TO in Social Work Education

Improvisational and scripted role plays have been marginally incorporated into social work education to demonstrate social work practice skills in the classroom (Moss, 2000; Todd, 2012; Walker, 2003). Role playing, especially with peers, has been associated with increased self-efficacy (Bosse et al., 2012; Rogers & King, 2012) and empathy (Bosse et al., 2012). Not only can role playing offer an arena to develop counseling and communication skills but also there is utility for social work students to learn improvisational acting skills to help them manage the unpredictability of interviews with clients (Todd, 2012).

Despite the positive learning outcomes that role play and improvisation have demonstrated in students, we believe that these methods are underutilized within the context of social work education. We argue that role play and improvisation within a TO format will offer a better fit for implementation by social work instructors because this format is designed to holistically engage participants with the explicit intent for social change. Also, using Boal's methods will offer an historical and global context to the challenges inherent in the work of a social change agent.

The following activities are just a couple of suggestions of how TO can be applied within the typical social work curriculum. We hope to catalyze thinking about how TO may be useful for students and how they may be adapted further. Detailed descriptions ofwarm-ups and the format for each of the following theater activities can be found in the chapter titled “Experiments of the People's Theatre of Peru” in Boal's (1979) Theatre of the Oppressed. After implementing any of the following TO activities, it is important to allow time for the students to practice whole self-inquiry by journaling or large group discussion, for example, to provide an opportunity for praxis and transformation. This will solidify learning by allowing the students to reflect and process thoughts and feelings stimulated by the activities and to consider the applications for social work practice.

 
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