Saturday, August 25, 2007

Productive Tension

One of the many elements of Dorothy Heathcote's Mantle of the Expert approach that can inspire all sorts of lessons, not just those which utilize drama-for-learning methods, is her concept of productive tension.

Heathcote identifies levels of engagement in process drama activities in the classroom, that might be worth considering for learning activities in general. The levels are


Productive obsession--how often do our lesson plans engage our students to this level?

This idea of productive obsession reminds me of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's ideas of flow pronounced in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. In his Introduction this concept is described:

The optimal state of inner experience is one in which there is order in
consciousness. This happens when psychic energy--or attention--is invested
in realistic goals, and when skills match the opportunities for action. "Flow"
is the way people describe their state of mind when consciousness is harmoniously
ordered, and they want to pursue whatever they are doing for its own sake.
It seems much of school is managing to bring students to the level of attention and sometimes interest. Surely, the power of educational drama is a great means by which to deepen students' engagement.
But we can't always be in a drama process. The challenge is to devise lessons that are so relevant to students that the levels of involvement, concern, and commitment are reached and then the level of productive obsession hoped for.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Battery Recharge #2: A Li'l PD

Personally, this has been one of the toughest summers for relaxing. Not to bore you with the number of homestead projects (painting, gardening, fixing, fixing, fixing, and a guerrilla war on some surreptitious carpenter ants) or the number of academic ones (lecture presentations, editing textbooks, and curriculum writing), let's just say I'm not getting much of a tan.

Still when I had the chance to work for three days in "A Seminar with Dorothy Heathcote" at The Ohio State University's Department of Teaching and Learning, I backed my bags and headed for Columbus and some professional development in the realms of process drama and "mantle of the expert." Dorothy Heathcote, internationally renowned for pioneering work in educational applications of drama, is indefatigable as she is inspirational. Three days running at on hot August days at OSU, after a week at my alma mater NYU, she was raring to go as the forty of us students were ready for our naps.

I've been using process drama for the past 14 years and have always wanted to know more from the grand dam herself. Indeed it was a very worthwhile trip . . . and will take some time to make sense of the whirlwind of ideas and stories and structures shared.

Before I sift through my notes and recordings, I want to simply pause to reflect on how different the worlds of dramacraft and I.T. are. One as ancient as the first story, one momently emerging. Yet, imagine the mashups that could come about in putting the two together!--as students can not only capture their dramatic expression in media but also share them in a vast forum. Moving from the very private integral audience of process drama outward to product. Indeed their are possibilities, but I am wary of the price to be paid of moving in that direction necessarily. Some things are better--indeed precious--when left unpublished. Process drama might be one of them.

This leads me to weigh other processes, such as the writing process, and in fact, the learning process. Sometimes publishing process means a tombstone or albatross.

P.S. When I titled this, I meant PD as in professional development. But I suppose "process drama" works, too. PD on pd.