Meet the Speaker: Rhea Walker 24 February 2017

Sarah Lambie, head of drama content for Music & Drama Education Expo, meets Rhea Walker to learn a little about her background and her session at the show

Hi Rhea, tell us a bit about your teaching background.

Originally from a performance background, I have taught and performed internationally in various contexts. I have worked at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) in Australia, where I wrote, managed and delivered short courses in all disciplines. With several years’ experience as head of performing arts in Melbourne and as a former committee member for Drama Victoria, I am currently employed as a Key Stage 3 teacher of drama and English at the Folkestone Academy in Kent.

What differences have you found in your international experience of teaching drama?

In Australia it’s all about the development of soft skills. Over the past five years, educators in Australia have focussed on embedding 21st-century learning in the classroom – specifi­cally the development of creativity and student leadership within the classroom. In the UK I have observed that student-centered learning and leadership is being prioritised. The existing teaching of skills through a direct approach results in strong progress – but I’m excited to see more flexibility where leadership and soft skill development can be demonstrated.

What would you do to improve arts education in the UK, if you had the power and influence to do so?

I’d build on the existing strong practice in schools by encouraging a collaborative approach to support the teaching of performing arts. It was evident during my time at NIDA that without the support of a talented team it was very dif­ficult to have a successful outcome. Collaboration from other subject areas is integral to student success.

What’s your favourite student story from your career so far?

In my first year at the Folkestone Academy I taught a girl who had encountered many developmental dif­ficulties. Kate (not her real name) struggled to participate with physical tasks, but I quickly established that her predominant dif­ficulty was not the physical impairment but her lack of con­fidence, which often overshadowed her ability to participate. After spending time establishing trust, I saw signi­ficant changes and started giving her leadership opportunities. During the weeks leading up to our performance showcase, Kate was placed in an ensemble with students who were empathetic and aware of her emotional needs. She demonstrated her ability to communicate, and it was exceptional; she was met with rousing applause and a very proud teacher.

What are you going to be talking about at the Expo?

‘The student as the expert: how to master effective peer assessment in the drama classroom’ is a hands-on workshop that highlights the freedom we can achieve as teachers through the development of student leadership within the classroom. The workshop will provide teachers with practical ideas and resources to maximise their impact on student progress through the implementation of student as the expert in effective peer assessment.

What can delegates expect to take away from your session?

Ideally they will leave with a variety of strategies, templates and practical ideas to ensure that all students can make effective progress through peer assessment. The most important aspect is that these ideas can be delivered immediately to improve the quality of peer assessment in a range of Key Stages. I am also hoping to inspire teachers of all experience levels to take risks and allow students to embrace more signifi­cant leadership roles.

What other Expo session are you looking forward to attending and why?

‘The internet as “text”: engaging the heart’. I’m an advocate for creating meaningful learning opportunities for all and believe that as educators we need to adapt our pedagogy to the evolving digital age. Our classrooms are filled with technologically-minded students – their lives revolve around knowledge being a click away and they are most engaged when they are interacting with technology.

What else does 2017 have in store for you after the Expo?

I’m looking forward to working on a collaborative project where we are aiming to bridge and accelerate the skill gap between year levels using a devised theatre project. I am also looking forward to extending my pedagogical knowledge through further study.

Rhea Walker will present ‘The student as the expert: how to master effective peer assessment in the classroom’ at Music & Drama Education Expo on 10 February 2017. Register for your free ticket to the show.