1649-8526Volume XIIssue 2Year 2017

“You are contagious”: The Role of the Facilitator in Fostering Self-Efficacy in Learners

Anne Smith


This article argues that improvised role-play can raise learners’ levels of self-efficacy, which in turn increases their likelihood of using language learned beyond the workshop space. It argues that the physicality of the facilitator plays a key role in developing the self-efficacy of learners, using evidence drawn from the study of two Creative English groups with differing outcomes in terms of the use of English beyond the sessions.Creative English is a national, community-based applied theatre programme in the UK, which teaches adult migrants the English they need for everyday situations such as talking to doctors and landlords through drama. It works with those with low levels of English, including those who may have no prior experience of formal education.The article identifies kinaesthetic approaches to facilitating a learner in role, which help to lower the affective filter, and support learner progression in a mixed ability group. It examines the role the body plays in accelerating the creation of a supportive group dynamic, and where it can support and interfere with the likelihood of applying the language and confidence developed in real life.

1. Introduction

The body plays an integral role in the learning process. A kinaesthetic approach is particularly important in a community setting where learners may be illiterate in their first language. Creative English is a national, community-based applied theatre programme in the UK, which teaches migrants who have settled in the UK the English they need for everyday situations such as talking to doctors and landlords. It is funded by the UK government’s Department of Communities and Local Government for those with low levels of English, including those who may have no prior experience of formal education in 23 Local Authorities. Creative English also runs on a licence model in faith and community organisations who want to support the belonging of refugees and migrants in their local community. The programme is administered by FaithAction, a network of faith and community organisations engaged in service delivery, representing the 9 recognised faiths in the UK. As a consequence, it has been successful in engaging those traditionally considered hard-to-reach as it runs in faith and community spaces. In these mosques, churches, gurdwaras, schools and community centres, the programme is led by trained volunteers, usually from the same community as the learners. Creative English developed from research into facilitating belonging, conducted by the author. As Probyn (1996) identifies, belonging is a combination of the very physical state of ‘being’ and emotional desire: ‘longing’. The programme seeks to address both elements of belonging, through addressing cultural knowledge, language, the opportunity to build friendships and give back to others. Sessions involve language games, which link words and movement, storytelling and improvisation as a way of building confidence in the unpredictability of real life dialogue. To date over 3,500 people have participated in the programme.

Data collected from the first 1,536 participants to complete 10 or more Creative English sessions indicated a significant impact beyond the workshop sessions: 81% had talked to neighbours and acquaintances outside class; 78% had conversations with health professionals; 48% had conversations with landlords or housing services; 62% had conversations with teachers in their child’s school or with adult education college; 47% made progress towards work; 78% engaged in new community activities and 100% of participants reported an increase in confidence. In their evaluation of the Creative English programme Coventry University described the over delivery of targets as a ‘significant achievement’ (CPTSR 2015: 9). The number of learners engaging with health, education and housing services was 308.2% of the original target set by the Department of Communities and Local Government (ibid. 9).

The success of the applied theatre programme suggests that a drama-based methodology is particularly effective in provoking action in the outside world. To take action in life one has to be optimistic about one’s success. As actions are pre-shaped in thought, Bandura (1977) argues people with high self-efficacy are more optimistic in their expectations of the outcome of scenarios and therefore are more likely to persist and invest increased effort. Drama provides a context for participants to test out possible outcomes within situations they may experience and thus raise their self-efficacy. However, closer analysis of the data suggested some centres were more successful than others in achieving these results. To facilitate self-efficacy for learners, the drama must be delivered in a way which builds confidence. This study aimed to test the hypothesis that there was a correlation between the use of drama and the likelihood of using English beyond the session and then to explore some of the characteristics of facilitation which were integral to building learners’ capacity to act in this way, including the facilitators’ use of their body in the session.

