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Revisiting Heathcote's Rolling Role Model through the Water Reckoning Project: Pre-texts, dramatic materials and digital mediation

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Dorothy Heathcote’s work was centred on using drama to make learning meaningful and focused on things that ‘matter’. She developed models and approaches that encouraged teachers to structure purposeful and relevant learning experiences through careful planning, framing, enactment and reflection. One such strategy was that of Rolling Role. This model is less well known than others but Heathcote herself believed that it had great potential to be utilized through something like a website. The Water Reckoning project was therefore initiated to revisit and reconceptualise the Rolling Role model in the lead up to the Heathcote Reconsidered conference. The project aimed to explore the potential of Rolling Role for international collaboration using digital platforms. The resulting project involved five different student groups, their teachers and researchers responding to a common pre-text. This paper will focus mainly on the development of the dramatic context, pre-text and decisions regarding the use of digital technologies. It will identify key factors and considerations for planning and working with the Rolling Role strategy.
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ISSN 2040-2228
Vol. 5 No. 1
April 2014
Drama Research: international journal of drama in education
Article 11
Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model
through the Water Reckoning project:
pre-texts, dramatic materials and digital
mediation
Susan Davis and Polyxeni Simou
National Drama Publications
www.dramaresearch.co.uk
publications@nationaldrama.org.uk
www.nationaldrama.org.uk
Drama Research Vol. 5 No. 1 April 2014
Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
2
Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model
through the Water Reckoning project:
pre-texts, dramatic materials and digital
mediation
____________________________________________________________________
Susan Davis and Polyxeni Simou
Abstract
Dorothy Heathcote’s work was centred on using drama to make learning meaningful
and focused on things that ‘matter’. She developed models and approaches that
encouraged teachers to structure purposeful and relevant learning experiences
through careful planning, framing, enactment and reflection. One such strategy was
that of Rolling Role. This model is less well known than others but Heathcote herself
believed that it had great potential to be utilized through something like a website.
The Water Reckoning project was therefore initiated to revisit and reconceptualise
the Rolling Role model in the lead up to the Heathcote Reconsidered conference.
The project aimed to explore the potential of Rolling Role for international
collaboration using digital platforms. The resulting project involved five different
student groups, their teachers and researchers responding to a common pre-text.
This paper will focus mainly on the development of the dramatic context, pre-text
and decisions regarding the use of digital technologies. It will identify key factors
and considerations for planning and working with the Rolling Role.
Keywords: process drama, rolling role, applied theatre, digital technologies,
pedagogy
Drama Research Vol. 5 No. 1 April 2014
Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
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Introduction
Dorothy Heathcote’s contribution to the field of drama in education was based on a
substantial body of practice and has been foundational to the development of forms
of drama such as Process Drama (Bowell & Heap, 2001; 2005; Haseman, 1991;
O'Neill, 1995) and Mantle of the Expert (Heathcote & Bolton, 1995). Rolling Role was
another model she developed in the early 1980s in an attempt to create a cross-
curricular system for collaborative learning for secondary education. It is fitting
therefore to explore the on-going relevance of her ideas and legacy through creative
practice and so that is how the Water Reckoning Project was born. At the 2012
International Drama In Education Research Institute (IDIERI) Pam Bowell suggested it
would be timely to initiate a project that explored the strategy of Rolling Role in the
lead up to the Heathcote Reconsidered Conference. The strategy was seen as having
particular relevance because of the range of digital tools now available that could
enable international collaboration to occur. The project proposition drew support
from a number of drama education researchers and so began a process of research,
discussion and planning.
The Water Reckoning project started with most of the participating teachers and
academics having a good working knowledge of Dorothy Heathcote’s philosophy and
strategies but little knowledge about the Rolling Role strategy itself. However, since
the project was implemented archival research has informed our understanding of
the concept with several uncanny parallels between past and present iterations
revealed. This article will provide an overview of the Rolling Role concept and model,
relevant principles drawn from Heathcote and the work of others since and an
insight into the creation of the context and pre-text for the Water Reckoning project.
It will focus specifically on how the Water Reckoning project was conceptualized and
the use of digital and online tools, with other conference publications and articles
elaborating more on the project implementation and learnings.
.
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The Development of the Rolling Role concept
Throughout her decades of practice Heathcote developed several influential models
or approaches to teaching. The most well known of these are probably teacher-in-
role and Mantle of the Expert, however a later model she developed was that of
Rolling Role. First trialled in the 1980s Heathcote saw it as an integrating pedagogical
model that could transform the way teachers worked together and taught. In the
1990s she saw it as a having particular strengths for linking the curriculum during the
implementation of UK National Curriculum and so developed a set of 16 videos
intended to be used as a form of professional development for teachers across the
curriculum. In the first of the Rolling Role videotape series, Heathcote describes
Rolling Role as:
A system of teaching in secondary school, whereby any number of members
of staff can form teams of collaboration, whilst teaching their own timetable
and curriculum area. The programme involves the team in devising a
common context from which all their curriculum teaching can spring, and this
context provides purpose and relevance for the curriculum work to be
undertaken. The context is carefully structured so as to provide easy access
to the arts, science and humanities curriculum at all levels relevant to the
age, abilities and skills of pupils involved in the programme (Heathcote and
Mills 1993: Tape 1).
