Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Curriculum & Instruction


Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Dr. Patricia Austin

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard Speaker

Third Advisor

Dr. Marc Bonis

Fourth Advisor

Dr. John Barnitz


This quasi-experimental case study examines the impact of theatre arts integration in an English-as-a foreign language (EFL) course in a competency-based international high school. Aiming to engage students in a process of deeper learning through drama, this study focuses on the domain of speaking and oral communicative competence. Although widely recognized as one of the most important college-and-career-readiness skills, oral communication is often overshadowed by high-stakes testing priorities such as reading and writing. In particular, many Chinese students of English struggle to achieve confident oral fluency despite years of study. This research was designed to investigate whether theatre arts integration pedagogy contributes to enhanced learning outcomes using a treatment group of 14 Chinese students in an extant EFL classroom in China and a comparison group of 13 Chinese students taking the same level of English at the same school site that did not utilize an arts-integrated approach. Quantitative and qualitative data sources including astandardized EFL proficiency assessment, software analytics of oral interviews, and student artifact portfolios wereutilized to answer the guiding question: What is the impact of theatre arts integration on learning outcomes for Chinese students studying English as a foreign language? Analyses of the pre- and post- assessments revealed that the majority of the participants in both groups experienced significant growth in their overall as well as their spoken English performance, indicating that theatre arts integration pedagogy was as effective or more effective than other non-arts-based instructional methods in this case. For participants who did not demonstrate growth or received mixed results according to the two quantitative assessments, a qualitative analysis of their portfolio of performance assessments (artifacts) provided further insights into their progress and proficiency. This research suggests that theatre arts integration has the potential toenhance learning outcomes for spoken English proficiency and communicative competence, and the instructional design and assessment system can serve as models for educators everywhere who are considering arts-integrated or competency-based approaches. This research contributes to reducing barriers between the theory and practice of deeper learning, chief among them being the need for new pedagogical models that foster deeper learning.


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