Shakespeare’s Survey: What Shakespeare plays get taught and how in UK Secondary Schools?

16th January 2019 : 15:00 - 16:00

Category: Seminar

Research Group: Subject Pedagogy

Speaker: Velda Elliott (Associate Professor of English and Literacy Education)

Location: Department of Education, Seminar Room B

This paper reports the results of the first national UK survey of Shakespeare teaching, conducted online in 2017-18 with a sample of 211 teachers distributed through England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Our survey showed that the most popular play in the UK is Macbeth, which is one fifth of all Shakespeare teaching instances in our sample. At age 11 A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest dominate, while at A level A.C. Bradley’s (1904) ‘big four’ – Othello, Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth are the most popular. The paper will also reveal which play is too much ‘violence and eye surgery’ for Year 7s. Reasons to teach certain texts related to clear plot, themes and good characters for analysis; external to the play whether or not there were copies of the text in school was the major deciding factor in what to teach, along with the existence of supporting resources. We also consider the methods used to teach Shakespeare in the UK, exploring the perceived dominance of Active Methods, the balance of methods used across age groups, and the reasons teachers give for using certain approaches.