Heathcote & Vygotsky


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This presentation was for my paper "Transformative learning: revisiting Heathcote and Vygotsky for the digital age" presented at the IDEA Congress in Paris, July 2013.
(Some additional text had been added and video clips removed in this version). As an education academic who spent many years as a drama teacher it has been an interesting journey for me to find those theorists, scholars and master practitioners whose work resonates for me, and who articulated principles and truths that I had also discovered for myself.

For both Heathcote and Vygotsky, learning was a social process that recognized the importance of individual interactions with knowledgeable others and peers. Learning was not conceived of as transmission but a mediated activity involving symbolic and psychological tools. In both cases the way they conceived of childrens’ learning potential was predicated on valuing what they could do and become through interactions with concepts and artefacts from cultures.

In this paper I will identify several themes in work by Vygotsky and Heathcote and explore their relevance to a recent project I have been involved in. The Water Reckoning Project was a process-based drama project enacted across five school sites around the world. It involved the use of digital technologies for capturing and sharing creative work and facilitating networked communicaitons and performative acts. The use of digital technologies increase the repertoire of potential tools available for transformative learning - with the teacher's role still remaining an active one - as the curator and designer of aesthetic encounters.

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  • Both revolutionary – in terms of times they were working in (Vygotsky post revolutionary Russia – remaking society – Heathcote, post war progressive era, reworking social agency and relationships, both viewed learners as active agents and engaged in disrupting normative classroom interactions. Positioning learners as active agents – but teacher is not just facilitator on the side – teacher is an active co-participant in problem solving processes. Arrived at some very similar ideas about working collaboratively and creatively at different revolutionary times. What is the same and different now in another revolutionary era, the digital revolution?
  • I had initially drawn on the work of both based on concepts they are both best known for – Vygtosky in education and the notion of the zone of proximal development and Heathcote for drama processes and the power of teacher working in role. The more I have read of both though I have found that they are both equally relevant as theorists in terms of education and drama. Vygotsky wrote a lot about the arts, creativity theatre and drama, and Heathcote wrote about teaching and learning processes as well as drama.
  • (Bolton noted what Dorothy did not read… academic texts appealing to educationalists – so she did not directly draw on Vygotsky’s work, yet there are many ideas to be found in the work of both that are surprisingly similar. Some of her more left leaning students and colleagues encouraged her to read Vygotsky and even gave her texts (Mind in Society) but she did not want to be particularly associated with what she saw as Marxist related theory. However when you read some of the things she said (e.g. on the right) it sounds remarkably like something like Vygtosky or Vygotskian type thinking.
  • Lev Vygotsky was a Russian psychologist who was born in 1896 and died in 1934. His major works contributed to the fields of psychology and education in particular. When he died in 1934 he left a significant body of work that had not been published and much of it was it was suppressed for over thirty years. Consequently the majority of his work did not get translated and published in English until the late 1970s and 1980s and the impact of it since then has been considerable, especially in the field of education. Whilst the concept of the zone of proximal development and his work on play are probably the most widely known Vygotsky was also a lover of theatre and literature and was a theatre critic and teacher of literature early in his career. His initial academic work was concerned with the Psychology of Art (Vygotsky, 1971) and aesthetic (or esthetic) education (Vygotsky, 1926/1992, 2003). This work is less well known but of relevance to any discussion of drama education. He also wrote several papers on creativity, exploring the creative development of children and adolescents (Vygotsky, 1930/2004, 1931/1998). In the work he was involved in just before his death, he had returned to a focus on emotions and the affective domain and appeared to be drawing together some concepts from his early work and that on consciousness and higher mental functions (John-Steiner & Mahn, 2002; Leontiev, 1979/1997). In this later work he reaffirmed the belief that emotional-affective domains were central to children’s engagement in activity and concept formation.
