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[Xmca-l] Re: Response to Spoilsport: Beyond oppositional dualities in drama in education and dialogic pedagogy to promote learning possibilities
Dear Sue and Brian and all,
First – thanks for taking the time and effort to respond to my paper. I take your response very seriously. I have some questions for clarification and also some more comments regarding what I think is a “paradigmatic difference” – rather than an arbitrary dichotomy between the two approaches to education that I outlined in my paper.
Please see my responses below, between your words - in blue!
On Feb 29, 2016, at 1:09 AM, Susan Davis <email@example.com> wrote:
As scholars and practitioners committed to the use of drama for educational purposes we wish to respond briefly to Ana Marjanovic-Shane’s article: “Spoilsport” in drama in education vs. dialogic pedagogy. Our intention is to provide some of our shared professional understanding of drama’s use in educational contexts that we hope will illuminate some of the misunderstandings we find in this article. At the same time, we look forward to future productive dialogue about what we regard as potential overlaps between these pedagogical approaches.
We need to stress from the start that there is no unified field named ‘drama in education’ that would extend to those who work within playworlds, or practice psychodrama and so forth as claimed by Marjanovic-Shane. We confine our remarks to the field that we are knowledgeable about and from which Marjanovic-Shane draws her example: a classroom use of drama described by Heathcote as ‘drama in education’ or ‘educational drama’ and more recently as process drama, applied theatre, and dramatic inquiry, among other terms. In fact these fields of practice have arisen from very different communities in progressive school education, educational psychology, early childhood, and play all of whom independently discovered the power of using drama in their practice. There have only recently been some nascent interactions between these groups (see for example the book ‘Dramatic Interactions in Education’ <http://www.bloomsbury.com/au/dramatic-interactions-in-education-9781472576 910/> which we published last year) to find areas of common interest and concern.
ANA: Yes! This is what I also addressed in my article: I defined “Drama in Education” for the purposes of my article exactly that way – many different approaches “all of whom independently discovered the power of using drama in their practice”.
As with those who identify with the field of ‘dialogic pedagogy’ we look forward to more fruitful discussions and debates about research, practice and approaches which work for the benefit of students and participants in learning processes.
There is no space in this response to show in detail why we resist the dichotomy established in this article, believing such are rarely helpful. However, we do can not agree with Marjanovic-Shane’s conclusion that any dramatic pedagogy cannot be dialogic or that there are irreconcilable paradigmatic differences between these pedagogical approaches.
In our view, she is correct in identifying that a pre-requisite for using drama in classrooms is an implicit, if not explicit, agreement to play the “game of drama” and in effect to begin to create an ensemble and enter into social worlds. However, rather than characterizing such social agreement as somehow different from real life, we argue that there is little difference from the tacit agreement to join in the “social drama” of everyday life (Turner, 1974), as for example university students do by agreeing to participate in a discussion. However drama has the additional sphere of possibility that can be physically and conceptually explored through the activation of ‘what if’ in action.
Unlike discussion, drama is a social art that can only be created when a group comes together willingly to collaborate in dramatizing life events. There is indeed a consensus but only about agreeing to work together or to focus dramatizing on a particular storyline, topic, or concern; there is no consensus assumed about the meaning of the work.
Ana: In my view – there are several planes (or to use Bakhtin’s concept - “chronotopes”) of meaning making in all educational events. Above, you are referring to two of them: a) group relationships and group dynamics of the co-authors: “when a group comes together willingly to collaborate in dramatizing life events”; and b) “meaning making” – I assume that you refer here to what each participant understands about the created dramatic world.
I want to stress that in my article I was describing precisely these group relationships rather than the participants’ understanding of an imaginary dramatic world. What I claim in my article is that there are fundamentally different group relationships, i.e. that the pedagogical chronotope (not the dramatic world) in which the participants of drama in education live, is fundamentally different from the pedagogical chronotope in which the participants of dialogic pedagogy live. In drama in education, the consensus about “dramatizing on a particular storyline, topic, or concern”- is necessary in order to build this particular dramatization. On the other hand, in dialogic pedagogy such consensus about what is "a particular storyline, topic or concern" – is not necessary at all. In fact, I claim that the most productive and the most welcome aspect of dialogic pedagogy is the very dissent about what is being “discussed” in the first place.
Using drama in a classroom does not assume that a student cannot choose not to join in or cannot opt out at any point. Participants may present or raise different views that may be addressed dialogically. Agreeing to join in is not an experience of being “trapped” by a teacher with no exit in sight.
