The Practice and Pedagogies of Imaginary Communities: A Dramatic Story-Making Process in the Primary School Classroom

  • Victoria Storey

Student thesis: Phd


This research is driven by a new model of dramatic story-making practice developed in English primary schools between 2010 and 2020. Imaginary Communities (IC) is a particularly open-ended and collaborative practice and pedagogy that supports learning within the school's curriculum. This thesis is informed by, and contributes to, the field of drama education and argues for a revived commitment to trusting children as capable, instinctive playmakers. Creating a dramatic narrative with children from the very start of the process, and remaining committed to co-creation, can seem difficult for teachers who lack the relevant training or experience. This, coupled with the pressure to meet various pre-determined, age-related learning objectives, makes an open-ended practice seem out of reach. My research breaks down the IC artistic model, sharing it through five manageable stages of practice. It argues for a new way of thinking about pedagogy as a way of being in the classroom, suggesting that teachers and children can be equal playmakers when using IC. The thesis makes a case for practice-based research that communicates new models in accessible and manageable formats. The thesis is founded on reflective practice arising from a ten-year process of developing, embedding, and evaluating IC in over fifty schools in the North of England. It includes a practical submission, providing a direct encounter with creative practice, and a written submission, offering a theoretically informed analysis of the IC approach. Using collaborative reflective practice, a detailed analysis of the work with teachers at two primary schools clarifies how they can use such an open-ended practice whilst still meeting formal learning objectives. The children's reflections are theorised to offer further pedagogical possibilities about a new culture of friendship in the classroom. The collective insights position IC as a form of critical pedagogy in schools, supporting teachers and children to re-think classroom practices driven by performative agendas.
Date of Award31 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJennifer Hughes (Supervisor) & Simon Parry (Supervisor)

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