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"Levels of Investment"

In her book Drama for Learning (co-written with Gavin Bolton), Dorothy defined “Five Levels of Deepening Engagement”, as a way of enabling students to analyse situations, and deepen their engagement. 


The “Levels” are as follows:

Level 1: I do this…

Level 2: My motive is …

 Level 3: I invest in…

Level 4: My models are …

Level 5: This is how life should be… [1]

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One strategy she used was to invite students to create tableaux based on paintings or images; and then to ask them to consider each of these statements in turn, for the “role” they were representing in the picture: “I do this…”, “My motive is…” (etc.) .

The children wrote these down as a series of statements on separate pieces of paper, which they then pinned to themselves; so as they stood in position in the “picture,” others could walk round them, and read what they had written.


Here is her account of work she did with a class of 8-year-old children, who were looking at the topic of Roman Britain. The children were working in groups, and each group selected a picture of Roman life. One group had an image of a Roman surgeon, who was about to cut the leg of a sick soldier. The soldier had obviously been wounded in battle (he still had part of his armour on); his leg was exposed, and part of an arrow was lodged in it.

Left of the surgeon is somebody holding a little bowl. It’s a male, and the surgeon’s a male. But these were five little girls [in the group] who chose it. The right is [someone holding] a bigger bowl, and … the fifth person in the picture was unwrapping some cloth. You see, I say to the little girls, this is the first time we try, "What are you doing’?" and she said, "I’m looking to see how to cut it." Not, "I’m going to operate’ "you see? It was as neat as that.

[She asked the next girl:] "What are you doing?"

"I’m holding a bowl..."

"What are you doing?"

"I’m holding a big bowl..."

"What are you doing?"

"I’m winding some cloth..."

"Why are you doing that?"

"Because I must cut in the right place to get the arrow out...’" […]

"Why are you doing that?"

"Because the knife must be kept clean..."

"Why are you doing that?"

"Because the surgeon must be kept clean..."

"Why are you doing that?"

"Because the cloth must be ready, to keep the wound right..."

And so it goes on. "So how should my..." – the third [question/level]: "What is your investment?"

"The Roman soldiers must be healed as quickly as possible..."

That’s an interesting 8-year-old! And it’s nothing to do with me, it’s to do with the exercise and the patience to get it right, standing like the picture; and having chosen it yourself.


"Where did you learn this?"

"From the best Roman surgeon in the fort..."

And the last [level] is: "So how should life be?"

"To save the lives of Romans..."

Now, where are you going to get that, through sitting and discussing? You can’t do it, can you? ... You can only do it when there is one moment frozen, which you have time, and you write it, and you pin it. [2]

Sources: (1) Drama for Learning by Dorothy Heathcote and Gavin Bolton; (2) from the unpublished transcript of a meeting with David Allen and Iona Towler-Evans, June 2010.

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