Dr. Petronilla Whitfield’s professional output

Developing interpretive mnemonics as a tool for acting students with dyslexia

Conference – Published 3rd Apr 17

This presentation will give an overview of my PhD research, and describe some of the case-study/action-research trials with my research participants; 12 2nd year acting degree students assessed as dyslexic who are specifically challenged in their reading and acting of Shakespeare. I will discuss the important role of reading, in presenting the ‘I, myself’ of the individual actor, and how the presence of dyslexia can inhibit the expression of self, affecting confidence and creative contributions. Those with dyslexia have problems with decoding, word recognition, working-memory and automatisation of skills. Shakespeare’s writing contributes additional challenges with idiosyncrasies of word-use and meanings.  

The research focusses on the participants’ deviation from traditional acting processes wherein the written text is the singular working source, into the utilisation of drawing, PowerPoint image slides and choreographed physical actions. It examines the participants’ practice of constructing visual symbols, translating the alphabetic text into a parallel text comprised of semiotic signs, or expressive mark making.

 I will share brief examples of the participants’ methods, with an analysis of their differing functions, culminating in a description of a pedagogical strategy  which harnessed the participants’ intermodal methods in processing the text.  Emphasising the need for the development of opportunities in the curricula that can nurture a range of literacies and learning styles, this presentation hopes to stimulate ideas in supporting SpLD in our teaching. Finally, I will consider how the educator’s role as an enabler (in promoting and valuing a sense of discovery and autonomy in their students with dyslexia) might contrast from the role of the vocational trainer for the professional world.