14 Oct 2011

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Renown drama educator farewelled

Creative New Zealand acknowledges the passing of an internationally acclaimed educator who revolutionised the teaching and learning of drama world-wide.

Adjunct Professor Dr Dorothy Heathcote (DLitt) MBE, is remembered as a teacher, academic and innovator in the area of education and drama. She has been credited with almost single-handedly changing the way in which educators think about and practice drama in secondary schools, including many in New Zealand.

Raised in England, Dr Heathcote had no formal training as a teacher, but pioneered a unique teaching method with the teacher shifting from being an instructor to becoming a coach, facilitator and fellow artist. Combined with Dr Heathcote’s deeply held mission to bring joy and challenge into learning, she recognised the empowerment that co-creative processes could offer learners. Her methods related to the use of drama in the curriculum, particularly the central concepts of 'role', 'mantle of the expert' and 'rolling role' which have inspired two generations of teachers and educationalists across the world.

Dr Heathcote began what would become a 60 year career, at Newcastle University, United Kingdom. She taught there for 36 years. In 1966 her work first appeared on film in Death of a President. She quickly became known to a much wider audience and began extensively travelling abroad to teach and lecture throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and Australasia. She also worked in borstals, residential care homes and learning centres for people with significant disability. In 1972 Dr Heathcote was featured in a documentary celebrating her work called Three Looms Waiting. Her biography was published in 2003.

Dr Heathcote was Patron of Drama New Zealand and visited New Zealand a number of times during the 1970s and 80s. She continued working with New Zealand educators, as recently as 2009 when, by video link, she presented at a conference of educators who advocated her ‘Mantle of the Exert’ approach to drama education.

Her accolades have been many, resulting in honorary doctorates from The University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the University of Derby in England; honours from and patronage of international professional bodies and in June this year she was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.