A report on the preparation of theatre pedagogy
A holistic report on output five.


Status Quo
The European Union (EU) has set the goal to reduce early school absenteeism and take measures by 2020. An international research group from the countries of Turkey, Greece, Spain and Germany is dedicating itself to this substantial research topic in order to learn and profit from each other in the course of intercultural research and country-specific expertise.

According to the European Commission and a survey by Eurostat (2011), the overall rate of early school absenteeism in the EU was 12.7% in the year of 2009. Turkey’s drop-out rate was 39,6% which is in comparison to other EU countries rather high. In addition, the drop-out rate in Spain was 24,9%. The countries of Greece and Germany are close to the EU target for 2020 with drop-out rates of 11,4% and 10,5%. Based on this prevalence it can be seen that Germany has almost reached to EU target for 2020 and therefore is able to accompany the implementation processes of preventive measures in other countries.

One of the main reasons for early school leaving is school absenteeism. Consequently, the research group is particularly interested in implementing a preventive program for school absenteeism, consisting of elements of theatre pedagogy and game-based learning, and evaluate its effectiveness. Beyond, this prevention concept should address not only students but also the needs of teachers. This should strengthen the often-missing student-teacher bond and prevent school absenteeism in the long term.

The concept is based on previously collected qualitative data from all participating countries.

School absenteeism, the absence from school, is a widespread and multicausal phenomenon with significant economic and social consequences (Ricking & Hagen, 2016). It is therefore not surprising that the reduction and prevention of school absenteeism is an EU target for 2020. For this purpose, an effective prevention concept with regard to its theoretical foundation and practical applicability is being presented.

How can school absenteeism and drop-out be counteracted? From the combination of current methods of theatre pedagogy and game-based learning, a measure for the prevention of school absenteeism is developed which should draw the attention of students to the following topics

  • Social support
  • Personal life goals
  • Self-efficacy.

These three areas, which are central to the promotion of students, are addressed and reflected using theatre pedagogical methods. Students get to know different perspectives and should learn to understand themselves and their own behavior in a better way. In that case, the theatre serves as a stage for personal ideas and imaginations.

In addition, students should be motivated to attend class and further receive psychoeducational knowledge about school absenteeism while playing a computer game (specific jump-and-run game). By incorporating the students into a virtual world, in which the intergalactic ZEIBI lives, the students should be given another connection to the real world. Students who have already distanced themselves from school to some extend should be recruited by a web-platform and encouraged to socialize with their classmates. A synthesis of theatre pedagogical and computer-based learning (game-based learning), respectively the real and the fictional world, appears to be a very promising method.


School Absenteeism and School Dropout
Etymologically, the word „absenteeism“ comes from the Latin „absens“ or „absentia“ and means absent or absence. From a literary point of view, school absenteeism describes the absence or failure of school education (Ricking, 2003). In the literature, school absenteeism usually refers to an overarching for three different forms of school absenteeism. On the one hand, school absenteeism includes the term truancy, which is characterized by the unauthorized absence of tuition without the parents being aware of it (Ricking and Speck 2018). By contrast, in the second form of school absenteeism, fear-based school denial, parents are well aware of their child’s absence (Ricking & Hagen, 2016). In addition, absenteeism can even be initiated by the parents themselves. This is described in the literature as a third form, parent retention (Ricking & Speck, 2018). In addition to the three forms of school absenteeism mentioned above, which are essentially different in the described condition factors, there are many influencing factors at the familial, social, individual and school level (Ricking, 2003).
Not only school absenteeism but also school dropout can be a serious problem for children and adolescents as well as the whole society. School dropout means early school leaving and exit from the school system (Ricking & Hagen, 2016). Since the intended research work aims for an international comparison and there is a translation risk in the German translation through early school leaving, by assigning the term „school leaving“ an inappropriate intentionality, the term „school dropout“ is used in the following and not the German counterpart school dropout (Stamm, 2013). For reasons of international comparability, the definition of the dropout is additionally supplemented by a definition of the EU, which differs slightly from the literary scientific definition and is therefore of great importance for the interpretation of prevalence statistics. According to an EU definition, EU statistics show that all young people with at most lower secondary and no advanced degrees are dropouts (European Commission, 2013). Compared to other definitions from the US or the scientific literature, this definition is broader, so that potentially more dropouts are discovered by this definition than in more narrow definitions (Hillenbrand & Ricking, 2011).

Development of School Absenteeism and School Dropout
A significant proportion of students leave the school permanently without a degree, which lower the probability of employment and heightens the risk to psychological and physiological health, but how do students decide to drop out of school or not to attend classes?