See video extract: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CzjjdkILS4
Heathcote further described the Rolling Role concept in her paper Four Contexts for
Active Learning (Heathcote 2002). She argues that in a Rolling Role drama the
initiators create and share a common context and agree to the key features, affairs
and concerns of a fictional community. The students/children are then involved in
building the community, often creating artifacts and texts. The work can roll from
teacher to teacher and from class to class, with the participants creating and
exploring different facets of a community. At some point in the process the
community faces some kind of change and there should be a central tension that
impacts on all the different contexts. The way the project actually ‘rolls’ is that work
is often left incomplete, but published and shared, so other groups can use it and
take it forward to continue the drama. Heathcote and Mills believed this factor
significantly increased student motivation and commitment to the ongoing work.
While the examples discussed in the 80s and 90s tended to share, or publish work on
the walls of one classroom, Heathcote suggested that Rolling Role work lends itself
to sharing through something like a website (2002).
The concept of Rolling Roll was first developed and realised in the early 1980s when
the teachers Don McAra and Sally Pearse (from New Zealand) were struggling with
the dilemma of having to work with multiple classes in a school for one drama lesson
per week. They spoke to Heathcote about their desire to find a way to make
learning less disconnected. The concept of Rolling Role was therefore proposed as
“a way to relieve children and teachers of the tyranny of short lessons with frequent
changes of curriculum area and class location so prevalent in high-school time-
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tabling” (Heston 1994: 183). McAra wrote up that first major project for a 2D article
(McAra 1984) in which he describes the details. The context was a fictional (but
believable) one, which was centred on the discovery of a set of rock paintings in the
highlands of Brazil. Different perspectives were explored by various classes as the
paintings were threatened because of government plans to raise the level of the lake
for a hydroelectric power station. He helps to further explain the ways to use the
pre-text or stimulus material with different classes:
The principle of the Rolling Drama is that one set of stimulus material and
one basic drama framework be planned and employed with a number of
different classes (and perhaps over a substantial period of time). The work of
each class is different because they are framed differently in relation to the
material, and the work of one class can produce materials which provide a
starting point for the work of another group. (McAra 1984:3)
The Rolling Role concept was further developed through projects involving other
graduate students and teachers in the mid 1980s (Davison, Cochrane and Berwick
1990; Heathcote and Mills 1993; Kerley 1993; Mills 1989-90). This included work by
Joan Kerley (from Ireland) and those that Heathcote called the Jarrow Three
(Malcolm Davison, Ida Cochrane and Norman Berwick) involving all their English and
Theatre Studies classes over two weeks. A major development in clarifying
Heathcote’s thinking around this strategy was the development of the Rolling Role
videotape series with planning beginning in 1990 (Heathcote and Mills 1993).
Heathcote’s major collaborator for the series and in the lead up was Claire
Armstrong Mills who worked with Heathcote on planning and implementing Rolling
Role dramas in her Birmingham school. Mills completed her M.Ed on the topic with
Heathcote as an advisor (Bolton 2003); however this work was never published in
other academic form. In the 1990s Heathcote also ran workshops on Rolling Role
one of which was written about by Theo Bryer for an article published by the
National Association of Teachers of Drama (NATD). She noted that Rolling Role was
similar to Mantle of the Expert but with a focus on secondary education and cross
curriculum work (Bryer 1990). This indicates that at that point in time the concept
had been shared and disseminated quite widely, however since then, there has been
little in the way of publication and dissemination of this work.
Rolling Role - contexts, dramatic materials and pre-
texts
A key point made by Heathcote and other practitioners about planning for a Rolling
Role is the importance of finding or creating the main context. This must be
sufficiently rich and complex enough to allow for a number of classes to work on it at
the same time, with potential for them to be engaged in different subjects. In
planning notes Heathcote and others often use what she called a ‘trefoil’ (or three
overlapping circles) and in most cases three different communities/perspectives and
timeframes are identified as being connected to one specific problem and point of
tension.
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Figure 1 Initial plan for a Rolling Role drama by Claire Armstrong Mills
Kerley, as well as Mills and Heathcote all highlight that once these initial frames are
determined; they then become non-negotiables (Heathcote and Mills 1993; Kerley
1993; Mills 1989-90). They help situate the drama and create the logic for the
unfolding action.
This thinking is an extension Heathcote’s earlier work where she discussed the ‘high
selectivity’ required by the teacher/initiator in finding a sufficiently interesting
context for activity. She encouraged teachers to create dramatic materials that
would focus and guide attention through providing useful parameters that would
isolate and particularize (Heathcote 1984:35). She also advised that the drama
should have contemporary relevance for the participants with issues often explored
through an historical lens. In her Masters thesis Kerley summarized these framing
considerations and the value of three key features for planning Rolling Role:
1. A community that exists in the present;
2. An event in the past, with links to the present (through the existence of,
for example, a building, a ruin, a myth or a legend);
3. A plan for the future of the community. This hinges on a ‘point of change’
and is the immediate focus of the drama. (Kerley 1993: 89)
To situate the context/s the facilitator often engages in selecting and creating quality
pre-texts or dramatic materials. For Heathcote it was very important to select and
organise different signs and objects to create “arrangements of significance”
(Heathcote and Mills 1993:tape 1). These are important for introducing the initial
context but also throughout the various parts of the process. They provide the
mediating links between the ‘real world’ and the world of the drama. The concept of
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pre-text is not a term that Heathcote used, but was developed by O’Neill as part of
her reworking of Heathcotian style processes (O'Neill 1995; Taylor 1995). It has since
been widely embraced by drama education and applied theatre practitioners. In
practical terms, pre-text is often regarded as a type of ‘text’ or stimulus, but really it
goes beyond that and is more of a framing and ‘launching strategy’. It is used to
describe the various texts and strategies, which can be used as springboards to
initiate a drama and frame possibilities for dramatic action. Pre-texts are generally
rich, but open texts, they suggest possible roles, landscapes, relationships, attitudes
and dilemmas.
