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.

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