To understand the facets of school absenteeism and –dropout it is necessary to know about the development of it. Moreover, it is inevitable to understand the individual development of every single student, but in the following figure a general approach to the development of school absenteeism and in a long-term school-dropout is displayed. At the same time, this model will be used as a staring baseline for the intended prevention.


Figure 1. A Model for School-Dropout and School-Absenteeism referring to Ricking (2011).

In this model school absenteeism and –dropout can be understood as an escalating and solidifying developmental process. Specifically it displays a development of increasing alienation from the school: starting from school aversion over school absenteeism to dropout.

School dropout is characterized by a school-rejecting or hostile attitude that gives expression in a subjective escape pressure and starts with lower social support, which nourishes the willingness to avoid the school and finally give it up. But, it also shows the need to consider dropout not as a situational event, but to insert it into a holistic perspective with multiple factors ranging from early risks.  So far, it is still unclear what factors lead to the decision to dropout or stay in school. A factor often referred to in research contexts can be described as an experiential aversion to the school. Most of the students concerned consider their situation mainly from the „here-and-now“ and thereby discount the future consequences of obtaining an academic career.

Altogether, this model can also be applied to the workshop themes, where the green circles display issues of social support, the red circles display associations to self-efficacy and the blue circles are counteracted by the SMART-goalsetting method.

Prevalence of School Absenteeism and School Dropout
First, the prevalence of school absenteeism and dropout in Germany will be discussed, followed by a description of the prevalence rates of school absenteeism and dropout in the EU. In Germany, the extent or prevalence of school absenteeism can only be estimated on the basis of PISA questionnaires. According to the authors‘ group Educational Reporting (2018), 7% of the students have stayed away from the classroom for one to two days in the last two weeks. Individual lessons are about 12% of the students stay away and according to PISA (2012), 8.6% of the students were missing one or two lessons. Regarding the rate of blame, according to a recent educational study by Caritas (2017) it can be stated that about 5.9% of young people drop out of school at an early age, despite their compulsory education. In 2017, across the EU, according to Eurostat, on average 10.6% of young people left school prematurely. Within the EU, dropout rates vary widely from 3.1% in Croatia to 32.5% in Turkey. In 2017, according to Eurostat estimates, 10.1% of young people in Germany left school early. At these dropout rates, it should be noted that the PISA study collects 15-year-olds, while Eurostat covers 18- to 24-year-olds. To classify the prevalence rates in the participating partner countries of this research project, the participating countries and their prevalence rates are presented. In Greece, only 6% of students dropped out early. Significantly more young people dropped out of school in Spain and Turkey with 18.3% and 32.5%. Similarly, rates of school absenteeism in the EU are subject to strong variations. According to PISA (2012), 8.6% of German pupils were missing one to two lessons in the last two weeks. Significantly more students missed individual lessons in Spain with 25.5%, in Greece with 30.3% and in Turkey with 30.5%. These prevalence rates justify why the EU has set itself the goal of reducing school absenteeism and dropout by 2020. On top of this, the following figure illustrates these prevalences by own calculations taken from surveys of the OECD (2016) and the Eurostat (2018).

Figure 2. Prevalences of School-Dropout and School-Absenteeism in the Partner Countries.

As mentioned earlier, the EU is aiming to reduce the school dropout rate to below 10% in order to increase opportunities for young people in the labor market. This goal should be supported and addressed by the research project. Since voices in research criticize that politics would focus too much on interventions rather than prevention (Ricking & Speck 2018), this work aims for a prevention method that should also be implemented at international level. The goal is to reduce social follow-up costs through an early-stage preventive measure (Czock & Wölbing, 2011).

It can be summed up that school absenteeism and school dropout, is a widespread and multi-causal phenomenon with considerable economic and social consequences (Ricking & Hagen, 2016), which should be counteracted in the context of this project through a combined approach of game-based learning and theatre-pedagogy. Therefore, these two approaches will be described on the following pages.

Game-Based Learning
But, what is Game-based learning? The term was initially coined by Marc Prensky (2003). Through (digital) game-based learning a synthesis between knowledge transfer and games is aimed at. The use of game-based learning should create broader opportunities to conventional learning methods. Therefore, the performance pressure in the digital game should have positive and thus motivating effects, in contrast to a negatively pressure-loaded learning environment in conventional learning methods. Further, gamification should be differentiated from the term game-based learning. Gamification means the application of motivational gaming elements in a non-game context.