Ana: I would respectfully disagree here. This phrase and understanding of what should be taking place in drama in education, comes directly from Dorothy Heathcote. I actually just quoted her in my paper: “The proper tools of drama are emotional reaction and the state of being trapped, a state from which one can escape only by working through the situation.” (Heathcote, Collected writings on drama in education, 1984, p. 91, italics mine).
Nor does it mean that a teacher would label someone a “spoilsport” to be “cast out.” We have conducted many practical sessions when not only have people chosen to sit out, some of whom have later chosen to join in, but we have protected young people from others in a group ready to “discipline” them.
Ana: My arguments about the explicit and implicit values of the drama in education approach are actually based exactly on this point: In my view, if a person is under a threat of being “disciplined” just because they disagree with the majority – either by openly opposing their opinions, or their ways of acting, or by withdrawing collaboration, and if such opposition is not supported and addressed by the teacher as a legitimate and a serious bid to differ – then the group regime and the pedagogical approach are, in fact, not dialogic, but rather monologic and, yes, authoritarian! If a teacher has to protect someone from the others in a group that wants to “discipline” him/her, then the group values that prevail are based on “who ever is not with us – is against us”. Doesn’t that mean that there is no active pedagogical support of dissensus?
Just as a person who does not join a theatre group cannot create a performance, or a preschool child choosing not to play with others may engage in other activities, not participating in drama just means that a person cannot contribute at that time to the collaborative creation of events in an imagined world.
Ana: Exactly! Thus this person’s ideas, reasons, points of view, desires, values, etc. are not pedagogically engaged. This person is NOT within the pedagogical scope of this approach. This is, actually, what means to be “cast out” from a pedagogical event – the person is just NOT IN. They are OUT. Moreover, this is also often interpreted as that person’s (bad) choice! (As you say — “a preschool child choosing not to play.”)
Marjanovic-Shane uses a highly selective video extract from a 1971 drama session featuring the master teacher Dorothy Heathcote to infer that Heathcote dragoons students into a drama within which their choices and alternative views are closed down. However, as O’Neill shared in the keynote address Power-sharing: Teacher power and student choices, where she describes another more recent 2007 drama conducted in the U.S., Heathcote worked with all major offers children made, never adopting an authoritarian position but asking participants to consider the consequences of their actions. When a group of boys invented a bomb which ‘blew’ up a celebratory event in a drama, Heathcote said: “There is nothing we do in this room that isn’t happening somewhere in the world” (Heathcote in O’Neill 2014, p 26). Even though others in the room were horrified and expected her to castigate the boys involved, Heathcote respected and worked with the material they offered, drawing out significance, considering the implications and working dialogically with very alternative views from her own.
Ana: Since you describe it, I want to briefly analyze this case — Heathcote’s 2007 drama workshop in NYC. In my view, it actually presents more evidence for the hypothesis I developed in my article. (I am attaching O’Neil’s keynote address to this e-mail - for the curious ones)
In my analysis of the event you outlined above (fully described by O’Neil), three major questions/comments come to mind:
1) First: If in Drama in Education approach students can dialogically contribute to creating an imaginary world (as you claim) – offering their own opinions, ideas and positions, then why would a teacher ever be in a situation to “castigate students for their actions” – in the first place? What was “wrong” with “blowing up a celebratory event” in the imaginary world? Why were the others in the room [graduate students who observed Dorothy’s master class] horrified? Shouldn’t the spectators be actually very curious about this sudden turn of the events in the imaginary world, which at that point is being truly collaboratively created?
2) Second, O’Neil's very detailed and documented description of Heathcote’s workshop in 2007 - testifies to a subversive resistance of the several boys – and their constant attempts to resist Dorothy’s pre-set plan of this imaginary world. This unacknowledged, yet very felt resistance, at the end of the workshop lead to their “sabotage” of Dorothy’s invented world – by “blowing it up”. As O’Neil writes:
“One of the graduate students noted in her journal:
Noel and his buddies are constantly scheming and plotting and indulging in behaviour which some teachers might consider destructive. However it’s clear to me that their purpose is not to destroy or sabotage the work but to remain within the rules which have already have been established.” (O”Neil, Power sharing – teacher power and student’s choices, 2014, p. 20, italics mine)
My questions/comments here are about the legitimacy of the students’ genuine contributions to making of the imaginary world. From the testimony of an observer (a graduate student), it seems that the boys’ contributions were limited to Dorothy’s pre-set frame, and that their attempts to change that imaginary frame were in fact not legitimate for the students - but perceived as “constant scheming and plotting and indulging in behavious which some teachers might consider destructive". That is exactly what I claimed in my article.