An effective pretext is simple and functional. It sets in motion situations in
which appearance and reality, truth and deception, and role and identity may
be contrasted and explored. (O'Neill 1995:20)
[A good pretext has the] … power to launch the dramatic world with
economy and clarity, propose action, and imply transformation (O'Neill,
1995)
A pre-text generally is realized in material form, and may be an artwork, a letter, a
photograph, a piece of music, a historical document or map, a video clip or other
such form or combination. They are often emotionally evocative and also
aesthetically charged. Several Rolling Roll project descriptions found at the
Heathcote archives further demonstrate the importance of creating artifacts to help
situate the ‘reality’ of the fictional contexts and ground the actions for the drama.
Artifacts found with Rolling Role examples include maps of villages, letters seeking
assistance, archival documents, photographs of buildings and so forth (Davison,
Cochrane and Berwick 1990; Heathcote and Mills 1993; Kerley 1993; Mills 1989-90).
Drawing from the body of work about Rolling Role, there are several key points that
can be identified as central to the planning and set up of a Rolling Role project:
The development of the central context that has the potential to be explored
by a number of groups
The rolling nature of the process and opportunity for different groups to see
and respond to the work of others
The importance of aesthetically rich dramatic materials and artifacts for
initiating and using within the drama
Creating a number of inter-related contexts (past, present, future) and entry
points for participating groups
The key role of ongoing publishing of work throughout the process.
These have been identified and elaborated upon in the context of discussing a recent
project entitled The Water Reckoning. This project sought to explore how a Rolling
Role process might be run using contemporary digital technologies and online
spaces.
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The Water Reckoning project context selection and
dramatic material
The proposal for what became The Water Reckoning project emerged from a Special
Interest Group (SIG) discussion at IDIERI 2012, with Pam Bowell suggesting that
Rolling Role would provide an appropriate model for an international drama
collaboration using digital and online technologies. The Water Reckoning project
was therefore initiated as a creative project that would involve young people,
teachers and academics in a contemporary practical exploration of Dorothy
Heathcote’s philosophy and strategies, in particular that of Rolling Role. The goal was
to have the project culminate at the Heathcote Reconsidered conference in London.
This resulted in five educational and research sites participating, including two in
Australia, one each in Greece, Singapore and the USA (for further detail and
materials see the project website http://www.water-reckoning.net).
Before leaving the IDIERI conference it was agreed that some parameters for the
work should be decided upon. The initial discussion highlighted that the project
should involve secondary school groups or similar, it should be about something that
‘matters’ and have contemporary relevance in multiple locations. Suggestions for a
possible focus context included: trees and the natural environment, a lost
civilization, a development impacting on a particular place or something to do with
water.
This last topic resonated as around that time there had been many significant water
related events and issues occurring around the world. These included intense
weather events and catastrophes, floods, tsunamis, but also droughts. Further
investigation revealed that 2013 was to be the UN year of water collaboration. This
recognition of the importance of human elements and interactions for dealing with
resource management and crisis management issues was seen as significant for a
drama process.
During the early planning weeks an initial set of considerations for developing a
context and pre-text were developed and included the suggestion that the focus
context should have historical, contemporary, and future relevance. It is interesting
to note how much this and other principles aligned with Rolling Role ones to be
found in the Mills and Kerley work and Rolling Role tapes. However, at that point in
time all that the planning group had to work from was the 2002 Heathcote
document.
The ‘rolling’ nature of the process
The creation of the dramatic focus for this project involved a lengthy process and
probably more complex than many Heathcote experienced which were designed
around one school or teacher’s classes. There were three main phases of idea
proposition and development, with some aspects of each phase rolled through into
the final set of launching material. This was not an unproblematic process as at the
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same time this creative process was occurring, the community of researchers and
teachers for the project was still being formed. Different participants entered the
process at various points across the whole project, and some could not always
participate in synchronous and asynchronous communications. Therefore the
community was not necessarily consistent and stable until the final implementation
phase of the project. One of the authors (Davis) undertook a coordination role and
the other (Simou) was a constant participant and so it is from these perspectives we
will outline some of the main steps that occurred through the development phase.
