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Drama as an educational tool

News: Nov 11, 2011

If nurses are to have the best chance of meeting the demands of their professional careers then the traditional, theory-based training at university needs to take on new ideas, according to Margret Lepp, newly appointed Professor in Care Sciences specialising in healthcare pedagogy:
"Educational drama stimulates our imagination and our ability to empathise; it’s a form of learning that provides opportunities for cooperation, shared reflection, personal and professional development. Thinking about, and solving problems together helps deepen the learning process. And when we look back, we remember what we have experienced."

Margret Lepp is creating a method within educational drama to aid professional development and for use in nursing programmes. She leads forum play sessions, and teaches others who train nurses how to use this teaching method. Forum play involves a small group of participants. After a few warm-up exercises, participants act out ethical dilemmas and conflicts that they have experienced, after which the other participants show how they would have handled the situation.

“Working with forum play provides a unique opportunity to develop your ability to empathise and your skills in handling difficult situations. The kind of feedback from participants afterwards can be along the lines of: ‘I had no idea that it felt like this to be a patient. I’ll never subject my patients to anything like this’. Educational drama really does have an impact on the participants,” says Margret Lepp, who believes that the more senses we use during the learning phase, the greater the chance of us remembering the knowledge we acquire:

“According to memory research, we only recall 15 percent of what we hear. Teaching through the medium of drama results in learning that lasts longer and is much deeper.”

Swedish pioneer in international arena
Margret Lepp is a Swedish pioneer within her field, since she was the first in Sweden to produce a thesis on using drama as a healthcare education tool. She presented her thesis at Lund University in 1998. Interest in and understanding of the value of working with drama in nursing programmes has gradually increased ever since. Drama has been used internationally in teacher training programmes for many years, and at conferences Margret Lepp soon got to know others who were heavily involved in the field. Today the international research arena is just as important to Margret Lepp as research in Sweden; she collaborates with colleagues in many other countries, including Australia, Europe, Malaysia and the US.

“I also have an excellent relationship with the University of Jordan, where I introduced educational drama to the nursing programme. There’s a huge amount of interest and openness to this teaching method at the university in Amman,” says Margret Lepp, who is chair of Tau Omega Chapter in Gothenburg, the Swedish section of the international Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) organisation for nurses. She is also Associate Editor for the Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, a leading international health science journal.

Applied educational drama within healthcare and training
Educational drama can be used in several different areas. During the course of her research, Margret Lepp has applied her methods at senior schools, universities and hospital wards to teach pupils, students, teachers and healthcare personnel how to manage conflict better. She has also worked within elderly care, where educational drama can improve communication between older people with dementia and their carers.

“A home for the elderly that organises weekly get-togethers with educational drama exercises will help improve relationships between carers and residents, because it gives them the chance to share experiences. The nurse gets to know his/her patients and the patients get to know their nurse. And it makes the job more fun,” she says.

A whole day of educational drama
Margret Lepp is also responsible for teaching conflict management with forum play for the Sahlgrenska Academy’s nursing students. A whole day of drama, where theory is combined with educational drama exercises. The seminar contains both educational drama exercises that are based on conflict management theories, and forum play based on students’ own experiences of conflict situations within a healthcare setting. New knowledge is developed and created.

“It’s very popular. The students are always extremely positive about it afterwards, and many say that they would like to have more educational drama during their course. We invite drama teachers in from outside to cover current needs in the nursing programme.”

Selection of publications:
Bagshaw, D., Burton, B., Friberg, M., Grünbaum, A., Lepp, M., O´Toole, J., & Pillai, J. (2005, revised 2007). Bridging the fields of drama and conflict management. In: DRACON International: Empowering students to handle conflicts through school‑based programmes. (p. 45-129). (Studia psychologica et paedagogica, series altera CLXX). Malmö: MUEP (Malmö University Electronic Publishing), http://dspace.mah.se/bitstream/2043/5975/1/drac06nov.pdf

Ekebergh, M., Lepp, M., & Dahlberg, K. (2004). Reflective Learning with Drama in Nursing Education - a Swedish attempt to overcome the theory praxis gap. Nurse Education Today. 24(8), 622-628.

Grünbaum, A., & Lepp, M. (2005). DRACON I SKOLAN. Drama, konflikthantering och medling. Lund: Student literature.

Halabi, J.O., Abdalrahim, M. S., Length Persson, G., Hedemalm, A., & Lepp, M. (2011).The development of a preceptor training program on clinical nursing education in Jordan in collaboration with Sweden. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing (accepted 2011).


BY: Elin Lindström Claessen

Page Manager: Ingela Lundgren|Last update: 6/23/2016

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