3) Finally, O’Neil also describes how Dorothy reacted to this imaginary bomb:
“But Dorothy took this moment and grounded it in reality. As the bomb happened Heathcote’s response was:
Just now you have echoed an interview I heard on your local radio this very day, with a young Muslim radical. He said, ‘I will kill when the Mullah tells me. It will be the will of Allah. I do not care who will die.’” (p. 95)
In my analysis, Dorothy’s reaction in that moment was extremely angry and punitive. She addresses the boys not any more within the imaginary world, but “grounded in reality.” She compares them — the 8th grade boys — to the terrorists, who could say “I do not care who will die”. Thus, she openly blames the boys for what they did to “her world” - they destroyed it. They were spoilsports!
However, in spite the fact that Dorothy compared the acts of these 8th grade boys within a dramatic world to the actual terrorists - meaning it FOR REAL (grounded in reality), everyone (grad students, other drama educators, Cecily O’Neil, etc.) praises Heathcote!! They praise her for not “telling the students off”, for being able to withhold her anger and her outright punishment. No one is taken aback with her anger which shows its dark face in her aggressive and vindictive dubbing the boys as “young Muslim radicals who can say - I do not care who will die” — dubbing them not as fictional characters in the play — but “grounded in reality”!!!
I think that the actual “chronotope” of drama in education pedagogy calls for being “horrified” with such an open dissent and calls for some kind of “castigating the boys”.
As you say further:
Marjanovic-Shane assumes that a teacher’s authority in drama is authoritarian and that a leader of drama is in danger of becoming a fascist dictator. Whilst it is certainly possible for a teacher to misuse her authority oppressively or with very limited choice for how people might participate (as in the Ron Jones simulation example she uses which has never been seen as a lighthouse model of drama in education)
Ana: yes, I do.
that is never our intention nor would it be endorsed in the literature. It is true that at times Heathcote can quite rightly be described as acting in ‘authoritative’ roles within dramatic contexts, but she fiercely resisted pressures to take on authoritarian teacher positions.
Ana: I respectfully disagree -- the case above does not support your assumption.
Indeed, Heathcote (1984) herself is quite clear that as a teacher she intends to “bring power to my students and to draw on their power” (p.21). Heathcote saw the teacher’s role as one that should not bully or take away power from others, but rather that should enable them to develop their agency. Her commitment to endowing power and agency to others is shared through an interesting insight in her paper Contexts for Active Learning. Here Heathcote revealed that her drama and teaching strategies were all developed so she would never have to be in a position to “tell people off” (Heathcote, 2002, p.1). However, counter to many romanticised notions of an open, free for all classroom, this version of the democratized classroom was not a hands-off model with students making all the decisions. Rather, she envisions a classroom with episodes that were highly interventionist and carefully structured. These often involved provocations and active negotiations, with Heathcote playing multi-functional roles, constantly selecting and making decisions, but always working to ensure that the students were invested, contributing, and collaboratively developing work that would be meaningful in multiple ways for all participants.
Ana: I agree with you that Heathcote was a master in creating very intricate, multilayered, and incredibly complex worlds in which she would involve the students in very collaborative and meaningful ways. I also agree that there is a lot of room for creativity in such a setting, and especially when Dorothy Heathcote created it, since she herself was incredibly creative in making the fictional worlds for the students. But, these dramatic worlds were HER worlds – not the students’ worlds. The students were welcome – but they were never co-authors of these worlds as “consciousnesses of equal rights” - among whom a meaningful dialogue can happen. Their contributions to these worlds were appreciated by her only as long as they agreed with Dorothy’s own vision. The students were invited to explore and investigate Dorothy’s worlds – but not to co-create them as equals and co-authors. In that sense, dialogues within these worlds were dialogues of “the heroes”, who were invented and created by Dorothy as an author – I draw here on Bakhtin’s analysis of the author-hero relationships – where the author is the one who has a “surplus of vision” and knows more than his/her characters. Because of that, a genuine authorial contribution of a student is limited, and the students’ own positions, ideas, desires, values, intentions, etc. – are not examined as such: they can only serve in the function of creating this dramatic word – of which they are not the owners. The focus, in other words, is not on what the students genuinely think, understand, desire, value, etc., and why, but the focus is on how well has this imaginary world been built. Can the students learn in that situation. Of course. Can they critically test their own ideas, values, desires, postions? Perhaps, but it is out of the focus and scope of the dramatic world.
