Using Applied Theatre and Serious Play in Long-Term Care Team Training: Lessons Learned from a Pilot Project


  • Melissa Tafler Baycrest Centre for Learning Research and Innovation in Long Term Care
  • Elizabeth Kelson Ryerson University
  • Raquel Meyer Baycrest Centre for Learning Research and Innovation in Long Term Care



arts-based learning, applied theatre, transformative education, serious games, long-term care, direct care training, dementia care, gerontology


Applied Theatre (AT) is an approach that uses theatre as a tool for personal or social development, and serious play is another approach which encourages inquiry through active and participatory methods to target complex problems. Both approaches have been successful in helping to explore themes such as professionalism, empathy, and communication in the context of health care education. The urgent need to address training gaps in the Long-Term Care (LTC) workforce remains a focus in teaching and educational research for health and social care sectors. This article is based on a pilot project designed to build capacity in the LTC workforce through the delivery of five one-day workshops to 99 LTC practitioners. An overview of the workshop, a description of the method and findings from a subset of the data that support this approach as effective in creating increased engagement, and enhanced learning outcomes are presented. The emergent nature of this approach necessitated regular debriefing sessions during which workshop facilitators discussed and documented the aspects of the approach that were effective and others which required iteration. Reflective fieldnotes from these debriefing sessions were key to design and delivery. Analysis of these data, along with participants’ post-workshop evaluations, individual interviews, and focus group discussions suggested the following key learnings: 1) Creating a safe space; 2) Including targeted debriefing, and 3) Valuing play. Lessons learned through analysis of this pilot study data suggest that AT and serious play-based learning activities help to create an effective educational methodology capable of engaging a diverse workforce through authentic learning experiences.