“I would like my students to feel like that too.” Reflections on engagement in drama-rich pedagogies with community/heritage languages teachers





process drama, flow, engagement, teacher professional development, story


This article explores engagement and group flow in drama-rich pedagogies with community languages (also known as heritage languages) teachers. Flow is usually examined in terms of an individual experience of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997, 2008, 2014), where autotelic or intrinsically rewarding experiences are associated with a state of flow. Group flow refers to a collective state where attention is equally put on the task and others, because the task requires continuous social interaction (Hackert et al., 2022; Sawyer, 2004, 2007). Teaching Artists working with drama-rich pedagogies must balance individual creative contributions, group dynamics and the demands of the narrative to sustain engagement and bring about the conditions for group flow. This research found that engagement for the purposes of teacher professional development broadened to encompass autotelic engagement. Data also indicated that a deepening sense of autotelic engagement served to extend and reinforce participants’ teacher professional learning goals.


Atwood, M. (2005). The Penelopiad. Text Publishing.

Barone, T., & Eisner, E. (1997). Arts-based educational research. In R. Jaeger & T. Barone (Eds.),Complementary methods for research in education(2nd ed., pp. 95-109). American Educational Research Association.

Barone, T., & Eisner, E. (2012).Arts based research. SAGE Publications. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452230627

Bloom, B. S. (1953). Thought-processes in lectures and discussions.The Journal of General Education,7(3), 160-169.

Bloom, A. J., & Skutnick-Henley, P. (2005). Facilitating flow experiences among musicians.The American Music Teacher,54(5), 24-28.

Bolton, G. (1984). Drama as education: An argument for placing drama at the centre of the curriculum. Longman.

Booth, E. (2003). Seeking definition: What is a teaching artist?. Teaching Artist Journal, 1(1), 5-12. https://doi.org/10.1080/15411796.2003.9684265

Booth, E. (2009). The music teaching artist’s bible becoming a virtuoso educator. Oxford University Press.

Booth, E. (2015). Something's happening: Teaching artistry is having a growth spurt. Teaching Artist Journal, 13(3), 151-159. https://doi.org/10.1080/15411796.2015.1029857

Brook, P. (1996). The empty space. Simon & Schuster.

Bundy, P. (2003). Aesthetic engagement in the drama process. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 8(2), 171-181. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569780308333

Campbell, V., & Hogan, Z. (2019). Pandora and the tiger's whisker: Stories as a pretext in two adult language learning contexts, NJ: Drama Australia Journal, 43(10), 39-50.


Campbell, V., & Hogan, Z. (2022). Connecting though drama: Drama and literacy for learning english as an additional language. Currency Press.

Coleman, C. (2017). Precarious repurposing: Learning languages through the seal wife. NJ: Drama Australia Journal, 41(1), 30-43. https://doi.org/10.1080/14452294.2017.1329681

Cruickshank, K. (2021). Pathways for internationally-trained teachers: Practices, policies and provisions in the Australian context. European Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 130-148. https://doi.org/10.1177/14749041211048983

Cruickshank, K., Jung, Y. M., & Li, E. B. (2022). Parallel lines: Community languages schools and their role in growing languages and building communities.Sydney Institute for Community Languages Education (SICLE), University of Sydney.

Cruickshank, K., Lo Bianco, J., & Wahlin, M. (Eds.). (2023). Community and heritage languages schools transforming education: Research, challenges, and teaching practices. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003302704

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. Harper Collins Publishers.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2008). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience (1st ed.). Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Applications of flow in human development and education: The collected works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9094-9

Dalziel, F., & Piazzoli, E. (2019). “It comes from you”: Agency in adult asylum seekers’ language learning through process drama. Language Learning in Higher Education, 9(1), 7-32. https://doi.org/10.1515/cercles-2019-0001

Duncan, J., & West, R. E. (2018). Conceptualizing group flow: A framework.Educational Research and Reviews,13(1), 1-11. https://doi.org/10.5897/ERR2017.3313

Dunn, J. (2002). Dramatic worlds in play: A study of the dramatic play of preadolescent girls. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Griffith University.