In reviewing this process what has been apparent is that the ‘rolling’ nature of the
project started not when the students began their engagement with the project, but
when the emails and Skype sessions began during the planning phase. The use of
emails and the creation of documents that were saved in a shared Google drive
folder, also acted as a form of publication, so that work could be referred to and
extended upon. To draw on the language of improvisation what can be identified as
occurring are some major offers that were made for contexts and framing, some
were rejected, some were accepted and extended upon, some were refined and
adapted. The following account will identify key offers made, what was rejected and
why and what informed the decision-making regarding the final set of dramatic
materials and pre-text.
Aesthetically charged pre-text and dramatic materials
In the first set of Skype sessions, some of the concerns discussed by participants
centred on the practicalities of finding a context where diverse communities in
different parts of the world could explore contemporary manifestations of water
issues. There was a desire that project participants could learn about their own
culture as well as that of others through the process. Practical planning and
scheduling discussions were also occurring, but finding a primary creative context
was seen to be an important step in making an elusive idea more concrete.
The first context proposed (August 2012) was the idea of a WATER Council (Water
And Time Earth Reckoning Council), a kind of futuristic group who had the power to
go back in time. Their invitation to others would be to identify times in history
where water catastrophes had occurred and to see if it were possible to effect
change or alternative solutions. This context offered the potential for different
groups to investigate a water issue or story from their own region (past, present or
future) and to use drama, media and other art forms to tell those stories. Another
context for the drama could then focus on developing the culture and history of the
council it's successes and legends. The question of what might ‘roll’ (apart from
developing the history of the ‘council’) and what was the key point of tension was
not easily resolved however. One option for rolling was that groups continue on the
storytelling of the ‘council’ one after another and so forth. To help concretise the
idea an initial invitation was created and a short voki animation.
There was not a lot of direct response from the initial planning group to this idea.
After requesting ‘honest and direct’ feedback from several participants, they shared
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Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
their opinion that they were not that keen on the name for the group being a ‘water
council’ as it sounded like some form of utility company. There were also concerns
that the work created by students could be quite documentary style (of local water
related events and histories) and perhaps there was not enough potential for
tapping in to the imagination. There was also a question about ‘logic’ and dealing
with going back in time and changing history - how could that work?
At this time other ideas introduced included that of an archaeological discovery
where each group would become a different group engaged with investigating an
archaeological site. Different activities for groups could include creating the myths
and legends of the civilization recovered. Rolling aspects proposed included one
group creating the mythology that another group could later unearth and interpret.
There was interest in the idea but at that stage there was no clear idea of how to
connect it to contemporary water concerns and events.
Another idea suggested by Simou was that of a Water Museum - as a site, which
could be used to honour and remember the stories of water. This offered the
potential of having an online space for sharing images, stories and artifacts that
recall the history of water from different contexts and history. This was an idea
strongly supported as an element to use within the project. However, the question
of what was the dramatic frame and source of tension still remained.
At this stage a specific creative context and pre-text were still not apparent - the
dramatic context was still very fuzzy. There was a sense of not having found the ‘key’
yet, and no identification of appropriate tensions or a sufficiently rich pre-text. There
were some elements that were garnering support however. The idea of a Water
Museum - especially as the space for hosting the stories and memories - remained
strong. Other ideas for focus activities and phases were supported:
Building the history of the group with objects and events recorded in the
‘museum of water memory’
Making an important discovery related to artifacts from an unknown culture
perhaps this indicating a water crisis
Early participating student groups creating rituals and symbols which may be
passed on
Identifying what can be learnt from that culture’s story
Having a major challenge for the culture a source of tension.
It is important to note that any creative planning process often involves different
phases and these include periods of struggle and frustration. One of the ways we
informed this process was through looking back at other accounts of Heathcote’s
work in books such as Drama as a learning medium (Wagner 1976), Collected
Writings of Dorothy Heathcote (Johnson and O'Neill 1984) and Drama for Learning
(Heathcote and Bolton 1995) looking in particular for examples where she drew
together scientific or factual learning and imaginative work. Specific examples
referred to include an example Heathcote described in The Left Hand of Knowing
(Heathcote 1976) where she incorporated drama work the goddess Pele into
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Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
scientific learning about volcanoes in Hawaii. This affirmed for us the possibility of
working aesthetically and scientifically and the importance of coming to know both
emotionally and intellectually.
Looking for other stimulus materials that could help set up the drama and invite
responses, a video entitled 'Human Nature' depicting work from underwater
sculpture parks by Jason deCaires Taylor was introduced. Davis has seen the
beautiful and highly evocative video on YouTube http://youtu.be/vKxrVmfU3-E and
shared it with the planning group. The video depicts deCaires’s underwater
sculptures of people in everyday settings but which evoke many other layers of
possible meanings. The artist’s overarching message is concerned with climate
change and the idea that ‘people can’t live underwater’. This and other
photographic evidence of his work
(http://www.underwatersculpture.com/sculptures/overview/) seemed to provide a
set of materials and artifacts that was rich aesthetically and conceptually and ideal
for our purposes. Upon sharing this video, the response from other participants was
extremely positive and it appeared we had found the evocative pre-text we had
been seeking. From there the creation of an additional fictional frame was added
and contextual details were shaped up to initiate our drama.