  • She was born into a Yorkshire mill family of northern England in 1926. She initially believed her mother was widowed though later realized that she was illegitimate. The family was not well off financially, though Bolton reports that they never felt poor and they felt “rich enough for all to go round” (Bolton, 2003, p.11). In terms of personal characteristics, what is clear is that Heathcote was a keen learner, a voracious reader who as a child read a book a day, and was endlessly curious about the world. She had a particular interest in domains such as English, History and Geography and drew on her knowledge of literature and history later on in her drama work.Heathcote’s knowledge of narrative and drama was stimulated through going to the movies as a child, voracious reading and imaginings. She did well at school but missed out on a place at the Grammar School so left school at the age of 14 to work in the mill in 1940. While working at the mill she learnt verses and texts while at the loom, and her performance skills were extended through having elocution classes with local actor and teacher Mollie Sugden. She then joined a concert party, and a performance group, the Bingley players. She began actor training in 1945 at the age of 19 and through this experience she worked with an impressive array of people including Rudolf Laban, Esme Church (who was a London-based actor and director and had been Head of Acting at the Old Vic) and high quality visiting artists. The school also had a focus on practical work and in children’s performance in particular. Her future direction was largely determined when Esme Church offered Dorothy the opportunity to complete the teaching course with her, gaining her Licentiate with L.R.A.M. after which she began teaching and working with others. Bolton speaks of Esme Church planting the seed with her concept of ‘The Drama of the Mind’ whereby children could make up their own plays about things that mattered to them.Heathcote’s approach to improvised, co-constructing drama with participants began when she was doing practice teaching during her course and found herself ‘out of the blue’ asking a group of boys the question “If you were Captain of a ship, what would you look for in the men who were going to sail it?” (Bolton 2003, p. 25). Somehow just ‘knew’ that she needed to work with the whole group.Not long after graduating her course, she was appointed as a lecturer at Durham University (later the University of Newcastle) in 1951, aged 24, even though she had not been formally trained as a teacher. She regularly worked with schools and asked to actively teach classes, with other teachers watching, learning and participating as she worked with different groups of students. So began Heathcote’s innovative practice in the realm of education drama and in particular her approach to taking on roles within dramatic work. The improvised work was created in the moment with children acting as co-constructors of dramatic plays, often with an audience of other practitioners.
  • She ensured that there was a structure, I mean a theatrical and dramatic experience, but also a personal and emotional one, and that the learning came through the structuring of that emotion and reflection. (John O’Toole 18/12/12, lines 104-111)
  • The role of the teacher then becomes very important for selecting and crafting the encounters – providing the right kinds of parameters and constraints, selecting and creating tools to enable students to connect to the imaginative ‘what if’ world and engage in collaborative creative endeavours.
  • These ideas
  • Heathcote & Vygotsky

    1. 1. Susan Davis CQUniversity, Australia s.davis@cqu.edu.au TRANSFORMATIVE LEARNING: REVISITING HEATHCOTE AND VYGOTSKY FOR THE DIGITAL AGE Presentation for the 8th IDEA World Congress, Paris, 8-13 July 2013
    3. 3. Informing my research & current practice Vygotsky – educational theory - ZPD Heathcote – drama processes, Teach er-in-role FINDING THE COMMON CONCERNS – ABOUT LEARNING PROCESSES & DRAMA
    4. 4.  … as the trend began to favour the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotski rather than Piaget, she also avoided quoting from him, though curiously, she had Vygotski thrust upon her by left-wing theatre educationists who saw Dorothy‟s teaching as epitomising Marxist values. And there is a sense in which they were right, for they recognised that among her deepest passions is the need for justice in society. (Bolton, 2003, p. 141)  “It is social politics so easily introduced via systems where 'people' business is central” (Heathcote 2002, p.8). HEATHCOTE & VYGOTSKY
    5. 5. He was a teacher, a theatre lover, a researcher and revolutionary thinker. He understood the importance of play, of human interactions, of art and the imagination, the importance of creativity and aesthetic education for all children. He wrote about how humans think, create and learn in ways that are still relevant today. LEV VYGOTSKY 1896-1934
    6. 6.  Great interest in literature, poetry and philosophy from an early age  Particular interest in theatre, dazzling recitations as a child  Dramatic knowledge and criticism wrote theatre reviews – first major work was an analysis of „Hamlet‟ –thesis became the book „Psychology of Art‟  Had a dynamic personal presence & inspiration speaker (Moll, 1990)  Didn‟t originally train as a psychologist but had great impact in that field  Extraordinary memory – regarded as a genius – the Mozart of Psychology VYGOTSKY
    7. 7. DOROTHY HEATHCOTE 1926-2011 She was an innovative teacher whose groundbreaking work challenged notions of teaching, of drama and how to work with children. She entered into the creative space with those she worked with and pioneered strategies such as „teacher-in- role‟ and „mantle of the expert‟.
