Drama for Learning

Interrogating the World: “The keys are given, but we don’t know which door…”

In the 1996 Interactive Research Conference at UCE, Dorothy asked delegates to define the “building blocks” of teaching through drama. The conference itself was given a fictional context: the idea was that participants were preparing an application for a grant, to found a new school based on Dorothy’s work.

Groups at the conference presented their ideas for “building blocks.” This was Dorothy’s response to one group’s work:

It seems to me what you're exemplifying there is the notion that children should interrogate the world; and that possibly the teacher then has a new view of how to present material, what material to present, in what way to present it, so that they shall interrogate constantly the world.

The trouble is, when you work with children in that way, they become very difficult for teachers who want them not to ask any questions. And one of your problems then - your colleagues, then: “These kids are worse for working with you!” - and you're supposed to be the one that's taming them and, you know, whipping them in.

And this will be a basic difference in our school. Instead of information given, there will be puzzles of all kinds, carefully presented so that interrogation is not a game only, but a fruitful exploration that builds better, more detailed, more understood and comprehended interrogations. ‘Cos it seems to me I live my life that way. I'm constantly interrogating things, whether it's a novel I'm reading, a painting I'm looking at, material I’m choosing, or children I’m teaching. And maybe interrogation is really one of the important building blocks …

The keys are given, but we don’t know which door. In working with children, we give them the keys to start to cope, but we don't know what will be behind the door they find, in that sense, of their understanding.

[From an unpublished transcript of the Interactive Research Conference. Photo from the 1996 event.] 

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