The idea was to set up a fictional researcher frame in the near future, with the
events of a great catastrophe having occurred in the not too distant past (pre
internet). A name for the community was proposed, that of Ardus Unda, drawing
from latin words Ardus meaning water or difficult and arid, and Unda meaning
water, ripple or wave. The fictional framing (which was then used on the project
website) was as followed:
It is a time of renewal after the climate change apocalypse, an era when
catastrophic events reshaped landscapes, cultures and economies. We seek
to understand events, recover histories and rebuilt communities. A recent
discovery has come to light with clusters of frozen people found under the
sea. Who were they and what happened to them? What can we learn from
their stories about human folly and mistakes, about courage, cooperation
and resilience? Join us as we investigate the mystery of ‘Ardus Unda’.
The linking artifact was to be a message found in a bottle. An actual document
would be created that included details that would set up some key constraints for
the drama and signal the importance of water in the devastating events the had
community faced. It also aimed to engage the emotions of the reader and provide
possible pathways into action and drama:
In the years following The Great Thirst our people were cursed by catastrophe
and decline. Our neighbours turned from our sorrow, their generosity spent.
Some emissaries sailed the globe, seeking help and compassion, seeking a
refuge in our time of trial… But we waited in vain for salvation.
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Our guardians conceived a plan to buy more time. Drawing on ancient
knowledge and modern technology they determined that we would be frozen
in time. And so would wait… for the right time, the right solution, and
another chance at life.
If you find us fixed and unmoving, let your heart be moved and compassion
abound. If you have the answer, we have the elixir.
An actual message in a bottle was created, a video from a researcher in role filmed
and photographs taken of discovering the message on a beach.
Figure 2 Building the fictional frame - image created of the message in the bottle:
see pretext video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9PX6AidNmU
Different contexts and entry points for participant
groups
Through ongoing planning team discussions the pre-text started taking form with the
potential for three different contexts or frames of activity (which is interesting
because at that stage we had not read any of the Rolling Role material that also
discussed having three contexts). One context would be the inhabitants of that
civilisation up to and at the time of their becoming frozen. The second context would
be a team of researchers who are investigating the discovery of an underwater
civilisation that has been frozen in time. The third context would be emissaries and
descendants of that culture who had gone out into the world, possibly looking for
solutions to take back to their frozen culture (See figure 3). Some proposals for key
points of tension for the more present time context included the possibility that the
Ardus Unda site was under threat because of tourism proposals. In actuality this type
of tension was only drawn upon towards the later stages of project implementation,
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Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
as at the time we were not aware of how important the notion of a present time
context and tension were within the original Rolling Role model.
Figure 3 The three contexts created for The Water Reckoning project
Rolling with the participant groups
Another key discussion was concerned with what would ‘roll’ and how. There had
been proposals that early participant groups make objects and artifacts that were
handed over for others to then use. Another issue was the fact the groups would all
be drama groups, not coming from different curriculum areas as in the earlier
iterations of Rolling Role. There was a concern that groups would all want to work
within the context of the Ardus Unda culture at some stage and so we should try to
sequence that to ensure there weren’t conflicting offers being made at the same
time. However it was difficult to create a sequential structure for who would look at
what and when because different groups were starting at different times with time
out for exams and vacations. One of the participating teachers suggested that each
group should identify which frame they would prefer to start with and begin with
different frames. A timetable in a spreadsheet was then set up so everyone knew
when other groups would be working. The agreement or ‘rule’ created was that
before each group started a frame of action they should check the content posted
within the Water Museum. The new group should then try to ‘roll’ some aspects of
the work wherever possible. To document the process and allow the project to ‘roll’
the function of the digital Water Museum became even more important and it
became a type of rolling pre-text, providing a growing bank of material for other
groups to work with.
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It should also be noted that the dramatic or pre-text materials that were drawn upon
did not only relate to these initial materials or work produced by the participants. As
the project unfolded, factual information about global water issues was also
incorporated and shared. Nearly all sites also found examples of actual ‘lost
underwater cultures, often near their own country or continent (Simou found out
about the lost culture of Pavlopetri in Greece, Tan found the Lost City of Dwarka in
Asia and Kulik found the Brazilian Atlantis off the American coast). Another key
video that helped connect the fictional world to current real-world issues was one
about recent experiences for people of the Pacific Island of Tuvalu. Many students
found it to be a very moving experience when they realised that ‘real’ people are
currently facing the loss of their homes and culture due to the effects of rising sea
levels.
Publishing and interacting - digital spaces and
affordances
The use of technology and digital platforms for revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role
model was a significant innovative for a number of reasons. These tools allow for
ongoing collaboration and interactions, essential for both the planning processes,
but also for enacting the project. Secondly they provide the spaces for publishing
and documenting dramatic practice a key feature of the Rolling Role model.
Therefore considerable effort was devoted towards decisions regarding what online
spaces would be used and for what purposes.
Spaces for responsive interactions
The first need that emerged was the one of online spaces where the facilitators and
researchers could share planning and also meet for live interactions. Emails and
Skype were the first modes of communication used and then Google documents and
Google drive were used as a space to publish planning documents, which could be
edited by others. The reliance on emails initially was not always ideal for discussing
concepts and working on the creative framing. Sometimes there was not a lot of
direct response from participants to ideas and this absence of response was difficult
to read. Did it mean the idea proposed was no good, did it mean people were too
busy to respond, or were they uncertain about whether a negative response might
hurt the feelings of the person who proposed it? All options were possible within a
community still in the stage of formation and getting to know each other but they
highlight the ongoing importance of responsive interactions within the Rolling Role
process.
