Humanizing Education with Dramatic Inquiry : In Dialogue with Dorothy Heathcote’s Transformative Pedagogy book cover
1st Edition

Humanizing Education with Dramatic Inquiry
In Dialogue with Dorothy Heathcote’s Transformative Pedagogy

ISBN 9781032216621
Published June 30, 2022 by Routledge
292 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Humanizing Education with Dramatic Inquiry provides a comprehensive rationale for why and how dramatic inquiry can be used by any teacher to humanize classroom communities and the subject areas being explored with students.

Written by teacher educators Brian Edmiston and Iona Towler-Evans, the book re-evaluates the radical humanizing dramatic enquiry pedagogy of British educator Dorothy Heathcote, as developed by the authors in their own teaching using her three approaches: Process Drama, Mantle of the Expert, and the Commission Model. Through scholarly yet practical analysis of extended examples drawn from their own classroom teaching, the volume demonstrates how teachers can collaborate with students of all ages, dispositions, presumed abilities, and cultural backgrounds to transform classroom life into a richly humanizing, curious, inquiring, imaginative community.

This book will appeal to educators and teacher educators not only those open to using drama pedagogies in classrooms and in therapy but also to those engaged in applied theatre. Additionally, it will interest those in literacy and education in general who are committed to inclusive, critical, antiracist, anti-oppressive, and artistic practices.

Table of Contents

1: Introduction

2: Humanizing Purposeful Dramatic Inquiry for Transformative Change

3: Humanizing the Worlds of Dramatic Inquiry

4: Process Drama, Mantle, and Commission Approaches to Dramatic Inquiry as a Humanizing Pedagogy

5: Humanizing Belonging with Dramatic Inquiry

6: The Humanizing Art of Dramatic Inquiry

7: Humanizing Storying in Dramatic Inquiry

8: Humanizing Transcendent Dialogue with Dramatic Inquiry

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Brian Edmiston is Professor of Drama as Education at The Ohio State University, USA. He is the author of four books, including Transforming Teaching and Learning with Active and Dramatic Approaches which received a CHOICE award for an outstanding academic title.

Iona Towler-Evans is a teacher and consultant in education, particularly in the use of Heathcote’s pedagogy, who has held a range of teaching and leadership positions in schools in the UK. She is the author of many articles and the book Routes to Revision.


This authoritative book is an astonishing achievement. Brought to life by these pioneers who worked with Heathcote, it is unquestionably the most comprehensive and thorough exposition yet of the work of the radical educator Dorothy Heathcote. Vividly illustrated by rich and detailed cameos of exemplars from the authors’ own practice and inspired by her revolutionary and transformative vision this book brings Heathcote’s legacy to life for today and tomorrow. Not for the dilettante nor for those who believe that cosmetic change or a few good tips for teachers will create a humane schooling system for the future, this book is a veritable arsenal of advocacy arguments for the converted. For the convertible, their ideas on teaching might well be radically changed by a deep read of this moving book.

-- John O’Toole, Honorary Professorial Fellow at University of Melbourne, Australia, and author of The Process of Drama: Negotiating Art and Meaning

Against policies of standardization, testing, and bureaucratization of learning, the authors make concrete how collective dramatic enactments resist such strictures and static disembodied activity, to rehumanize classroom spaces. In this framing, which extends Edmiston’s earlier work on dramatic inquiry, classroom drama is not merely a pedagogical tool to enhance instruction-as-usual, but a process that can transform subject matter learning, classroom culture, and the very nature of schooling. The authors ground this framing in their own intimate experiences with the pioneering work of Dorothy Heathcote, UK-based and internationally renowned drama educator. Though many have read accounts of Heathcote’s practices and impacts, this book showcases such contributions, extending them in ways that move classroom learning from "what is" and "what was" to "what if," illustrating how deep creative work with drama pedagogy can reframe the very nature of meaning-making and vision-building for young people in 21st century classrooms.

-- Steven Z. Athanases, Dolly and David Fiddyment Chair in Teacher Education; and Director, Center for Shakespeare in Diverse Classrooms, School of Education, University of California, Davis, USA

This book makes a compelling case for the urgent need to humanize education. The authors propose the kind of education that is active, collaborative and deeply worthwhile. They reject the dehumanizing assumption that teachers are mere transmission devices delivering an arid fact-based curriculum. Influenced by the pedagogy of that extraordinary educator Dorothy Heathcote, these persuasive accounts of their own practice introduce us to classrooms rich with imaginative transformations, dramatic encounters, purposeful inquiry, and meaningful reflection.

-- Cecily O’Neill, author of Dorothy Heathcote on Education and Drama: Essential Writings

What a terrific book!  Thinking through ideas captured here will enliven every teacher who believes that theatre, drama, and music will bring children a full sense of what it means to be fully human. This book shows how young people’s ways of being in the world can change as they dramatize and dialogue about events in the factual and fictionalized stories of others.

-- Shirley Brice Heath, Margery Bailey Professor of English and Dramatic Literature and Professor of Linguistics, Emerita, Stanford University, USA and author of Words at Work and Play: Three Decades in Family and Community Life

What if we saw classrooms as containing, always already, everything they needed for community, for deep inquiry and dialogue, and for playful storytelling? What if we re-conceived of formative education—deeply concerned with questions of value and meaning—as not moralizing to children but rather as artfully and critically producing imaginative worlds? What if teachers and children practiced moving seamlessly in and out of imaginary terrains through dramatic inquiry, thereby greatly expanding their repertoires for thinking and feeling? What if school became a world of what if’s? Read this book and find out. It’s a tour de force of joyful teaching and learning. 

