Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education


Though Shakespeare remains the most taught author in American secondary school curriculum, and though there is growing evidence to suggest that the best practice for teaching the Bard is through a performance-based approach, there has been no empirical evidence to support one methodology over another.

This study utilized the California Critical Thinking Skills Test to measure the growth in critical thinking skills that students obtained through a traditional `seat-bound' versus a `performance-based' approach to the teaching of Shakespeare at the secondary level. Its purpose was to determine whether there would be a statistically significant difference between the two.

Subjects were selected based on their teacher's methodological approach: one who had learned the performance-based approach through the Folger Shakespeare National Endowment for the Humanities' Summer Institute on the teaching of Shakespeare through performance; and the second, a National Board Certified instructor who employed traditional seat-bound methods. Between the two classes there were ninety participants involved in a four-week unit on a particular Shakespeare play (n=90).

Four areas of analysis were identified: overall gains in critical thinking after studying Shakespeare, specific differences in critical thinking scores between the control and experimental groups, the impact on the specific critical thinking ability of Inferencing between a performance-based versus seat-bound approaches, and the role gender plays in determining the growth of critical thinking skills between both groups. Control group students were taught Shakespeare in the traditional manner; experimental group students received the treatment of a performance-based approach. All subjects were given a pre and posttest.

Students who learn Shakespeare through a performance-based approach had a statistically significant gain in overall critical thinking skills. Boys in particular gained the most from this approach; the specific critical thinking skill of Inferencing, however, did not change. This study provides empirical evidence to the benefit of using a performance-based approach in the teaching of Shakespeare at the secondary level.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.