A professor in the department of curriculum, teaching and learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Kathleen Gallagher uses theatre to understand young people’s views on life in and out of the classroom.
Gallagher, who is interested in questions of pedagogy, artistic practice and the social contexts of schooling, sees theatre as a “mode of inquiry” that’s yielded important insights into young people’s views on democracy, civic engagement and inequality.
In order to conduct her global, ethnographic research, Gallagher has relied on collaborations with graduate students, who she calls her “most important intellectual community,” as well as the active participation of youth. Such collaborations are a “lifeblood,” she says.
“I can’t imagine operating as a researcher in any other way, frankly,” says Gallagher, who is cross-appointed at the Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies and won a U of T President’s Impact Award last year. “The richness and the contributions of young people in my research projects make it possible for me to do the work I do.”
Gallagher has also worked with playwright Andrew Kushnir on Towards Youth – a play Kushnir wrote that brings to life the concept of hope among youth in drama classrooms around the world that Gallagher’s research has explored. She describes the collaboration with Kushnir as “next level” because working with a professional playwright gave her an opportunity to communicate some of her research findings to a broad audience. It was also an opportunity to work with a professional playwright.
“To be able to be in a long-term, close dialogue with someone who brings a whole other set of professional skills, understandings and experience to that research, is a gift with untold value,” she says.
Gallagher hopes her Royal Society of Canada fellowship opens up more avenues for cross-disciplinary work.
“The idea that I’m going to walk into new intellectual terrain with researchers beyond my U of T network is enormously exciting to me,” she says. “It feels like a new beginning.”