Striving for 'rich and rigorous teaching' not just the bare basics

Published:20 March 2014

Noosa's Dr Sue Davis and the various faces she will present during her keynote. Photos: Alain Bouvier.

Children are not a little hand at the end of a brain which helps produce improved NAPLAN data.  They are human beings with bodies and souls who need to understand how we can live together in this world, solve problems and bring about productive change.

That's according to CQUniversity Noosa lecturer Dr Sue Davis, also known locally for her Noosa Biosphere leadership, who recently delivered the keynote address at the Drama Queensland conference, held at the Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane.

She also presented a version of that address at the Queensland Studies Authority conference.

This was certainly a keynote with a difference, presented in role using the format of a dramatic travel journal.

It drew on Sue's research and overseas study travels from 2013 with a particular focus on understanding the practice of legendary drama teacher Dorothy Heathcote. 

Susan feels it is very timely to revisit excellent teaching practices, drawing on the best practice and research from past and present.

"A primary focus on literacy and numeracy only as suggested in reports earlier this week won't do it. We need an education system that provides children and young people with a rich and rigorous education while engaging them in learning that will prepare them for exciting, tumultuous and uncertain futures," she says. 

"In an age where standardised curriculum and systemic imperatives are driving classroom encounters, it seems we are often neglecting the human and social elements of education.

"If we truly want children to be innovative, engaged global citizens, they need to have a diverse and meaningful education.  That includes the arts and it includes drama.

"What a teacher like Dorothy Heathcote did was to demonstrate how you could humanise the curriculum and provide spaces for real, connected learning and also flights of the imagination.

"This is the power of drama pedagogy. Since her time we have more international and Australian research studies that demonstrate how including drama in the curriculum improves students' literacy levels, engagement and creativity.  With the national curriculum review, rather than a return once again to literacy and numeracy, the basics and core curriculum, we actually need to embrace something different."

In other recent developments, Sue visited Melbourne for a cameo appearance in the second series of Josh Thomas' ABC TV comedy/drama Please Like Me

Susan previously taught Josh while he was a student at Kenmore State High school.

"I saw Josh develop his comedy skills during those high school years and it was always clear that he was a natural performer. He was also very focused on comedy and stand-up, knowing what he wanted to do," Sue says.

"After he left school he also worked with me on my masters project exploring the possibility of creating a cyberdrama and I was there when he won the Queensland Raw Comedy finals and then went on to win in Melbourne.

"So we've stayed in touch over the years and this year he messaged me asking if I'd like to audition for a role in his new series.

"It just so happened I was in Melbourne at the time and so was able to go out to the ABC office and do the audition right away.  Luckily I got the part!"

Sue can't reveal any more at this stage, but Please Like Me 2 will screen from August.

Image Gallery
(Click on image thumbnail to see full-size image) Dr Sue Davis. Photo: Alain Bouvier Dr Sue Davis. Stripes Photo: Alain Bouvier Dr Sue Davis. Tower Photo: Alain Bouvier Dr Sue Davis. Photo: Alain Bouvier  featuring students from Sunshine Beach State High School who worked on The Water Reckoning – international water and sustainability project last year