1.1. The study

Two groups were identified where historical differences in outcomes were observed. The learners who supplied this data were no longer on the programme. Delivery, however, was continuing with the same facilitator in the same venues. Both groups had a history of 100% of learners self-reporting an increase in confidence. In one group, however, the improvement in confidence seemed to be an emotional shift in perception, whereas in the other it was a dynamic and practical change, evidenced by increased engagement in the English-speaking community. Both groups held sessions in a community centre targeting women only: one was affiliated to a women’s organisation and one was affiliated to a mosque. Both groups were open to the public but the affiliation resulted in a higher percentage of learners from a particular background in each case. About three-quarters of the learners in Group 1 were Punjabi-speaking Sikhs, whereas over three-quarters of Group 2 were Urdu–speaking Muslims. Participants came from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Romania, Portugal and Italy. Both groups allowed members to join the programme in any session. At the time of the study, the majority of learners in both groups had completed between eight and ten sessions of the programme.

As these were new participants who had not yet been asked the questions on the programme completion questionnaire, 16 participants were selected at random for interview, representing about 50% of the students present. Session 12 was then observed and sound was recorded in both groups. Session 12 has the objective of building learners’ confidence to talk to teachers at their child’s school. The lead volunteer facilitator in each group was also interviewed. Both groups had one lead volunteer facilitator. In Group 1, two other volunteers supported the delivery. In Group 2, there was one supporting volunteer. She was present for some but not all of the session, as she had other duties within the building at the same time.

1.2. Confidence in the classroom or on the street?

The interviews asked learners about their perceptions of the class and confidence. They also tested the hypothesis that there would be a difference in the extent to which learners used English outside the sessions.

In Group 1, responses were more generic and focussed on the class itself. For example: “This class is good for my confidence. I like very much to practice speaking English. The speaking in this class is very good. It helps me to talk” (Interview 7). In several interviews, this typical response was accompanied by displaying complete pages in an exercise book: all text copied from the board. It appeared their measure of success was volume of what had been written down rather than language processed internally and used outside the sessions. In Group 1, despite being universally positive about the sessions and stating the programme had made them more confident, only one learner could provide an example of using English outside the session:

“We have been learning how to talk to teachers. This [is] important. I have three [children] – 2 boy one girl. We learn to ask ‘How is my child progressing in Maths?’ I ask the teacher. She tell me and I understand. This very good. I could not ask before.”

In Group 2, however, the interviewees could all give at least one concrete example of using their newly found language skills outside the class. Example responses included:

“Yesterday I phoned the chemist for the first time to order a prescription. I have never done this before. It feels good to do to it myself.”

“I talk[ed] to [the] doctor. I explain[ed] my problem in English. I did not need my daughter to help. The doctor give me medicine. All made me happy!”

“I went to the dentist. I talk[ed] English. He understand me. This was new for me. It’s very very good. My children are happy. They see I am learning.”

“What I like most about this class is that I can talk to my family now. My English has improved. My grandson like[s] I talk […] play game[s].”

“I take my watch to [the] shop. I show[ed] the man what I need. Strap big – need smaller. He fix [it]. I so happy. I did all myself – no husband. No nothing. Look [pointing to watch she’s wearing] is good, eh?”

Other learners within the sample and additional examples given by the learners already quoted described using English in the same contexts – doctors, pharmacies, shops and with grandchildren. These findings supported the hypothesis that there was a difference and that self-defined increase in confidence in class did not automatically result in the increased use of English outside the sessions.

Bandura (1986) considers ‘mastery experiences’ the most powerful means of personal empowerment, creating a strong resilient sense of efficacy. This is achieved by equipping people with knowledge, subskills and the strong self-belief of efficacy needed to use one’s skills effectively’ (Bandura 2014: 9). While the Creative English session plan content and structure is designed to equip participants with the language and cultural literacy they need to be able to engage with services and resolve problems, it is the inclusion of the drama and way that element is facilitated, which this article argues has the impact on behaviour in the outside world. Guided improvisation provides a context to develop skills and encourage visualisation of success, which in turn promotes action, as well as reinforcing the required cultural knowledge and language necessary for a successful outcome. By examining a session, observed in both groups, the following section will attempt to define what characteristics in the facilitation increase the likelihood of participation, which builds the confidence to use the language spontaneously.