We decided we needed a real-time communications option that allowed for all
participants to ‘see’ each other to engage in these important discussions and
negotiations and so investigated several possibilities. These included online
collaborative tools such as Water-wheel TAP and Blackboard Collaborate. Both offer
the potential for video communications, but in both cases there were issues with
technical difficulties or aspects that were too complicated for initial users. As we
were already using some Google functions, it was suggested (by occasional project
Drama Research Vol. 5 No. 1 April 2014
Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
advisor Paul Sutton) that perhaps it would be worth investigating the Google suite of
applications. A Google+ community was then set up, that allowed the people
involved to keep in touch and share the products of their work. Google hangout was
also adopted for live communications sessions and it became our place of meeting
for fortnightly Sunday meetings. Google hangout is a free collaborative tool that
provides the possibility for video image and sound for approximately 10 people to
collaborate at the same time (there is also the possibility of broadcasting to a wider
audience though we did not end up using that facility). When the five groups started
their drama work on site this platform was also used for online interactions between
the participant school groups, even though high jumping the technical walls within
school educational platforms was not always easy.
There had been ongoing discussions about ways to set up a closed space for sharing
and interactions between school groups (for example through a Ning site) and many
of the students wanted to meet their ‘colleagues’ through social media. Students
could then engage in direct student-to-student communications. This was made
very difficult though because in Australian schools (and other countries) any sites
where students can collaborate with others outside their school education network
tend to be blocked (and cannot readily be unblocked). Social network sites such as
Facebook also tend to be blocked in schools. As educators we wished (and were
required to ethically) to use cyberspaces in manageable and responsible ways and so
in the end it was only the teachers and researchers who were posting to the shared
spaces. Students were involved in creating content but were not able to have
student-to-student contact outside of moderated sessions. Several live Google
hangouts allowed for collective sharing of work and that was highly engaging for
students.
Space for publishing and sharing creative work
As for the main ‘publishing’ spaces for the project, a web site served as the key
public space and gateway for the project. This was set up as a Weebly based website
(http://www.water-reckoning.net) one of the freely available tools that can be
edited by multiple editors. That had embedded within it content from multiple sites,
including the ‘Water Museum’ content which was actually hosted on another site
called PlaceStories (http://placestories.com). We selected that space, as it is a
platform that had been created by the community arts company Feral Arts as a
community story-sharing platform. It allows for the sharing by multiple users of key
content such as videos, audio, text and images, and for content to be geo-located
and viewed on a map. It is also possible to embed content from PlaceStories into
other sites. Several different projects were then created in PlaceStories and
facilitators on each site began experimenting with posting material that could be
regarded as predominantly ‘in-role’ content. As material was uploaded the most
recent content published was clearly evident in the project thumbnails (see Figure 4)
and so each group could review what had already been posted and consider ways to
‘roll’ the action forward. In a way, the pre-text or bank of dramatic materials grew
and kept rolling. Even now other groups could use that dramatic material as pre-
texts for other new processes.
Drama Research Vol. 5 No. 1 April 2014
Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
Figure 4 Screenshot of Water Museum thumbnails from PlaceStories
Other digital technologies were used in the creative process of documenting and
publishing the drama. Cameras, video cameras, iPads, iPhones and smartphones
were used by teachers, researchers and students to record their work; however it
was mainly the teachers, drama leaders and researchers who used the digital
technologies for recording and documenting.
The drama leader as editor and curator
The documenting and publishing of this digitally mediated material online also
meant there was a specific role to be carried out and while it could potentially be
taken on by students, in most cases students were most interested in participating in
the dramatic work itself. This brought to light an increasingly important role for the
teacher/leader; the teacher/researcher as editor and curator. While Heathcote
previously discussed roles such as teacher as actor, director and playwright, this
additional role was increasingly used by the teacher/researcher, who might set up
additional out-of-school photo shoots, or edit student work to create aesthetically
engaging products (beyond just uploading bulk footage from class work). This is a
further extension on the aspects of the drama leader’s role as described and
demonstrated by Haseman previously (Haseman 2001), highlighting the importance
of “… laying trails, weaving ideas together, sensing what the group wants” (Simons
2001: 234). The teacher/leader also plays an important role in selecting and curating
the work, drawing student attention to certain artifacts and texts that may have
been uploaded by others, and selecting and uploading work from their own group.
This process at times inspired other participant groups, providing cues that were
rolled into the ongoing process. Figure 5 shows an example of this kind of work and
its rolling results.
Drama Research Vol. 5 No. 1 April 2014
Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
Figure 5 Example of 'rolling' within the content created
See video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vBuTi4pX3o and PlaceStories postcards
http://placestories.com/story/139467 and http://placestories.com/story/139523
Concluding comments
The experience of creating and enacting the Water Reckoning project, considered in
the light of prior documentation regarding Rolling Role, has affirmed and informed
understanding about contemporary applications of the model. Certainly the Rolling
Role model is one that is worth revisiting and continuing to reinvigorate as a useful
integrating strategy. It offers great potential for collaborative creative work
between teachers in one school, but also for cross-site and international
collaboration. Our work confirmed certain principles as identified by Heathcote’s and
her collaborators and extended upon them.
