The Pedagogy of Adaptation: Using Specialised Disciplinary Knowledge to Develop Creative Skills


  • James S McKinnon Victoria University of Wellington



adaptation, dramaturgy, pedagogy, creativity


This study evaluates a pilot project which attempts to use research on ‘adaptive dramaturgy’ to equip students with creative and collaborative skills. Long dismissed as a form of derivative copying, adaptation is now increasingly understood not in opposition to creativity but as its basis. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of two teaching and learning interventions developed by linking creativity research, adaptation studies, and scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Both interventions use strategies identified in research on ‘adaptive dramaturgy’ as the basis of group learning projects that facilitate creative and collaborative skills.

The author postulated that using adaptation to solve creative and critical problems would help students recognise creativity as a set of skills they could learn and master, not an innate or inscrutable ‘talent’. This study evaluates the interventions by examining data collected from pre- and post-course questionnaires and group interviews to determine how the participants experienced them. In addition to presenting evidence about the efficacy of the interventions (and their potential for adaptability to other contexts and disciplines), this study provides a model for tackling a problem familiar to scholars across disciplines: how to make specialised disciplinary research both accessible and useful to students seeking general, transferable skills.

Author Biography

James S McKinnon, Victoria University of Wellington

James McKinnon completed his PhD at the University of Toronto’s Graduate Centre for the Study of Drama in 2010 and took up a post as a lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington shortly afterward. His research focuses on dramatic adaptation and appropriation, particularly contemporary Canadian appropriations of Chekhov and Shakespeare, and on the pedagogical implications of adaptive dramaturgy.


Baker, B., & Baker, B. (Eds.). (2009). Textual Revisions: Reading Literature and Film. Chester: Chester Academic Press.

Bennett, S. (1996). Performing Nostalgia: Shifting Shakespeare and the Contemporary Past. London: Routledge.

Betts, J. (1995). Ophelia thinks harder. Wellington, N.Z.: Women’s Play Press.

Biggs, J. (1999). What the Student Does: teaching for enhanced learning. Higher Education Research & Development, 18(1), 57-75.


Boal, A. (2000). Theater of the Oppressed. Pluto Press.

Boden, M. (2004). The creative mind: myths and mechanisms. London: Routledge.

Cartmell, D., & Whelehan, I. (Eds.). (1999). Adaptations: From Text to Screen, Screen to Text. London: Routledge.

Cole, J. (2008). Liberatory Pedagogy and Activated Directing: Restructuring the College Rehearsal Room. Theatre Topics, 18(2), 191-204.


Cutchins, D. R., Raw, L., & Welsh, J. M. (2010). The pedagogy of adaptation. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press.

Elliott, K. (2003). Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fischlin, D., & Fortier, M. (Eds.). (2000). Adaptations of Shakespeare: An Anthology of Plays from the 17th Century to the Present (1st ed.). Routledge.

Fosnot, C. T. (Ed.). (2005). Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives And Practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 30th Anniversary Edition. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

hooks, bell. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education As the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.

Hoskins, S. & Newstead, S. (2009). Encouraging Student Motivation. In H. Fry, S. Kettering, and S. Marshall (Eds.), A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Enhancing Academic Practice (pp. 27-39). London: Routledge.

Hutcheon, L. (2006). A Theory of Adaptation (New Ed.). New York: Routledge.

Leitch, T. M. (2010a). Adaptation and/ as/ or/ Postmodernism. Literature/Film Quarterly, 3(38), 244-246.

Leitch, T. M. (2010b). How to Teach Film Adaptations, and Why. In D. Cutchins, L. Raw, and J. M. Welsh (Eds.), The Pedagogy of Adaptation. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press.

Reeves, T. C. (2006). How do you know they are learning? The importance of alignment in higher education. International Journal of Learning Technology, 2(4), 294-309.


Runco, M. A. (Ed.). (2003). Critical creative processes. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Sawyer, R. K. (2006). Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation (1st ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Stam, R., & Raengo, A. (2004). Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and

Practice of Film Adaptation (1st ed.). Wiley-Blackwell.

Stoppard, T. (1967). Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead. New York: Grove Press.

Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.






Reflective Analysis Papers