Forming a Team
In "Rolling Role," teachers work in self-chosen teams, sharing a selected core theme that suits their teaching areas.
Alternatively, Rolling Role can be used by an individual teacher, drawing upon a central theme for work with different classes - see below.
These are the "mandatory elements," as defined by Dorothy Heathcote:
Teams of teachers join in working from the same context. At secondary level, they teach through their own subject and use their own timetable. (In primary schools, each member of the team takes on an expertise in one of the teaching "domains.")
Specific classes are chosen who can benefit from the context. The age of the classes can vary as can the academic abilities. They are taught in the normal classrooms most of the time.
There needs to be a display area for all the classes to put up their work so teachers in the team can refer to progress and build upon the results from other class work. Teachers need to meet to discuss their plans so as to help each other and keep in touch with what is happening to the Rolling Role.
The three domains - and the "point of change"
The team of teachers selects a core element which connects three curriculum "domains" - Arts, Humanities and Science.
There is a shared context - and a point of change. Something is happening - a change, that links the work of the different classes. It introduces a concern - so the students become interested in what other classes are doing.
The point of change is continually referred to. Here is an example.
The central core might be: A Tudor mansion in large grounds.
The point of change: The mansion has been sold by the family, to pay death duties. It is going to be converted into a hotel.
This generates work which is related to all three domains: history, documentation, statistics, land usage, design, etc.
An example of a Rolling Role drama in a single subject
This is an example of an early “Rolling Role” project - which, in this case, involved two teachers working together, in a single subject (Drama).
In 1984, two teachers - Sally Pearse and Don McAra - were working in a secondary school, and facing the challenge of having to teach one class after another - meeting each class for just a short time, once or twice a week.
In this situation, as McAra observed, the teacher “can easily be trapped in a series of ‘one-off’ lessons which give no chance to class or teacher to become truly involved with the topic”.
Sally and Don consulted with Dorothy, who suggested that “if we could not have the timetable changed, that we might try a kind of ‘Rolling Drama’ situation which could be made to offer a wide range of points of entry”. There would be a simple storyline running through the different lessons.
This would create “a kind of continuity, even a logical coherence” for the teachers; and for the children, it would generate a sense of taking part in a larger project which was shared across the school.
The drama centred on plans to develop a new hydro-electric dam, which threatened the existence of some ancient rock paintings in caves on the site.
Dorothy suggested that there should be a “well set-up ‘Other’ or attention-arresting lure / display” for the whole project (see image). Each class took a different frame of point-of-view on the problem (engineers, anthropologists, etc.)
You can read Don McCara’s article about the project in the PDF file.
Curriculum Possibilities: How the context yields teaching material
Dorothy Heathcote wrote: “People and their lives always lie at the centre of Rolling Role.” She used "dendrites" to map out the curriculum possibilities in a project:
The dendrite system of thinking helps teachers discover a myriad of tasks arising from the context and their curriculum responsibilities. Often teachers tell me they lack the imagination to be inventive so that the doing of the tasks carries and invokes the learning goals.
Dendrite: “a stone or mineral with natural tree-like or moss-like markings” (From: Readers Digest Oxford Complete Word Finder).
Here is a dendrite which Dorothy produced for a project about a "Roman Britain Theme Park."