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A Planning Model

The "Morwick Village" project was undertaken in 1985-6, by three teachers - Malcolm Davison, Ida Cochrane, and Norman Berwick, working with Dorothy Heathcote. (Dorothy called them the "Jarrow Three.")

The agreed point of change was the plan to convert the manor house, Challenor Hall, to a hotel. However, we might argue there was actually another point of change: the discovery of a skeleton, buried under the marble floor in a "folly" in the grounds of the Hall...

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According to the original plan, there were three main strands / domains: Manor House / Village / Fresco Festival (see image). In the Archive, there are three planning charts for the project, which all appear to relate to one domain - the "Manor House":

1. MANOR HOUSE TO HOTEL 

2. DISCOVERY OF A SKELETON

3. LEGENDS AND TALES OF THE ESTATE 

The planning charts show the "frame" for each group, and the "frame distance"; the tasks; the outcome/product; and the way the work was "rolled" from one class to another.

As well as the "point of change" at the centre of the project, the team saw that there should be a "tension point," a "strand of tension" running through each of the "domains."

 

(Productive tension is what binds a group together in the world of the drama.)

So we will look at what these tension points were, in each domain. 

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"Manor House to Hotel"

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One strand of the project focused on the transition from Manor House to hotel. It was undertaken with English classes in a secondary school. The first class was in the frame of the Personnel Department, which had to decide the staff that would be required for the new hotel, and produce job descriptions. The starting point was a memo from "Dorothy," in the "Office of Management." The memo read:

Management require a realistic projection of staff in running the hotel full-strength.

Please supply: (1) details of all departments which will require staff e.g. cleaning, security, shop franchises (hairdressing, valeting etc.)

(2) Approximate numbers of staff needed for each department / section / service and

(3) Suggestions regarding the placement of advertisements (newspapers? magazines? trade publications e.g. The Caterer) and ideas for style/s in language & format.

PS! pull your fingers out - the're panicking! D

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This is Dorothy's own analysis of the demands that the task makes on the participants. (The letters here refer to the letters on the memo - see image above.)

A: Demands: to de-code content / identify and select appropriate tasks to be done / summon images / experience (memory) / name and identify work processes / consider size of workforce

B: Decide numbers for each section 

C: Consider appropriate carriers of advertisements for different sections

D: Tentatively provide examples of language suitable to carrier and job position.

(From a document in the Archive)

The planning chart (above) shows the outcome as a general memo on staffing, which is then passed to another class, who take on the frame of Job Centre workers. In this video, however, Dorothy explains how the memo could be used with four different classes, to do four different tasks - A, B, C, and D. The outcomes could then be passed on to different classes, and again generate different tasks - for example, a "graphics" team could create the layouts for the advertisements.

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Davison, Cochrane and Berwick saw the tasks in this domain as basically comprehension and writing exercises 

which are the bread and butter of English teaching but within the rolling role they were given an overall context and meaning unusual in our school.

(From a document in the Archive)

So where, we might ask, was the "tension point" in this domain?

Dorothy called this the "A" Route. Here is the "memo" that she produced; she suggested this would "key" the class (i.e. orient them) into their frame as "Job Centre workers." Here, too, is the form she produced for "job cards."

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From listening to Dorothy's account in the video, it might be said that the "tension point" at the centre of this whole strand of work, lies in her concern for rigorous attention to the precise detail of people's jobs and skills, and the way that jobs shape how people see the world ("The undertaker measures with his eyes the passers-by for shrouds").

With the first class, who look at the jobs that will be required to run the hotel, the children

 

have to summon images - people doing things. Cleaning things, fetching coal (if they think coal will be used here). Summoning experiences, summoning memory. As a teacher, I've to spend time on summoning - helping them summon, not: “Quickly get your pens, write it down. Just make a list, it doesn't matter.” It does matter. The longer they unpack it [the better].

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They have to name and identify work. You can't just say, “General cleaner”; because there aren't general cleaners in hotels. There are people with quite specific tasks. I've said this before, but when William Blake said, “If you would do good to anybody, you [must do it in Minute Particulars]” … And this is the minute particulars. You don't just name the work, but you identify the work processes. So you can see these people wheeling these trolleys of linen, and carrying dirty coffee cups, and filling washing up machines, and washing vegetables. It's the work processes.

Dorothy observes that the task for the second class, in producing job cards for the “Job Centre,” is “really complex”:

What skills do you require if you're a hairdresser? What skills do you require if you're a cook? It's a very complex exercise. If you're not careful, and if you're a sloppy teacher, you say: “Well, just fill in what you think.” Breaking down the skills of a job is what modern computer guys spend their lives doing. If you've got to train a car mechanic, you may have 8000 things to break down and label. 

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In the video, she suggests she might demonstrate a task for the class, such as breaking an egg, so they can analyse the skills involved.

So you see, we can divide a big task into: breaking down the skills of the simplest seeming thing. How many skills does it take to fit a key in a lock and open it? It's an amazing range, and we take for granted these things. 

And that, to me, is how the process of talking – “Wait a minute, you've missed something out there”; finding the words to label that skill with that discrimination, selection. You know, I mean, a hairdresser is an amazing range. A cook is …

 

And if we can sufficiently alert children to go out and just realise how clever everybody is. How many skills does a miner have? … Now that, to me, is PSE work. Because it's valuing people. ... So this would not be [about] getting these forms filled in as fast as possible. It will be, first, recording the skills. You may have six lessons in that …

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Because what you want people to carry out is, "the eyes that see the passers-by [for shrouds]" ... But it's this obsession. I remember teaching a child about birds. We were designing an aircraft. And you see, he began to see all the real birds, and he said: “I never saw so many bloody birds in all my life! I didn't know we had so many!” These were seagulls, sparrows, starlings - I mean, he'd never seen them before. The problem was to keep his eyes on the floor - he spent his time with his head up, and nearly got run over, you know.

Now that's what I would like. Productive obsession. To walk down a High Street of shops, and value the skills people are using. ... I've got on about that a bit, because teachers try to finish things. And I'm talking about the process, the business of adding “dimension” to the learning.

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Dorothy offers three alternatives for the next stage:

 

Option 1: the job cards are passed to a special needs group, who arrange the window display with the cards in it; and consider how to advise jobseekers. The outcome is: they produce guidelines for the skills required in running a Job Centre.

 

Option 2: the job cards are passed to a class who make arrangements to interview candidates for the jobs. Dorothy stresses that “this is not an interview drama!”

The class have to consider: space in the venue (job centre); sign in the venue; questioning skills for interviewing people; “reading” people (sign & life skills); deciphering responses.

Result: a series of still images with explanatory labelling to help personnel department develop skills in selecting those best fitted for each position

Option 3: writing applications for jobs. Dorothy notes

these should (or could be!) models of such applications to be placed in job centre for clients to use:

1. create drafts.

2. examine drafts, annotate, make suggestions. 

3. final drafts. 

4. annotation of final drafts with analysis of strengths.

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There was also a "B" route and a "C" route that emerged from the original "staffing" memo.

 

In the "C" route, "suggestions for the placing of advertisements" - were sent to "Personnel at a higher level".

 

In the "D" route, notes on the style and language of advertisements were sent to "graphics and publicity to draft product."

In this video, members of the Dorothy Heathcote Seminar group, including Erasmus Plus project partners, discuss "Morwick  Village."

As part of our Erasmus Plus project, we used the idea of a "memo" as the starting point for a programme of work, in a drama session at I.E.S. Padre Juan de Mariana, a secondary school in Spain. You can watch a video of the session, here.

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