Why Ed Trust Docudramas Work

If you’re considering including a performance as part of your professional development or improvement strategy or as a conversation starter in your community or state, and you’re like us, you want evidence that it works.

The use of theater and storytelling as an education tool pre-dates the PowerPoint — even the slide carousel, for you old-school types — by centuries. And while the ancient Greeks and Egyptians didn’t do meta-analyses examining the effects of stories on audiences, researchers in the meantime have. And they’ve found stories to be a powerful tool.

We combined this evidence with our own docudrama evaluation data — surveys of nearly 1,000 audience members attending our docudramas — and consistently found that:

Stories humanize the data and raise questions.

80 percent of audience members indicated that the performance made them reflect on their own practices “a lot” or “quite a bit.”

“We could all give names to those characters — many of us probably found ourselves resisting seeing some of ourselves in them. We all needed to see this.”

—Dean, school of education

“The combination of data and performance was very powerful. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

—School administrator, Nevada

Stories trigger emotional responses and challenge beliefs.

78 percent of audience members indicated that the performance challenged their beliefs “a lot” or “quite a bit.”

“This was really emotional for me. I’m a first-year teacher, and I recognized one of those students on stage as one of my own. I thought, ‘My God, that’s [student’s name] and I’m doing that to him.’ I needed to see that.”

—High school teacher, Baltimore

“First time I ever teared up during ‘professional development’ and thought about my ability to impact lives.”

—Middle school educator, Providence, R.I.

Stories mobilize people.

83 percent of audience members indicated that the performance motivated them “a lot” or “quite a bit.”

“We were struggling to get our principals all on board with change efforts. Using the performance at our principal retreat took all the hemming and hawing out of the room so we could move ahead with the actual work.”

— District leader, Washington

“I was that guy. I was one of those teachers. I am going to go back to my classroom tomorrow, and I am going todo some things differently.”

—High school teacher, New Orleans

Stories stick and promote reflection.

79 percent of audience members indicated that the performance caused them to reflect “a lot” or “quite a bit.”

“After seeing that show, I went across the street to the bar to watch the football game — understand, I’m a big football fan — but all I could think about were those kids.”

—Higher education administrator, Florida

“This piece made me think about my own education and the role I play in it. It made me think a lot about my future and not waiting for someone to decide it for me.”

—10th-grader, Arlington, Va.

Brooke Haycock performing Catalyst

Brooke Haycock performing Catalyst

Stories vividly illustrate complex issues in concrete ways, sparking conversation.

81 percent of audience members indicated that the performance energized them “a lot” or “quite a bit.”

“Brooke Haycock is able to portray some of the most critical problems we face in education today in dramatic and compelling ways. Not only are her portrayals disturbingly real, but they provoke much-needed discussions.”

—Cyndie Schmeiser, former vice president, ACT

“We used Catalyst at a recent symposium on black boys in education. The performance powerfully illustrated much of what was said that day and provided a helpful frame.”

— State advocate, Louisiana

And stories spark solutions.

When asked about strategies to help students in their own schools who may struggle similarly to those portrayed in the docudrama, many educator audience members ventured beyond simple independent notions of “raising expectations” or “connecting with students” to identify concrete and systemic strategies for supporting struggling students.

Contact Brooke at bhaycock@edtrust.org

or by phone at 202.293.1217, x. 330

for more information or to book a performance.