Above, a variety of different types of game-based learning modules already exists for different teaching purposes. Also, a solid proportion of them is scientifically evaluated as for example “The Games Atelier” in the Netherlands, “Dr. Kawashima’s Brainjogging” in Scottland and further more (Wastiau, Kearney & Van den Berghe, 2009). In using Dr- Kawashima’s Brainjogging module scientists found an significant accuracy and speed effect in learning, compared to a controlgroup, which did not use the game-based learning module. More up-to date and larger scale-studies as for example the meta-analysis bei Hillmayr and colleagues from 2017, evaluated and aggregated 79 studies on game-based learning regarding their efficacy on learning. Specifically, they evaluated the use of digital media in secondary education in mathematics and natural sciences for their purpose, implementation and effectiveness. In terms of instructional design of lessons it was found that performance of students was improved, when traditional media was added to digital media, when considering a short-term-effect and educating teachers on the use of digital media. Moreover, students profit from communicational effects, when the media was used with a partner or was supported by a teacher or classmate. Also, in comparison to traditionally taught classes higher motivational effects resulted for the respective subject with the use of digital media, compared to traditional media.

Theatre Pedagogy
Theatre Pedagogy take place in schools, field of social and leisure activities, in socio-cultural institutions and on the streets (Brook, 1968) Theatre Pedagogy changes the perspective: So it shows topics from other perspectives, it let us identify our own borders and let them extend. So that we can dive into a topic from different roles. Theatre Pedagogy is Stimulating: It creates emotions like happy, sad, friendly, bad, etc. In addition, it awakes the desire to act or play. Its need creativity and fantasy and sometimes and interaction in a group, by yourself or in a team. Holistic learning: Own perception will increased, you can learn with all senses, with mind, spirit and body and your self-awareness increases. Theatre Pedagogy is communication where the individual human being is in focus. Theatrical education is for, children, young people, adults from diverse groups: professions, senior citizens, disabled people, former drug addicts, prisoners and prison guards, teachers, executives from the economy and so on. Theatrical educational process is experience, reflect and create and illustrate different role models, learning of the external appearance, discover the unknown in one’s own person, integrate personality traits into own personality, learning to put yourself in a role (Özmen, 2011), increase of empathy, learning to take, responsibility for one’s own actions, critical distance from one’s own product, reflection and self-overcoming.

Theatre is a balance act between: Withstand – Abort: When someone is quite it can send a massage, so you have to withstand, or someone breaks a role and changes a role, so it can send a message to the viewers. Chaos – Structure: On the stage can be chaos, everyone changes the direction and we only see chaos and no structure. Alternatively, we have structure like a machine, so everyone is on a line and only one is breaking the rule. Body – Feelings: You can communicate only with your body, your face or your voice to show emotions or feeling. Command – Support: There can be a command of only one leader, which can be beaked by social support and withstand.  Therefore, Theatre can be individual and diverse. Components of Theatre are Ambient: “raw materials, bright light, bouncy music, saturated colors and open windows” (Doorley und Witthoft, 2012). Forms: “theatre with masks, with shadows, with improvisation etc. “(Pinkert, 2011). Storytelling: “narrative tricks such as building suspense, a climax, interesting characters, and an easy message.” (Abrahamson, 1998). Building blocks: “space, time, character” (Pinkert, 2011). Mimics and gestures (Tauber & Mester, 2007), Body, voice and sound (Baughman, 1979).

Idea: Bridging the Gap between the Virtual and Real World
Actually, we live in two worlds. One of the world is the virtual world, with digital media such as social media (Facebook, Instagram, and co.). We play games and do activities online. We share everything, if we know what we share or not. The other world is our real world, were we are physically. We meet people, we talk face to face, and we smell, feel and interact. School is always physically. We wake up and go to school to meet our friends and teachers. We write on paper or on the blackboard. We interact together (students to students or students to teachers). School is also a place for conflicts or bad situations. Therefore, some students do not want to go to school, because of some reasons. That is our target, we want to create a bridge between the virtual and real world. Our concept is it to bring the students back to school and create a positive bounding to the school and the people inside. The combination of Game-Based Learning: ZEIBI as an interactive tool, with social media elements and a jump and run game, as a motivational factor defines the virtual world and Theatre Pedagogy inside three different workshops groups defines the real world, which trains social skills. Each element such as the game itself or the social media elements have no significantly effect. Only by combining these two worlds (all components), we can help to break the fixed behavior of the students and teachers and help them to change perspectives and their behaviors.

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