Heathcote intended not just to create dramatic experiences but also to create spaces in which all might dialogue and reflect to explore for multiple possible meanings in the work: “If you cannot increase the reflective power in people you might as well not teach, because reflection is the only thing that in the long run changes anybody” (Ibid, p. 104). Finally, Heathcote was emphatic that all participants in drama, “be recognized fully as individuals with rights [including] the power to affect a situation, and to respond in a growing complexity of ways to that situation” (Ibid, p. 153).
It is unfortunate that the Spoilsport article seeks to compare examples of praxis in an apples and oranges way to draw out unwarranted generalizations about all drama in education. She compares examples of teaching on different topics, for different purposes, and with access to very different data: a short segment of a 45 year old videoed drama with children is compared to an extended sequence of exchanges and events in a higher education institution taught recently by the author. The drama example analyzed is a brief extract from the first few minutes of a BBC film about Dorothy Heathcote made for commercial not educational purposes. Missing from the film is all of Heathcote’s out-of-role negotiations and reflections with these children all of whom had been labeled as “delinquent” and had in effect been “cast out” into this special school for youth.
Marjanovic-Shane misses the point that Heathcote was playing with the children, including through her early use of power in role, not to force them to do what they did not want to do but rather the reverse. Marjanovic-Shane further assumes that in drama, participants do not “test their own ideas their truths” and that teachers do not seek out or value “dissensus.” Yet that was Heathcote’s aim as it is ours. Heathcote’s intention in this session was to work with the children to create fictional experiences in which by working together the boys were not only able to work out ways in which they might outwit an authoritarian regime represented by her in role as a Nazi officer but further to reflect on an issue of importance to them: why might someone choose to dissent by becoming an informant and a collaborator?
Marjanovic-Shane assumes that the purpose of drama in education is to “socialize” participants whereas dialogic pedagogy seeks to “deepen critical examinations of any aspect of life.” Whilst socialization may be a declared or implicit purpose there are drama practitioners across decades of work who would also share Marjanovic-Shane’s aim and who have extensively documented how participants working with a teacher may engage in extensive critical cultural analysis of how power operates in society (e.g. Medina & Campano, 2006; Enciso, 2011; O’Connor & Anderson, 2015).
In summary, the explicit premise of Marjanovic-Shane’s argument is that drama work is non-dialogic because participants must participate in making a fictional world, which appears to be on the teachers’ terms. This is an ill-informed representation of drama’s potential in the classroom. Decades of documentation and analysis would show otherwise . Marjanovic Shane seems to dismiss the imagined possibilities that can be explored through drama and unwilling to engage in dialogue about the different ways that drama could in fact be dialogic. Rather than being restricted to dialogue in the ‘real’ world with people sharing critical views, participants in drama can collaboratively test out multiple alternatives to what seems ‘real’ and fixed. In drama everyone can contribute dialogically to create different possible versions of reality, multiple possible outcomes, alternative viewpoints, and new understandings.
Ana: Dear Sue and Brian, I respectfully disagree that in drama in education “everyone can contribute dialogically to create different possible versions of reality, multiple possible outcomes, alternative viewpoints, and new understandings.” If that were the case, a production of a dramatic world could actually never be achieved. A dialogic contribution means having a freedom to bring different and often opposing points of view, testing ideas, exploring these divergences in these points of view, at any point of time, being ready to deconstruct everything and start from scratch, and with every one participants’ contribution and voice having an equal right to be heard and to be taken seriously. Agreement (between the participants and especially with the teacher) is not the the condition for participation in a critical dialogue – in fact, if agreement happens, it may be the end of the dialogue. Dialogic contribution is about deconstruction of the positions and points of view. In this process, imaginary, “what if” scenarios are always there. They are necessary for exploring all possibilities, finding limits and boundaries, etc. But they are used for analysis and deconstruction. And every new deconstruction is welcomed as an opportunity to move the boundaries of the existing truths and meanings. This is simply not the case in drama in education – where the boundaries and frames of ONE imaginary world have to stand firm – in order for that world to even begin to live. As the boys in Dorothy’s last workshop showed – when you “bomb” people in their dramatic world which is about celebrating life in a peaceful vineyard – you just change the whole meaning (and intent) of that story! For a drama in education project – this is devastating (according to everyone’s testimony!!) But not for a dialogic pedagogy approach.