We would affirm the value of finding a central context that may be explored through
at least three different frames including past, present and future with a connection
to a contemporary context where a decision must be made. Coming up with those
different overlapping frames and a common point of tension takes time and will
require discussion and negotiation when multiple participants are involved. From
our experience, which also concurs with examples from the Heathcote archives, it is
very important to find or create high quality, aesthetically charged dramatic
materials. These may include video, music and objects that serve to engage the
emotions and the senses. The aesthetic power of Jason deCaires Taylor pre-text, the
music selected and associated artifacts helped capture the imagination of
participants (initially those planning the process, and then the student participants)
and enabled them to engage and build commitment to the process.
Another point we would like to make is that the rolling nature of the process is
ongoing, beginning from the planning phases and involves ongoing interactions and
responses from collaborators. The planning and implementation of such projects
Drama Research Vol. 5 No. 1 April 2014
Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
requires considerable effort and careful attention to high selectivity, sequencing,
reflection and responsive action.
Once the parameters for the context have been created, as the work unfolds,
participating groups need to share and publish material and ensure they respond to
and ‘roll’ with aspects from the work of others. Online sites now offer up the ideal
opportunity for publication and interaction to occur between multiple groups, and
for collaboration across sectors and national boundaries. The use of technology for
recording, editing, publishing and sharing drama work was important with students
reporting that they enjoyed new creative possibilities and opportunities to share
their work. We further note that the facilitator or teacher has an important role to
play as an editor and curator, selecting and weaving together materials and
experiences.
Finally we could concur with Heathcote’s belief, that the Rolling Roll model is well
suited to collaborative learning, sharing and implementation through using web-
based technologies. There are many different ways that Rolling Role can be further
explored and experimented with in the future, by one teacher/facilitator across
multiple classes, by multiple teacher/facilitators based at one site, or across multiple
sites. As with much of Heathcote’s work, there is a solid foundation to be found in
her praxis and writing about this concept. The early work by Heathcote and her
students has now been complemented by this recent iteration and together they
provide models and materials which will stimulate ongoing reflection,
reinterpretation, creative practice and research.
Acknowledgements
The Water Reckoning Project team
Sue Davis (Project Coordinator and Queensland, Australia site), Angelina Ambrosetti
and Glenn Taylor (Qld Australis), Xenia Simou (Greece), Prue Wales, Mei Yee Chang
and Jeffrey Tan (Singapore), Chris Hatton, Jenny Nicholls, Mary Mooney and Julian
Kennard (NSW, Australia), Jen Kulik (USA), Pamela Bowell (Project initiator), with
input and advice from Paul Sutton and Max Allsup (C&T, UK) and John O'Toole
(Australia).
Thank you also to John Rainer and The Heathcote Archives, Manchester
Metropolitan University.
Drama Research Vol. 5 No. 1 April 2014
Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
References
Bowell, P., and Heap, B. (2005) Drama on the Run: A Prelude to Mapping the
Practice of Process Drama. Journal of Aesthetic Education. 39(4). 58-69.
Bowell, P., and Heap, B. (2013) Planning Process Drama: Enriching Teaching and
Learning. Abingdon: Routledge.
Bryer, T. (1990) Dorothy Heathcote's Mantle of the Expert and Rolling Role: A
personal Account of two historic conferences held earlier this year. Drama
Broadsheet. 7(3:Winter). 2-7.
Davison, M., Cochrane, I., and Berwick, N. (1990) Rolling Role. Manchester:
Heathcote Archive.
Haseman, B. (1991) Improvisation, Process Drama and Dramatic Art. London Drama.
July. 19-21.
Haseman, B. (2001a) The 'Leaderly' Process Drama and the Artistry of 'Rip, Mix and
Burn'. Paper presented at the Playing Betwixt and Between: The IDEA Dialogues.
Bergen, Norway.
Heathcote, D. (2002) Contexts for active learning - Four models to forge links
between schooling and society. Paper presented at the NATC, Birmingham. Available
at: http://www.moeplanning.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/dh-contexts-for-
active-learning.pdf
Heathcote, D., and Bolton, G. (1995) Drama for learning: Dorothy Heathcote's
Mantle of the Expert approach to education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Heathcote, D., and Mills, C. A. (1993) Rolling Role & the National Curriculum.
Newcastle Upon Tyne: Audio Visual Centre, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Heston, S. (1994) The Dorothy Heathcote Archive. Vol 2. (PhD). Manchester
Metropolitan University.
Johnson, L., and O'Neill, C. (Eds.) (1984) Dorothy Heathcote: Collected writings on
education and drama. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press.
Kerley, J. (1993) A study of drama as a teaching method in the context of experiential
learning theories. Master in Letters thesis: Trinity College, University of Dublin,
Ireland.
McAra, D. (1984) A Rolling Role. 2D: Drama & Dance. 3(2). 3-23.
Mills, C. A. (1989-90) Rolling Role notes. [Box of materials labeled Rolling Role
originals’. This document was with others related to planning the series of Rolling
Role tapes]. Manchester: Heathcote Archive.
O'Neill, C. (1995). Drama Worlds: A framework for Process Drama. Portsmouth:
Heinemann.