Dunn, J. (2008). Playing around with improvisation: An analysis of the text creation processes used within preadolescent dramatic play. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 13(1), 55-70. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569780701825286

Dunn, J., & Stinson, M. (2011). Not without the art!! The importance of teacher artistry when applying drama as pedagogy for additional language learning. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 16(4), 617-633. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569783.2011.617110

Elbe, A.-M., Strahler, K., Krustrup, P., Wikman, J., & Stelter, R. (2010). Experiencing flow in different types of physical activity intervention programs: three randomized studies. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20(1), 111-117. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2010.01112.x

Ewing, R. (2010). The arts and Australian education: Realising potential. Australian Council for Educational Research Press.

Ewing, R., Gibson, R., Campbell, V., Saunders, J. N., & Hristofski, H. (2015). School drama: Towards state of the art in drama professional learning? In M. Anderson & C. Roche (Eds.), The state of the art: Teaching drama in the 21st century (pp. 25-48). Sydney University Press.

Ewing, R., & Saunders, J. N. (2016). The school drama book: Drama, literature and literacy in the creative classroom. Currency Press.

Freire, P. (1996). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Penguin Books.

Gans, H. J. (1982). The participant observer as a human being: Observations on the personal aspects of fieldwork. In R. G. Burgess (Ed.), Field research (pp. 53-61). Allen and Unwin.

Gibson, R., & Smith, D. (2013). School drama project meta-evaluation 2009–2012. University of Sydney.

Hackert, B., Lumma, A.-L., Raettig, T., Berger, B., & Weger, U. (2023). Towards a re-conceptualization of flow in social contexts. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 53(1), 100–125. https://doi.org/10.1111/jtsb.12362

Haseman, B. (1991). Improvisation, process drama and dramatic art. The Drama Magazine, July, 19-21.

Hatton, C. (2004). Backyards and borderlands: Transforming girls’ learning through drama. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. The University of Sydney.

Hepplewhite, K. (2013). Here's one I made earlier: Dialogues on the construction of an applied theatre practitioner. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 4(1), 52-72.


Jung, C. G. (1968).Man and his symbols. Dell.

Kao, S. M., Carkin, G., & Hsu, L. F. (2011). Questioning techniques for promoting language learning with students of limited L2 oral proficiency in a drama-oriented language classroom. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 16(4), 489-515. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569783.2011.616399

Kao, S. M., & O'Neill, C. (1998). Words into worlds: Learning a second language through process drama. Ablex.

Knill, P. J., Levine, E. G., & Levine, S. K. (2005). Principles and practices of expressive arts therapies: Toward a therapeutic aesthetics. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Knowles, J., & Cole, A. (2008). Handbook of the arts in qualitative research: Perspectives, methodologies, examples, and issues. SAGE Publications.

Martin, A. J., Ginns, P., & Papworth, B. (2017). Motivation and engagement: Same or different? Does it matter? Learning and Individual Differences, 55, 150-162. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2017.03.013

Massoura, K. (2017). Space, time, and the female body: Homer’s Penelope in Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad (2005). Contemporary Women’s Writing, 11(3), 391-411. https://doi.org/10.1093/cww/vpx027

McLaren, P.L. (1988). The liminal servant and the ritual roots of critical pedagogy. Language Arts, 65(2), 164-180.

O'Neill, C. (1995). Drama worlds: A framework for process drama. Heinemann.

Piazzoli, E. (2011). Process drama: The use of affective space to reduce language anxiety in the additional language learning classroom. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 16(4), 557-573. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569783.2011.617104

Piazzoli, E. (2013). Navigating the labyrinth: A study of engagement and artistry in process drama for additional language teaching and learning. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Griffith University. https://doi.org/10.25904/1912/518

Piazzoli, E. (2018). Embodying language in action: The artistry of process drama in second language education. Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-77962-1

Rothwell, J. (2011). Bodies and language: process drama and intercultural language learning in a beginner language classroom. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 16(4), 575-594. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569783.2011.617106

Saunders, J. N. (2015). School drama: A case study of student academic & non-academic outcomes. [Unpublished masters dissertation]. The University of Sydney.

Saunders, J. N. R. (2019). Dramatic interventions: A multi-site case study analysis of student outcomes in the school drama program. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. The University of Sydney.

Sawyer, R. K. (2004). Creative teaching: Collaborative discussion as disciplined improvisation. Educational Researcher, 33(2), 12-20. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X033002012

Sawyer, R.K. (2007). Group genius: The creative power of collaboration. Basic Books.

Thompson, J., Hughes, J., & Balfour, M. (2009). Performance in place of war. Seagull.

Walker, C. J. (2010). Experiencing flow: Is doing it together better than doing it alone? The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(1), 3-11. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760903271116