2. The facilitator’s use of gesture and space

To examine the causes of the different levels of self-efficacy more closely, Session 12 of the Creative English programme was observed in both groups. As with all Creative English sessions, it begins with games and exercises to relax participants and link words and movement. The storyline for that particular session is then introduced through a guided improvisation in which the facilitator narrates events and learners act in response to them. Opportunities to practise useful language in pairs or small groups is embedded within this on-going plot, centred on a street of characters, which encourages playfulness through humour and dramatic twists, similar to a soap opera. After watching volunteers from the group improvise the next section of the narrative, everyone participates in paired and small group improvised tasks related to the story. In session 12, all learners role-play asking the teacher to explain a note sent home about curriculum day and resolving the bullying problem.

As the Creative English session plans and resource kit, including props and costumes, are supplied to all centres, these elements were the same in both sessions. It was the way the facilitators used their bodies, and the consequential impact on the approach to interpretation in the session, which was the primary difference. The difference was particularly apparent in the facilitators’ approach to the guided narration. Notes documenting this section of each session will therefore be reproduced here to highlight key differences.

The notes on the storytelling section in Group 1 were brief:

Storytelling starts – the facilitators tell two women they are going to be in role – one is more confident and gets up more willingly. She is going to be Amy.

‘We know Amy,’ the facilitator announces. ‘She is ten years old.’

The other older learner will be Amy’s mother. She is clearly terrified: lots of tension in her posture, uneasy opening and closing of fists.

They stand awkwardly while description is read by the lead facilitator first in English and then one of the supporting volunteers repeats it all in Punjabi. The session plan states: ‘Get a volunteer to improvise a scene when the mum talks to her about what is wrong.’ It is awkward and stilted and involves lots of being fed lines by the facilitator after lots of discussion in Punjabi. Both of them sit down with a great sense of relief. It’s over. To me, as an observer, speaking English does not seem easy – probably the most difficult thing in the world. There is no sense of role or character, just a painful repetition of some phrases.

In Group 2, the guided narration section was longer and more engaging:

The facilitator invites two women to come up and be the characters. One gets up willingly. The other gets up reluctantly. Both hesitate, unsure what to do. The facilitator keeps repeating ‘Amy is excited’ while lifting her arms up in an excited gesture and with an excited facial expression. She does it alongside the woman in the space. There is a sense that ‘We are Amy’- the two of them are the character together. Although there is no explicit instruction, the woman starts to mirror the gesture and action. It’s safe. It’s clear what she needs to do. The energy of the facilitator is being mirrored by the learner. She starts to adopt the role.

Immediately, there are parallels in the session where both facilitators are inviting a learner who is less confident to perform. In Group 1, the performance never moves beyond an awkward following of instructions and stilted repetition of given sentences. However, in the second extract, the facilitator physically embodies the emotion of the character, expressing it in a simple repeated gesture which the learner instinctively copies. The gesture, accompanied by the appropriate emotion in the facilitator’s voice and face, reinforces the meaning of the words and thus gives the learner confidence they have understood without consciously translating into their first language. Moreover, it also increases the learner’s sense of safety in the activity. If the facilitator models what the learner needs to do to as the character, it removes the possibility of failure or embarrassment. Shame is frequently experienced by migrants as a consequence of appearing incompetent because of their limited language skills, lack of education or job skills, or unfamiliarity with the host country's cultural practices (Furukawa and Hunt 2011). The inability to negotiate even simple tasks like shopping or using public transport can erode self-esteem and result in feelings of worthlessness (ibid. 199). While the playful drama workshop space can be a place where resilience is restored, Schechner (1993) is clear on the relationship between risk and security in performance. He defines security as being necessary at the start of a playful rehearsal process to enable performers to take risks later on. The facilitator’s use of her physicality to provide a safety net for those with less confidence in the dramatic process will impact on learners’ confidence to act both in later sessions and in the outside world.