Finally, I want to make a remark about the cases I used in my article to analyze the two approaches to education. You said they are like appleas and oranges!! I agree. It is because they come from to different paradigms. They cannot be compared, and there is no middle ground between them. They are not parallel, nor two poles of a continuum. Nor are they a dichotomy. It is like a geocentric and a heliocentric view of the universe. The trajectory of a planet in one and the other are not, in fact comparable – Mars’ trajectory based in the geocentric paradigm does not make any sense in the heliocentric paradigm. And the other way around. They cannot be compared. But – in order to describe these two educational paradigms, I sought the most prominent cases, where the cases themselves provide the evidence of the pedagogical philosophies that lie in their roots. The comparison is not between the cases, but between the pedagogical principles and philosophies. They start with different premisses about the role of the imaginary in our learning and development, with different chronotopes in the main focus: “imaginary” in the drama in education vs. reality in dialogic pedagogy; and they legitimize different ways that teachers and students can relate to and address each other, i.e. - they start from different kinds of inter-subjectivity that is appropriate within each approach.
Here I actually added more evidence to my article by briefly analyzed the case of Dorothy’s 2007 workshop – the one that you brought in. I could not see what you see: I found the same philosophy (I outlined in my paper) based on achieving consensus necessary for “suspending belief” in constructing the imaginary world, which is pre-planned by the teacher. I also found that the boys’ opposition to the teacher, in this “master class” had to be subterranean: the boys have found ways to smuggle this opposition into the imaginary world itself - because they could not legitimately address their disagreement with Dorothy’s frame without being “cast out” - i.e. told to stay out of it if they don’t want to play (the way that Dorothy meticulously prepared it). Everyone including Dorothy was aware of their deep non-cooperation, masked as various attempts to push and stretch her pre-arranged world. But no one addressed their opposition seriously – no one tried to find out what were these boys opposing, what did they find wrong with this world that Dorothy so meticulously prepared for them. No one tried to find out their true point of view, and how would they create a dramatic world, if at all! – if they were asked. It was a cat-and-mouse game – until it exploded as a bomb on the last day.
Thanks for great references you provided! I am attaching O’Neil’s keynote address here for those who are interested in the intricate and incredibly interesting dynamic of this late workshop conducted by Dorothy. I personally admire Dorothy’s ability, her creativity, her meticulousness, her magical performances in creating dramatic worlds, and her passion for what she was doing. And as I explained in my paper, too, there is a lot to gain from drama in education (in the wide sense)! It is very engaging, creative, authorial, and constructive. However, paradigmatically, it is different from critical dialogic pedagogy – in which the wildest and the most opposing positions are welcomed, and these diverse positions are collectively (yes, together!!) problematized and deconstructed – without any bind to jointly arrive too the same conclusion nor to agreement nor to build a unified world together.
The social and cultural power of drama is that people may change their views, understand more about themselves, others, and the world we live in. Surely that is what all good pedagogues would hope and desire.
Susan Davis and Brian Edmiston Central Queensland University & The Ohio State University firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Enciso, P. (2011). Storytelling in critical literacy pedagogy: Removing the walls between immigrant and non-immigrant youth. In H. Janks & V. Vasquez (Eds.) Special Issue: Critical Literacy Revisited: Writing as Critique for English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 10, 1, 21-40.
Heathcote, D. (1984). Collected writings on education and drama. L. Johnson & C. O’Neill (Eds.). Melbourne: Hutchinson.
Heathcote, D. (2002). Contexts for active learning - Four models to forge links between schooling and society. Paper presented at the NATD Annual Conference, Birmingham. http://www.moeplanning.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/dh-contexts-for-act ive-learning.pdf
Medina, C. & Campano, G. (2006). Performing Identities through Drama and Teatro Practices in Multilingual Classrooms. Language Arts, 83 (4), 332-341.
Turner, Victor (1974). Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.
O’Connor, P. & Anderson, M. (2015). Applied Theatre Research: Radical Departures. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.
O’Neill, C. (2014) Power-sharing: Teacher power and student choices. in P. Bowell, P & C. Lawrence (Eds), Heathcote Reconsidered - Conference Echoes (ebook), London: National Drama, 13-31