Monday, 20 October 2014

Part 2: Opening Comments



Dorothy Heathcote opens her 2009 Keynote with these words: [My attempt at explanation / commentary is inserted in square brackets]
This will not be an academic treatise. I'm a practising teacher still – learning as I go. It seems almost yesterday that some of your New Zealand colleagues were wrestling bravely with Those who sailed with Cook, copies of which are used in the Heathcote archive in Manchester Metropolitan University. Thank you for inviting me to share some thoughts regarding Mantle enterprises, as the “Cook” work initiated,
[After positioning herself firmly as a teacher and emphasising that her theory emerges through her practice - DH refers back to work she did with New Zealand teachers during her trips to the country in the 1980s. Interestingly, she implies that this early work was a significant starting point for what went on to become Mantle of the Expert.] 
Mantle of the Expert way of teaching is a clear system and I am slowly discovering the operant laws which underpin this style of helping students to learn in formal schooling settings. I realise that a common thread which has always run through every classroom encounter is that I operate a community point of view in which “casting for parts” has never interested me. This, from the very first classroom encounter, is instinctive. As also is the other thread – that I shall be participating as an active member of the community we shall create together. By doing this, a very seminal element emerges – that of now-immediate drama / theatre TIME, and that of creating an other’s presence for the ‘community members’ to respond to. This duality is the genetic element in Mantle of the Expert system of drama work.
[DH stresses that Mantle of the Expert is a clear system with 'operant laws' - ie ways of working that need to happen to make it function well. She states that the system is designed to work in schools. Then she draws out two key threads which she has come to realise are fundamental to the approach: first is that the group works together as what we would now call a 'community of inquiry' (she's very clear that this is NOT about treating children as actors making a play). Second is the fact that the teacher will be part of the community of inquiry - included as co-participant working and creating an imagined world alongside the students. She stresses the importance of working in "now" time (agreeing to imagine that this stuff is actually happening to us - NOW) and the importance of creating 'other people' for the community of participants to respond to, play against or indeed empathise with through role taking. To paraphrase crudely - she says it is about creating a strong sense of "us" and for that we need a sense of "them". She concludes by saying that this essential split between the community of the classroom (us) and the world we are responding to (them) is right at the heart of how Mantle of the Expert works.]

5 comments:

Brian Edmiston said...

When Dorothy Heathcote was in New Zealand in 1984 I was at the midpoint in my Masters of Education program as one of the sixteen who had come to Newcastle from around the world to work with her for a year on what she called her Drama for Education course. The term Mantle of the Expert was only used occasionally that year though in retrospect I realized that an expert frame was employed in most of the work that we planned and/or participated in with her in schools and colleges as we worked with people of all ages and abilities from developmentally handicapped children (protecting Joseph’s sheep from a wolf) to university Spanish Literature students (planning a secret meeting for characters from a play).

As Dorothy makes clear, Mantle of the Expert work is always collaborative and inquiry-based - it’s one reason why I began to use the term dramatic inquiry (and before that imaginative inquiry) to describe how I use drama in the classroom. For me, ’mantle’ is a more complex type of dramatic inquiry engaged in by the community of inquiry that comes into being in the classroom (I prefer this term to community of learners since inquiry among all adults and students is at the heart of the work).

In this talk Dorothy describes how participants are ‘creating an other’s presence for the community members to respond to’. We are that community both as participants and as members of the imagined team with shared expertise. I remember being introduced in Newcastle to the idea of ‘the other’. Whereas once I thought this was a 'thing' in this talk she stresses that even a letter or a drawing or an artifact evokes ‘the presence’ of other people that we will be responding to. Drama is always dialogic for Dorothy.

Dorothy uses the term ‘now and immediate time’ here though I also like her other phrase ‘now and imminent time’ (that she used when I first met her and that is in one of the articles in the 1984 collected writings). I like the latter because it captures the ‘dramatic’ feeling of a future rushing into our present experience of a event.

Vivadrama said...

Kia Ora Brian. I do like your distinction between Mantle of the Expert and dramatic inquiry and I've found myself adopting these terms too. For teachers accustomed to talking about inquiry, the notion of 'dramatic inquiry' seems quite accessible and it helps to describe Mantle of the Expert as the most complex form of a range of pedagogical approaches that could fall into that category.

Vivadrama said...

Now and imminent time... isn't that a rich concept ...? For me it evokes ideas of 'presence' (the sense of being fully aware in every moment - senses and mind alert to what might come next)... Time pictured like this seems very much alive and full of potency.

In some ways I like "immediate time" too, as it suggests more of a sense of past as well as future... the golden networks of people in recent and distant past who have gone before us doing / thinking about / facing the kinds of things we are doing / thinking about / facing right now... [I have only just started to understand the ways DH thought about TIME... a rich seam to be mined].

joni wrner said...

Hmmm.. my last post seems to be lost. I had the pleasure of working with Dorothy at NYU the week of her 80th birthday. I was blessed ti have her all to myself one day for lunch. I am looking forward to attending Drama NZ in May. Perhaps we can chat at some point about mantle and drama inquiry...

Viv Aitken said...

Hi Joni - it's almost two years since your post and I've only just seen it... Sorry about that! I'm returning to this project having lost access to it for a while. It was great to meet you in Hamilton a little while back. I do hope you will enjoy this blog project as it continues to unfold in 2017...