-- Kevin M. Leander, Professor of Teaching and Learning, Vanderbilt University, USA

In this beautiful tapestry of a book, authors and educators Brian Edmiston and Iona Towler-Evans draw together strands from distinguished thinkers in the humanities and social sciences as varied as psychology, sociology, linguistics, and philosophy, place them in dialogue with the theory and classroom practice of educator Dorothy Heathcote, and incorporate their own thinking, planning, and classroom teaching. Humanizing Education with Dramatic Inquiry asks crucial questions about the core values embedded in school practices, roles, and relationships. It interrogates systems and routines that create and perpetuate inequities. Most important, it outlines and documents ways they use dramatic inquiry to engage students, promote dialogue, establish equitable roles and relationships, and lead them toward transformation and growth. For educators who want and need a full and complete theoretical framework and detailed examples of a humanizing pedagogy in the world of assessable standards, this is your book.

-- Eileen Landay, Director, ArtsLiteracy Project, Brown University, USA, and coauthor of Linking Literacy and the Arts: A Reason to Read

With an insistent, [com]passionate force that will compel your involvement, the analysis by Edmiston and Towler-Evans of their real-life classroom examples illustrates the inclusive, humanizing power of dramatic inquiry as an antidote to the dehumanizing "isms" that are all too common inside and outside our schools. Front and center is a commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice along with a humanizing dialogic teaching stance rooted in the values of fairness, respect, dignity, generosity, and care. They analyze extended projects that are both timely in their concerns and robust in their dialogic meaning-making across the interconnected dimensions of belonging, purpose, storying and transcending. Written in accessible language born of deep understanding and long experience, and with a keen eye for the minute particulars of the everyday that illuminate our humanity, the authors remind us of the need for joyful, caring, and inclusive relationships in education. We see how students may collaboratively and critically dialogue with one another and with the humanity of people in actual and imagined worlds. We learn how humanizing dramatic inquiry can develop a deep sense of belonging in spaces where it is safe and expected to explore other ways of seeing, doing, knowing, and being. We need this book.

-- Maureen Boyd, Professor of Learning and Instruction, University of Buffalo, USA

This important book draws on Heathcote’s groundbreaking theories to frame curriculum as emerging from the human condition and constituted by students and teachers interacting in lived experiences through dramatic inquiry. The authors illustrate this humanizing pedagogy through numerous, engaging classroom examples in which students move from the what is to the what if through imagining and making sense of alternative storylines and identities in unfolding drama events. I strongly recommend this book as a clear guide for teachers to employ dramatic inquiry for nurturing students’ growth for coping with emotions and ethical dimensions in their lives.

-- Richard Beach, Professor Emeritus of English Education, University of Minnesota, USA

This book makes a passionate case for the need to make education more human-centered. Its beauty lies in the examples drawn from Brian and Iona’s own work with young people tying theory to practice. The authors communicate the joy they experience in using dramatic inquiry. Movingly, they also show the transformative effect on young people’s lives. Though not intended to be a manual on how to teach through dramatic inquiry, you will find rich stories rooted in a vision of the future and told with urgency, intelligence, and hope.  

-- Dr David Allen, Artistic Director, Midland Actors Theatre. Convenor, Dorothy Heathcote Now conference.

Brian Edmiston and Iona Towler-Evans bring together a deep well of practice, thought, and reflection garnered from over four decades of work using Dorothy Heathcote’s dramatic-inquiry pedagogy. The result is a dynamic book full of insight and energy, pulling together ideas from diverse thinkers across education, philosophy, and psychology, and casting new light on Heathcote’s transformative approach to teaching and learning. 

-- Tim Taylor, author of A Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert: A Transformative Approach to Education

In the dynamic Humanizing Education with Dramatic Inquiry, Brian Edmiston and Iona Towler-Evans offer an expert, translational bridge between the ground-breaking drama as education practices of Dorothy Heathcote and current scholarship in just, equitable education. A must-read for individuals interested in drama pedagogy and humanizing transformation across educational contexts. 

-- Katryn Dawson, Associate Professor, Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities, University of Texas at Austin, USA

This highly accessible book would enhance any course, scholarly inquiry, or professional practice where the potential of the arts to create spaces of equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice is recognized. Written in the form of a critical dialogue between authors and readers about examples that illuminate the transformative pedagogy of Dorothy Heathcote, each chapter is an invitation to imagine different aspects of the power and potential of dramatic inquiry to humanize education.

-- Gustave Weltsek, Assistant Professor, Arts Education, Indiana University, USA

This book is a must read for educators, especially in the current corrosive state of education. The narratives in this compelling book illustrate how this innovative pedagogy begins with meeting young people where they are. Through dramatic inquiry approaches teachers explore with students what matters to them in the world around them. It is a beautiful reminder of the power of inquiry-centered education to activate young people to become more caring, trusting, curious, questioning, inclusive members of the global community.

-- Dr. Allison Volz, classroom teacher, Columbus City Schools