Local teachers in Victoria who teach drama in the senior years (VCE Drama) will be familiar with a major performance task known as the solo performance examination, prescribed each year by the curriculum authority (VCAA) for Year 12 Drama students.
Worth 35% of a student’s grade in their final year of Drama at high school, the externally assessed solo performance exam is a 7-minute self-written character performance adhering to a prescribed structure. Normally, there are 10 structures (characters) forming the exam document, from which students perform one of these. Character on the exam change each year and can be drawn from history, novels, films, graphic novels etc and the task involves a mixture of factual and imaginative content.
Over the past decade, the solo performance has caused much angst with teachers and students of VCE Drama. I have no intention of being merely negative here, as I intend to provide a balanced viewpoint. The task can also be a wonderfully positive experience for both teacher and student.
In my 23 years of teaching Drama I have never come across a mandated task that has created so much conversation on both sides of the fence. So, here’s a summary:
- forces students to adhere to strict time lines
- exam paper published six months in advance
- fosters artistic discipline
- glossary of terms offered in exam document
- forces students to appreciate the value of editing and refining
- non-naturalistic performance style allows for creativity
- minimum difficulty level set too high
- very demanding task
- too much research involved
- does not adequately cater for academically challenged students
- non-naturalistic performance style and conventions are often very complex
- glossary of some key terms is confusing
- too much content to include in a 7-minute performance
- 3rd “external” content dot point is too challenging for some students
- 11 assessment criteria
- inexperienced teachers struggle to assist their students
- awarded grades often do not match teacher expectations