The physical positioning of the facilitator in the space also conveys a different attitude to the learner. In the stilted role-play of Group 1, the facilitator physically placed herself outside the circle, verbally instructing the learners in their roles but without conveying solidarity with them through her use of movement or space. From a vantage point stood outside the circle, she maintained the position of a director with the accompanying right to judge the success or failure of her performers. In Group 2, however, the facilitator stood next to the learner in the circle, making eye contact as she repeated the phrase and gesture. This is the action of the ensemble player together sharing the responsibility to create the performance, thus creating a supportive rather than critical dynamic, which will lower the learner’s affective filter. The facilitator’s choice of position in the space and use of gestures are crucial to the atmosphere of safety in the sessions.

2.1. Gesture and learning

In addition to reducing learner anxiety when performing in front of others, the modelling of gestures that are then repeated by the learner on their own increases the likelihood of remembering and using the word in the scene or another context. Successful retention of learning helps to build confidence. Fleming (2016) found that linking words and movement can increase the speed and precision of learning. The impact is lessened, however, if the learner fails to perform the movement on their own a couple of times, as this requires active engagement with it (ibid. 211). Evidence of the positive impact on memory of combining words and gesture, with opportunity for repetition to consolidate the learning, was provided by pair and small group work later in the session. In role as Amy’s parent, learners had to ask the school for help, and these repeated words were frequently replicated, both in the original context and new ones. For example, “Amy is excited. Now sad. Why? I ask you[r] help, teacher?” and “Excited. My daughter make lovely costume. I excited to see her wear it, but then she say, ‘No.’ Why this happen? Did something happen at school?” It can be expected that this vocabulary will be retained as Fleming observed the most significant impact through the use of gesture in language learning was on long-term retention, as the use of gesture or body movements influences the way in which the brain processes, links and stores the incoming information, resulting in the language being retained more effectively without the need to repeat the gesture (ibid. 209). To improve the self-efficacy of all members of the group, it is crucial the follow-up activities involve everyone in acting activities where words and gesture are linked.

2.2. Gesture as communication

Creative English is delivered in mixed ability groups. In the follow-up activities, in Group 1, most of the time allocated to paired activities reinforcing the language was spent in first language explanation with the complete beginners. In Group 2 the facilitator was observed supporting a weaker pair through repetition of these key simple sentences with the accompanying gestures in English, although with much less emotional intensity. This repetition enabled these learners to successfully complete their own version of the scene, communicating through key words, intonation, facial expression and gesture. The encounter between the parent and teacher was replayed as follows:

Mother: Amy. Excited. Amy excited. Now, no. no. No, excited. Sad. Sad. Help, please.

Teacher: Bad bully. No bully, Yes?

Mother: Yes. Excited.

Both women nod and smile.

The transcript shows the limitations of the language. Communication here would not be successful without the non-verbal elements, which support the fragments of sentences and key words. The message, however, could not be communicated without those words. Mutual understanding and pleasure at the successful communication is indicated by the nodding and smiling at the end of the scene. This positive experience encourages people to try to use their English regardless. As migrants who are not seeking to pass language exams, but who want to care for themselves and their families in English in their day-to-day lives, it is confidence which is viewed as more important than fluency in the language itself (CPTSR 2015).

The success of the facilitator supporting her words through gesture could be seen in Group 2, where only one phrase was translated in the whole session to indicate a shift in time and setting: ‘Yesterday at school’/‘Kal school mein’, which was also reinforced by a physical change in the use of space and position of the furniture. In Group 1, the continuous translation reinforced learners’ perception that they were dependent on it, a significant barrier to using English independently beyond the sessions.

3. Physicality to provoke emotional engagement

Choices made by the facilitator also play a key role in building the learners’ emotional engagement with the characters. Emotional connection with the characters reduces inhibitions as participants are more willing to try to communicate to facilitate their desired outcome in the scene. Engagement in the target language is essential if positive experiences to provoke self-efficacy are to be experienced. In Group 1, the learners did not emotionally connect with their characters and act their roles, they simply reproduced the words given to them. In Group 2, the workshop participants quickly experienced empathy towards the characters. The difference in choices the facilitators made in response to the same instruction in the session plan helps to highlight approaches which encourage emotional engagement from participants.