    8. 8. Voracious reader Early interest in literature, history, geography and theatre Strong personal presence – inspirational teacher Performance experience and professional acting training Great memory Didn‟t train as a teacher but had greatest impact in education Intelligent, many regard her as a genius HEATHCOTE
    9. 9.  Learning emerges out of social (external) & internal interactions  Involves active role of teacher and or knowledgeable others  Involves co-constructing solutions to problems  Utilises mediating tools and signs  In the arts – these tools can activate the imagination and crystallise belief  The arts utilise form and structure to express ideas and emotions  Specific nature of drama for (creative) learning and working with imagination  The importance of both external human activity and internal interactions (and reflection) for learning SIMILAR BELIEFS ABOUT LEARNING
    10. 10.  There are many aspects that could be compared within their work  For the purposes of this presentation, the focus will be on a couple  Zone of proximal development and the role of the teacher  Mediation and the role of tools  The special qualities of (improvised) drama for learning SOME SIMILAR THOUGHTS ABOUT LEARNING
    11. 11. ZPD  … is the distance between the actual development as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers  (Vygotsky,1978, p 86) Role of teacher and others  An essential feature of learning is that it creates the zone of proximal development, that is, learning awakens a variety of internal developmental processes, that are able to operate only when the child is interacting with people in his environment and in cooperation with his peers (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 89) ZONE OF PROXIMAL DEVELOPMENT & ROLE OF TEACHER/OTHERS
    12. 12. Wagner on Heathcote  In drama children live “in advance of themselves” as it were: they face challenge and crisis in imagination before they find themselves overwhelmed by them in real life. They gain the feeling of mastery over events, the sense that they are equal to life. (Wagner 1976) Heathcote  … in the presence of an empowering adult a child can reach beyond his own capacity in carrying out a task. Teacher-in-role enhances this particular adult function. The teacher, through her role, provides a model of high expectations for the enterprise that at first seems out of reach.. In time he has no choice but to aim beyond his normal ability – and to break the confines of rigidly held concepts  (Heathcote & Bolton 1995) ZONE OF PROXIMAL DEVELOPMENT, DRAMA & TEACHER IN ROLE
    13. 13. Vygotsky  Humans (subjects) achieve objects and act upon the world through external mediation and interactions with various tools.  Tools include culturally learned processes or conceptual tools, signs such as language, as well as physical tools, artefacts and technologies MEDIATION
    14. 14.  Living at life-rate, with agreement to pretence, … experiences of life which cause people to reflect & take note… consequent selectivity and different permutations of response to be tried (Heathcote in Johnson & O’Neill p. 69)  The dramatic process is a „tool‟ and also involves use of specific selected content/narrative frames, conventions and processes – these can all be considered as „tools‟ DRAMA AS AN EDUCATIONAL MEDIUM
    15. 15. Vygotsky  Tools, Signs & artefacts mediate learning & culture (between mind and others) Heathcote  Would often use concrete tools and artefacts (maps, paintings, letter s, photographs etc) within a drama – to „help crystallize belief‟. (Wagner p. 71) TOOLS, SIGNS & ARTEFACTS
    16. 16.  What is form?... The first component would appear to be the ordering of the miscellaneous and reducing miscellany to order…the second ingredient would appear to be a process of simplification.. Selection and rearrangement of the available materials… Third, form is „fitness of purpose‟ (Heathcote in Johnson & O‟Neill p. 76 drawing on Rugg) “Art experiences insist upon a restructuring of ordinary perceptions of reality so that we end by seeing the world instead of numbly recognising it”. (p. 128) FORM IS ALSO A TOOL - HEATHCOTE
    17. 17.  “Art is the social technique of emotion, a tool of society which brings the most intimate and personal aspects of our being into the circle of social life” (Vygotsky, 1971, p. 249).  “… drama, which is based on actions, and, furthermore, actions to be performed by the child himself, is the form of creativity that most closely, actively, and directly corresponds to actual experiences … Thus the dramatic form expresses with greatest clarity the full cycle of imagination…” (Vygotsky, 2004, p 70)  “Drama, more than any other form of creation, is closely and directly linked to play, which is the root of all creativity in children. Thus, drama is the most syncretic mode of creation, that is, it contains elements of the most diverse forms of creativity.” (Vygotsky,2004, p. 71) VYGOTSKY ON ROLE OF ART & DRAMA
    18. 18.  “The staging of drama provides the pretext and material for the most diverse forms of creativity on the part of the children. The children themselves compose, improvise, or prepare the play, improvise the roles or sometimes dramatize some existing piece of literature”  “That is why plays written by the children themselves or created and improvised by them as they are played are vastly more compatible with children‟s understanding” (Vygotsky, 2004,( p. 72)  Being the closest to actual living, drama more than any other art has had to create a special frame. This frame is called theatre. Theatre is life depicted in a no-penalty zone. (Heathcote in Johnson & O‟Neill p. 130) VYGOTKSY & HEATHCOTE ON PROCESS AND IMPROVISED DRAMA