Simons, J. (2001) Following the Leader: An Observation of the Work of Brad
Haseman on 'Leaderly' Process Drama. Paper presented at the Playing Betwixt and
Between: The IDEA Dialogues, Bergen, Norway.
Taylor, P. (Ed.). (1995) Pre-Text and Storydrama: The artistry of Cecily O’Neill and
David Booth. Brisbane: National Association for Drama in Education (NADIE).
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DC: National Education Association of the United States.
.
Drama Research Vol. 5 No. 1 April 2014
Article 11 Revisiting Heathcote’s Rolling Role model through the Water Reckoning project
Notes on Authors
Sue Davis is Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, Central Queensland
University. She is a writer/director and professional learning consultant with
expertise and experience in facilitating creative projects and community
engagement. Her research and creative practice interests include exploring the ways
that creative processes (including digital technologies and drama processes) can be
used for engagement and learning. Sue regularly presents at national and
international conferences and has had a number of book chapters and refereed
articles published. She has also written curriculum and assessment materials for
syllabus and assessment projects and sits on the Queensland Studies Authority state
panel for Senior Drama and the Learning Advisory Reference Committee for The
Arts.
Central Queensland University
PO Box 1128
Noosaville 4566
AUSTRALIA
s.davis@cqu.edu.au
Polyxeni Simou is from Greece. She holds a degree in Greek literature and ancient
theatre and a MSc in Drama in Education (Trinity College, Dublin). She is a secondary
school teacher and organises school theatre groups. Her main interest is in
drama/theatre pedagogy. She is a facilitator in workshops on Drama in Education
and has delivered papers at a variety of conferences. She played an integral role in
the Water Reckoning project.
4th Lyceum of P. Faliro
Secondary Education, Ministry of Education
12, Kartsivani and Hariton Str.
17564, P.Faliro
GREECE
xeniasimou@hotmail.com
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... In the 1990s, Heathcote realised the potential of this model in the emerging technological age. This wider project took up the challenge of using digital tools and virtual platforms to share dramatic inquiry and content across sites for the purposes of fostering new understandings about drama and sustainability (Hatton, Mooney and Nicholls 2014;Davis and Simou 2014;Davis 2016;Hatton, Mooney and Nicholls 2016). As the first project of its kind in the field of drama education, this international project trialled new ways of teaching, learning and collaborating, blending the real and the virtual, the 'live' and the digital. ...
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Planning Process Drama: Enriching Teaching and Learning Dorothy Heathcote's Mantle of the Expert and Rolling Role: A personal Account of two historic conferences held earlier this year
  • P Bowell
  • B Heap
Bowell, P., and Heap, B. (2013) Planning Process Drama: Enriching Teaching and Learning. Abingdon: Routledge. Bryer, T. (1990) Dorothy Heathcote's Mantle of the Expert and Rolling Role: A personal Account of two historic conferences held earlier this year. Drama Broadsheet.
Improvisation, Process Drama and Dramatic Art
  • B Haseman
Haseman, B. (1991) Improvisation, Process Drama and Dramatic Art. London Drama. July. 19-21.
Paper presented at the Playing Betwixt and Between: The IDEA Dialogues. Bergen, Norway. Heathcote, D. (2002) Contexts for active learning -Four models to forge links between schooling and society. Paper presented at the NATC
  • B Haseman
Haseman, B. (2001a) The 'Leaderly' Process Drama and the Artistry of 'Rip, Mix and Burn'. Paper presented at the Playing Betwixt and Between: The IDEA Dialogues. Bergen, Norway. Heathcote, D. (2002) Contexts for active learning -Four models to forge links between schooling and society. Paper presented at the NATC, Birmingham. Available at: http://www.moeplanning.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/dh-contexts-for-active-learning.pdf Heathcote, D., and Bolton, G. (1995) Drama for learning: Dorothy Heathcote's Mantle of the Expert approach to education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Rolling Role & the National Curriculum
  • D Heathcote
  • C A Mills
Heathcote, D., and Mills, C. A. (1993) Rolling Role & the National Curriculum. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Audio Visual Centre, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
The Dorothy Heathcote Archive
  • S Heston
Heston, S. (1994) The Dorothy Heathcote Archive. Vol 2. (PhD). Manchester Metropolitan University.
Dorothy Heathcote: Collected writings on education and drama
  • L Johnson
  • O' Neill
Johnson, L., and O'Neill, C. (Eds.) (1984) Dorothy Heathcote: Collected writings on education and drama. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press.
A study of drama as a teaching method in the context of experiential learning theories Master in Letters thesis: Trinity College
  • J Kerley
Kerley, J. (1993) A study of drama as a teaching method in the context of experiential learning theories. Master in Letters thesis: Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland. McAra, D. (1984) A Rolling Role. 2D: Drama & Dance. 3(2). 3-23.
-90) Rolling Role notes. [Box of materials labeled 'Rolling Role originals'. This document was with others related to planning the series of Rolling Role tapes
  • C A Mills
Mills, C. A. (1989-90) Rolling Role notes. [Box of materials labeled 'Rolling Role originals'. This document was with others related to planning the series of Rolling Role tapes]. Manchester: Heathcote Archive.