The session plan states: ‘Amy is very excited about her costume and is looking forward to curriculum day. All of a sudden, she starts saying she is sick and doesn’t want to go to school’ (Smith 2013:114). In Group 1, the learners simply stood in the circle while they were told that Amy did not want to go to school. There was no engagement with the characters. They simply waited to be told what to say next in very static dialogue. In Group 2, however, the learners responded very differently, as the following extracts from the session observation notes show:

The facilitator gets a chair for ‘Amy’ to put her feet up on. ‘It is 8am on Curriculum Day. Amy is in bed,’ she says. The facilitator gets the tablecloth fabric from the kit. ‘Today Amy doesn’t want to get up,’ the facilitator says. Immediately the performer pulls it up under her chin in a gesture of determination to stay there.

The audience laughs.

The older lady playing the mum starts to respond to the child in front of her. She tries to pull down the covers. ‘You need get up.’

‘No,’ Amy replies pulling the covers over her head.

‘Come. Time is school. Come on.’

‘No, I don’t want to!’

‘Why? Why you no go school? You have costume. Beautiful costume, you like.’


In Group 2, the facilitator created a concrete setting for the scene and physicalized it through using a couple of chairs to represent the bed and the fabric as a blanket. The physical use of objects and consequential movement in the space helps to tap into subconscious response and enables the learner to get into character. It is very different to standing passively. In my notes, I have suddenly started to call the learner a ‘performer’. Something has changed in her relationship with the role. As a consequence of this emotional connection with the subject, both learners’ speech is spontaneous and fluent, despite its grammatical flaws. There is a significant contrast to the stilted content of the Group 1 role-play, which did not move beyond the functional exercise of repeating sentences supplied by the facilitator. Emotional and physical engagement in the drama is prompting the women to rehearse English that will give them the confidence to communicate in everyday situations they experience.

The emotional connection goes beyond those who are directly acting the scene. Amy’s action of pulling the blanket over her head prompts a ripple of laughter from the watching learners. They recognise this situation. They too have children who do not want to get out of bed. The emotional connection in the moment is created both through the use of physical objects to interact with and familiarity with the situation in their own lives which creates actor and audience empathy. The learner who is playing Amy smiles at the group’s reaction. She likes making the group laugh. The group’s enjoyment of her performance is in turn increasing her own confidence in the role she is playing. The physicality of this scene is integral to the humour and engagement with the language.

4. Attunement and responsivity

Effective facilitation requires responsivity to the learners, including the ability to support those who may be reluctant to perform. As already discussed, the physicality of the facilitator plays a crucial role here in heightening or reducing learner anxiety. Attunement to individuals within one’s group is also integral to building the self-efficacy of learners as this subsequent section of the session demonstrates:

‘This is the school,’ the facilitator repeats. ‘Can somebody be the teacher?’

A lady jumps up from her seat and stand in front of the flipchart with a pen. ‘A is for apple. B is for ball,’ she chants.

‘Can we have some nasty girls in the class?’ the facilitator asks, looking around the room. ‘These ladies can be them,’ the supporting volunteer says, but these ladies, although they are sat conveniently in the correct area of the room, do not look like they want to perform in front of everyone. They follow the gestures to move their chairs forward into the scene, but it is not clear whether they have understood their role in the story.

The woman taking the role of the teacher volunteers to do it and thus seems enthusiastic with her own ideas about how to act the character. She does not need further support to succeed in the task. However, the other women are newer in the group. They have been compelled to join in and are reluctant and unsure. As at the start of the storytelling, this prompts a very different response from the facilitator. As Balfour (2016: 154) states a skilled facilitator needs to respond with sensitivity and respect to what is going on in the group dynamic, which may require adaptation of style of delivery.