    19. 19. Object/ motive Outcome/s Subject/s Mediational means Tools, signs, artefacts
    20. 20.  One of the early tasks of the teacher is to create experiences of intensity because these are the one which will commit the class to further work as they give instant success feedback. (Heathcote in Johnson & O’Neill, p. 74)  Ideas from Vygotsky and Heathcote  Active role of „teacher‟ in crafting and interacting within the encounter  The selection and orchestration of the use of a range of appropriate „tools‟ – conceptual, actual, tech nological, relational requires mastery and artistry TEACHER‟S ROLE - CRAFTING OF THE AESTHETIC ENCOUNTER
    21. 21. + EXAMPLE The Water Reckoning – Rolling Role Project www.water-reckoning.net (based on Heathcote’s Rolling Role concept # Fictional frame (tool) Discovery of a lost culture of frozen people underwater who experienced times of crisis # Who were these people and what happened? (Problem) # Use of physical artefacts, images, music, dramatic form and digital tools Jason deCaires Taylor imagery
    22. 22. ARTEFACTS
    25. 25.  The importance of finding and creating the aesthetically charged tools for engagement  The power of using digital technologies to create and share creative work  Students (as drama students) happy to have teachers play recording and editing role  Learning and reflection was often stimulated by viewing their own edited work shown back to them  Students were not all that keen to use the technologies themselves in school drama  The importance of identifying and naming the use of dramatic form  The active role of teacher‟s in designing and shaping the aesthetic encounters, laying trails, opening up the spaces for student creativity BUT then identifying and responding to what they create. PROJECT OUTCOMES
    26. 26. Object Learning goals drama & life concepts, versi ons of self & world Embodied Experience Subject Reflective process Phase I Mediating tools # Drama learning medium, conventions of artform # Fictional „what if‟ context and associated „problem‟ # Teacher-in-role - Character, history, relational positioning # Artefacts and tools – aesthetically charged tools of the imagination Potential outcome Drama and other learning & identity formation Phase II Mediating tools # Educator out-of-role # Reflection and debriefing tools - connecting classroom and „real-world‟ context # Tools and artefacts to mediate meaning making
    27. 27.  Some assume that all students are „digital natives‟ – engage in technological romanticism -‟ kids can all do it, leave it to them.‟ Side- step an active teacher role.  Digital tools just add to the tool-kit, alongside the other types of tools already considered.  Transformative learning involves extending the scope of the tools available and building on aspects of the role for the teacher as already identified by leading practitioners and theorists such as Heathcote & Vygotsky.  Heathcote – teacher as actor, director, playwright and audience  Vygotsky – teacher as more capable peer prompting interaction and extending learning  NOW  Teacher as curator and designer of aesthetic encounters utilising aesthetically charged tools as gateways to the imagination and connected learning. SHIFTS IN THE DIGITAL AGE
    28. 28.  Bolton, G. (2003). The Dorothy Heathcote Story: Biography of a Remarkable Drama Teacher. London: Trentham Books.  Heathcote, D. (2002). Contexts for Active learning - Four models to forge links between schooling and society. Paper presented at the NATC, Birmingham. http://www.moeplanning.co.uk/wp -content/uploads/2008/05/dh -contexts-for-active- learning.pdf  Heathcote, D., & Bolton, G. (1995). Drama for learning: Dorothy Heathcote's mantle of the expert approach to education . Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.  Johnson, L., & O'Neill, C. (Eds.). (1984). Dorothy Heathcote: Collected Writings on Education and Drama. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press .  Vygotsky, L. S. (1930/2004). Imagination and creativity in childhood. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 42(1), 7-97.  Vygotsky, L. S. (1931/1998). Imagination and creativity of the adolescent (Hall, M. J., Trans.). In Reiber, R. (Ed.), The collected works of LS Vygotsky: Volume 5, child psychology. New York: Plenum Press. Retrieved from http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/1931/adolescent/ch12. htm  Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Thought and language. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.  Vygotsky, L. S. (1971). The psychology of art. Cambridge, MASS: MIT Press.  Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press .  Vygotsky, L. S. (1998). The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky - Volume 5 child psychology (Hall, M. J., Trans.). New York & London: Plenum Press .  Vygotsky, L. S. (2003). Imagination and creativity in childhood. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 42(1), 7-97.  Wagner, B. J. (1976). Dorothy Heathcote: Drama as a learning medium . Washington DC: National Education Association of the United States. REFERENCES