Experimenting with Roles in Adolescence: Applying Drama for Constructing the Zone of Proximal Development



In 2019 a multidisciplinary research project “Digital Storytelling Theater” was launched in Moscow State University of Psychology and Education. The project aims at elaborating, evaluating, and introducing drama technologies into secondary school settings with the goal of applying them as a powerful tool for learning and development. The article focuses on the ways, in which drama can be used for constructing the zone of proximal development in adolescence. It is argued that not any kind of drama-based activities is consistent with the principles of a developing environment in the framework of the Cultural-Historical Paradigm. Creating such a setting is a challenging research task, which requires organization of such types of activity and interaction as role exchanges and reflexive communication. On the example of creating a play with a class of adolescents, it is demonstrated how drama, based on role experimenting, can contribute to overcoming group contradictions, boosting learning motivation and turning personal “pereghivanije” into a resource for development (on the experience of living through the pandemic of COVID-19).

General Information

Keywords: adolescence, zone of proximal development, drama, theater, social role, experimenting with roles, pereghivanije, joint activity, reflexive communication

Journal rubric: Educational Psychology

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/chp.2021170210

Funding. The research project was funded by Moscow State University of Psychology and Education.

For citation: Rubtsova O.V. Experimenting with Roles in Adolescence: Applying Drama for Constructing the Zone of Proximal Development. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2021. Vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 105–113. DOI: 10.17759/chp.2021170210.


  1. Alrutz M. Digital storytelling, applied theatre and youth: performing possibility. 1st Edition. Routledge, 2014. 166 p.
  2. Dawson K., Lee B.K. Drama-based Pedagogy: Activating Learning Across the Curriculum. Intellect Ltd, 2018. 363 p.
  3. Dramatic interactions in education: Vygotskian and sociocultural approaches to drama, education and research. Edited by Davis S. [et al]. London and New York: Bloomsbury. 2015. 290 p.
  4. Eriksson S., Heggstad K., Cziboly A. “Rolling the DICE”. Introduction to the international research project “Drama improves Lisbon key competences in education”. Research in drama education, 2014.Vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 403—408.
  5. Gromyko   Ju.V.,   Rubcov   V.V.,   Margolis   A.A. Shkola kak jekosistema razvivajushhihsja detsko-vzroslyh soobshhestv: dejatel’nostnyj podhod k proektirovaniju shkoly budushhego [School as an ecosystem of developing child-adult communication: the action approach to designing a school of future].Kul’turno-istoricheskaja psihologija = Сultural- historical psychology, 2020. Vol.1 6, no. 1, pp. 57—67. (In Russ.). DOI:10.17759/chp.2020160106
  6. Prikhozhan A.M. K  probleme  podrostkovoy  igry [To the problem of teenage play]. Vestnik. RGGU. Seriya «Psikhologija. Pedagogika. Obrazovanie» = Bulletin of the Russian State University for the Humanities. Series “Psychology. Pedagogy. Education”, 2015, no. 4, pp. 37—46.
  7. Rubtsov V.V., Konokotin A.V. Formation of higher mental functions in children with special educational needs via social interaction // Evaluation and Treatment of Neuropsychologically Compromised Children. / Edited by Nemerh D.J., Glozman J. Moscow: Academic  Press,  2020, pp. 179—196.
  8. Rubtsova O.V. Contemporary Adolescence through the Prism of the Cultural-Historical Theory: on the Issue of Experimenting with Roles. Kul’turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2020. Vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 69—77. doi:10.17759/chp.2020160209.
  9. Rubtsova O.V.,  Daniels  H.  The  Concept  of  Drama in Vygotsky’s Theory: Application in Research. Kul’turno- istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2016. Vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 189—207. doi:10.17759/chp.2016120310.
  10. Rubtsova O.V., Poskakalova T.A. Drama Activity as a Means of Development and Learning in Adolescence: The Results of an Empirical Study. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2020. Vol. 25, no. 6, pp. 144—156. doi:10.17759/pse.2020250612 (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)
  11. Rubtsova O.V., Sidorov A.V. “Special theatre” as  a tool of social inclusion: Russian and international experience. Kul’turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2017. Vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 68—80. doi:10.17759/ chp.2017130107.
  12. Smagorinsky P., Coppock J. Reading through the lines: an exploration of drama as a response to literature. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 1995. Vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 369—391. doi: 10.1080/1057356950110404
  13. Summer D. Therapeutic theatre with adolescents at- risk of school dropout. Expressive Therapies Dissertations. Lesley University, 2018.
  14. Van De Water M. Drama and education: performance methodologies for teaching and learning. Routledge, 2015. 258 p.
  15. Vygotsky L.S. Konkretnaya psikhologiya cheloveka [The Concrete Psychology of the Human] v Psikhologija razvitiya cheloveka [In: The Psychology of Human Development]. Мoscow: Smysl; Jeksmo, 2005, pp. 1020—1039.
  16. Vygotskii L.S. Sobranie sochinenii [The Collected Works]: V 6 t. Vol. 3, Moscow: Pedagogika, 1983. 365 p.

Information About the Authors

Olga V. Rubtsova, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor of the Department of "Age Psychology named after prof .L.F. Obukhova" of the Faculty of "Psychology of Education", Head of the "Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Modern Childhood", Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3902-1234, e-mail: ovrubsova@mail.ru



Total: 1626
Previous month: 9
Current month: 3


Total: 414
Previous month: 11
Current month: 0