Moore, Susan Michelle
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Teacher attrition has been an enduring problem in education. A review of the literature showed teacher emotions were at the core of teacher turnover, yet left largely unaddressed in educational settings. Informed by Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory, performance theory, and theatre for social change, the author explored the use of theatre-based exercises to collect teacher narratives in different but related educational contexts. Blending methods from traditional qualitative research (participant observation, audio / video recording and transcription, interviews, surveys) with arts-based methods (artful journaling, theatrical activities, literary techniques), this study was guided by the question: What understandings did ethnotheatre offer about teaching and learning in professional development contexts and in university settings for pre-service and in-service teachers? The second overarching research question pertained to the crafting of an ethnotheatrical production: What were the processes, challenges, and opportunities of representing qualitative data through ethnotheatre? In order to answer this second research question, I posed the following methodological questions related to arts-based research practices: (a) How did I collect accounts of teacher experience and stage them? (b) What aspects of ethnotheatre craft were necessary to dramatize my data? (c) How did I stage the ethnotheatrical production? Through the post-performance discussion of #SCHOOLED!, the findings of this research showed that ethnotheatrical performance devised from ethnographic data offered insight into teaching and learning in the following four ways: (1) ethnotheatre connected the teachers’ lived experience in the classroom to scenes performed on stage, (2) ethnotheatre promoted the importance of the relationship between teachers and students, (3) ethnotheatre created community through shared perspectives, and (4) ethnotheatre fostered a call to action to lead to a more resilient professional life for teachers in order to better serve the students they teach. These insights supported that ethnotheatre, along with other arts-based approaches to professional development, has the potential to engage teachers and address the emotional side of teaching and learning.