The facilitator sits with them – models back row behaviour – poking, whispering, leaning back, disengaged body language. The women copy. They copy the facilitator’s lead to gather round Amy and say, ‘Don‘t like your costume!’ ‘Your costume is stupid.’ The least confident speaker just echoes: ‘stupid’, ‘don’t like.’

Giving learners the choice to volunteer through the physical response of standing up and engaging with the scene allows for a spontaneity as in real life and reduces the opportunity for doubt to censor contributions or undermine belief in one’s own competence. Additionally, for these reluctant participants, the facilitator recognises she needs to adopt the role with them for the duration of their contribution to the scene, while the other performers happily improvise their contributions. The supporting volunteer in this example, has clearly not registered the non-verbal clues that these participants are not yet comfortable with performing. She has selected them on the basis of their position in the room rather than readiness for the task. A more skilled facilitator may not have selected them. Once chosen, though, it would undermine confidence to suggest anyone else should do it, or the scene, as in Group 1, could have remained an uncomfortable experience for actor and audience, without the actions of the lead facilitator. The safety net provided by the facilitator modelling action and vocabulary is tailored to the needs of the specific individuals she is working with at that moment. It is therefore almost impossible for learners to fail in the task, so they are likely to feel more confident in future performances.

In the field of psycholinguistics, attunement usually refers to the attunement of a child to her mother tongue (Lutzker 2016: 227). The concept of attunement is found in many disciplines from education to psycholinguistics. The term has its origins in music, meaning bringing something into tune or harmony. Hepplewhite (2016), however, defines attunement as one of the four qualities of the effective applied theatre practitioner. She defines this as the empathetically heightened connection with the participants informed by a recognition of group and individual needs, aspirations and issues. Hepplewhite gives examples from videoed practice of a practitioner’s attentive listening to a participant’s ideas and forming close relationships with participants in line with the political objectives of the work. When the Creative English facilitator stands alongside the participants and embodies the role alongside them, I argue this demonstrates a physical attunement to those who have not yet the shared language to express it and it is this physical solidarity which enables achievement and therefore self-efficacy to develop. It is a social attunement, however, that enables the practitioner to recognise what is needed by individuals in the session. Subsequent small changes in the facilitator’s practice, such as where the facilitator places themself within the circle, have a significant impact on learner outcomes.

5. Self-efficacy of the facilitators

As the interviews with learners suggested, the increase in learners’ self-efficacy through actively participating in drama activities resulted in higher levels of participation in society. Furthermore, interviews with the volunteer facilitators suggested the self-efficacy of the facilitators was also a significant factor in influencing the outcomes of each session. In interview, the volunteer facilitators revealed contrasting attitudes to drama. Their confidence in the methodology and trust in learners’ ability to understand without knowing all the words seemed to have a significant impact on their willingness to persevere with this element of the programme, which in turn impacted upon its success.

The facilitator in Group 1 revealed scepticism about the drama, which had reduced the likelihood of her attempting drama in her sessions:

You see, I don’t normally do the drama because it doesn’t work with my ladies. They need it all in Punjabi first otherwise they don’t understand. It’s all very well when you do it at the training and that. We all have good English and it’s different, but the drama doesn’t work with learners, so I normally miss it out. They did really well today because you were there, but you can see why I don’t often bother with the role-play. We talk about it and they write it down and they like that. They couldn’t do anything without it all in their language first. I like the games but I don’t really like the drama.

As identified by Bandura and Abrams (1986), the impact of negative discrepancies between goal setting and attainment is demotivating for those with low self-efficacy while those with high self-efficacy will be motivated to strive to overcome the difficulties (Bandura 2014: 29). People who view challenging goals as beyond their capabilities are likely to become apathetic and abandon them as unrealistic, manifested here in comments such as: “I don’t often bother” “I normally miss it out” (ibid. 29). By contrast the facilitator in Group 2 had faced similar challenges but had persevered and therefore seen positive results:

I love this methodology. It’s really tiring at first training yourself to do all the movements and show things with your body, but I love it. At first the learners say, ‘No, tell me in Urdu. Tell me in Punjabi. Talk Hindi or I won’t understand.’ But you just have to be strict with them and say – ‘No, we’re here to learn English and you won’t learn English unless you try. You will understand, I promise. Just watch me and listen.’ They love it when they get into it and they all understand everything. […] When you can see what to do in a game, it makes sense. You can copy. […] They love the characters. It’s really funny. It makes me laugh every session and them too. We have a great time. My group are mostly grandmothers. They don’t like learning by writing down loads of stuff they don’t understand. It’s great to see them growing in confidence. I’m sure this way of learning has encouraged them to have a go in real life. It shows it doesn’t matter if it’s not all perfect, people will still understand.

Despite the Group 2 facilitator meeting some resistance and finding the way of working initially tiring, her belief it would work enabled her to resist demands for first language interpretation, and see her learners succeed in using the language in their lives. An optimistic expectation of success results in more willingness to try. In turn this means one can recover much more quickly from set-backs and view errors as part of a natural learning process, as ability can be acquired, which in turn impacts positively on well-being (Bandura 2014: 22). The Group 2 facilitator acknowledges she has had to ‘train’ herself to physicalize the language, but has enjoyed the outcome. An optimistic attitude benefits facilitators and learners. Higher levels of self-efficacy on the part of the facilitator ultimately passed on that self-belief to the learner.

Whilst acknowledging an experienced practitioner will bring higher levels of sensitivity to respond to social and aesthetic nuance in a session, Creative English has been designed to support inexperienced facilitators, who are often volunteers who want to positively impact their local community but with many other demands on their time. This study has found fostering self-efficacy through effective facilitation of the drama element impacts the outcome for learners and that the self-efficacy of the facilitator is integral to good quality facilitation. As a result, changes have been made to facilitator training to foreground the importance of the facilitator’s use of their body in the session to communicate meaning, generate safety and provoke empathy. By explicitly teaching facilitators to use techniques which were identified as good practice in this study and providing all trainee facilitators with the experience of participating in a session in a language with which they are not familiar, facilitators are more resilient when faced with challenges. Increased opportunities to team teach with an experienced facilitator and other phone and online support have also been introduced. There is a correlation between a high sense of social efficacy and the creation of social support (Bandura 2014). Increased contact between the professional facilitation team and peer volunteer facilitators encourages resilience.

6. Conclusion

Drama is the essential element in provoking action in the outside world as, when delivered with responsivity to learners, it provokes self-efficacy. The success of the Creative English methodology does not only rest in the physicality of the facilitator. However, this study suggests it is a key element in encouraging the application of language learned in the real world for all learners, and not just those who are naturally more confident or accustomed to applying their formal learning in other contexts. It thus fosters maximum likelihood of the fictional world of the drama generating outcomes like talking to doctors, shop assistants, landlords and neighbours in real life. It is the social attunement of the facilitator to participants which generates a willingness to use their physicality to support the participants.

The quote in the title, ‘You are contagious’ is a comment from one of the volunteer facilitators. Contagious collocates with laughter. It seems an apt way to describe the power of the facilitator to impact the learners through their attitude and behaviour. The performative elements of the programme spread from the ‘contagious’ facilitator to lower the affective filter and help the learner adopt their role, which in turn releases the language that learners already know and increases fluency and experimentation with language. The phrase seems to encapsulate the way the performative elements of this programme when delivered at its best work – an involuntary replication of behaviours which spread from the professional trainer team to the volunteer facilitators to the workshop participants.

This research has identified a range of physical techniques which are replicable and are responsible for success for facilitators: the facilitators’ use of space, gesture, mime and props can communicate meaning, enhance retention, create safety, facilitate connection and emotionally engage. In the training of the volunteers, it is particularly important to ensure any doubts about the methodology are addressed to generate self-efficacy; a confident facilitator, who believes in the methodology, will successfully overcome challenges and breed a positive attitude in their learners. As one participant explained: “It’s scary to do things [in the drama] in front of whole class at first, but it’s good for making confidence. Now I’m not so scared in life.’’


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