Urban Playmaking: Constructivist Teaching with a Radical Agenda

Author, Researcher, or Creator

Bethany Nelson, Emerson CollegeFollow

Affiliation of Author, Researcher, or Creator

School of the Arts

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Performing Arts


Bethany Nelson

Resource Type


Publication, Publisher or Distributor

Routledge: New York

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Brief Description

Urban Playmaking: Constructivist Teaching with a Radical Agenda explores three research projects, conducted from 2009-2018, in which culturally and linguistically diverse high school students and young adults created original theatre around the issues that inform their lives and constrain their futures. Project goals, rooted in critical change theory and social justice, were designed to facilitate students’ understandings of the societal nature of the discrimination they face. However, the outcomes of the projects extended beyond the intended research questions: identifying the impact of systematized oppression on their lives and introducing the students to collective action, communal power structures, and potential paths to self-advocacy. They also generated surprising academic outcomes for the students, as their engagement in the playmaking process seemed to stimulate improved thinking processes and general interest in learning, and there was a cyclical impact on their exploration of social justice issues and their apparent ability to experiment with voice and advocacy. Playmaking strategies are based in what we still know to be best practice in teaching and learning: Culturally Relevant Teaching, Constructivist Learning, and Social-Emotional Learning. Recent research on brain development clarifies why these strategies work and strongly supports their use to change the discriminatory path of our current system and work for real transformation in existing oppressions. Each study discussed in this book is considered through the lens of one or more best practices. The outcomes of the playmaking experiences, communicated through detailed ethnographic data and the voices of student participants, make a strong case for using what we already know about teaching to positively impact gross inequities of outcome for culturally and linguistically diverse students.


Playmaking, CRT, Urban students, Constructivism, Applied Theatre for Social Change

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