pedagogies in the Key Stage 2 English classroom, the benefits of collaborative peer-to-peer language learning, pupil and teacher response to drama-based learning, and the wider confidence and motivational implications of drama-based learning.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Chamorro, Gloria
Thesis advisor: Shaughnessy, Nicola
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.100356
Uncontrolled keywords: Drama, English, Language, Linguistics, Primary School, Education, Key Stage 2, Confidence, Collaboration, Creativity, Oral, Fluency, Learning, Education, Arts, London, Games, Play, Peers, Support, Process Drama, Roleplay, Games, Dorothy Heathcote, Gavin Bolton, TIE, DIE, Theatre
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2023 10:10 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2023 11:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Allder, Luke.

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