Manchester Metropolitan University Logo
The Dorothy Heathcote Archive

Dorothy Heathcote

Dorothy Heathcote has been described as one of the greatest teachers of this century. In spite of being labelled an early academic failure, she was to metamorphose from "Yorkshire mill-girl weaving war-time parachutes...to internationally-renowned 'guru'"

In an extraordinary career, she changed the way many teachers thought about both drama and the school curriculum. Essentially self-taught, Heathcote was a practitioner and disseminator of a unique methodology based on the use of drama as a tool to stimulate holistic learning.. Drama, when used in this way, invokes an educational process akin to a continual journey, in that learning is never completed and is always "just beginning". The relevance of her methods have found a continued resonance in a wide spectrum of applications at all levels from the primary classroom to the management boardroom.

During her time as a lecturer at the University of Newcastle-Upon -Tyne (1950-86) Heathcote supervised many students undertaking research in drama education up to Ph.D level, inspiring two generations of teachers and educationalists. At the same time she undertook extensive lecture tours working as both teacher and consultant all over the world.

Her work attracted much media interest culminating in a number of distinguished radio and TV documentaries, and these have underpinned her reputation as an educationalist of world-wide significance.

Thus, Heathcote's work in the field of drama education has been influential internationally and the network of those who have worked and studied with her extends into fields far beyond education.

The Dorothy Heathcote Archive

This archive was originally constructed, organised and indexed by Dr Sandra Hesten as part of her Ph.D research.

It contains over 2000 items - documentary, audio and video - pertaining to the work of Dorothy Heathcote and her many students. Each item is catalogued as an individual record in a computerised keyword index which is fully searchable through this website.

In this archive can be found materials relating to Heathcote's role as a leading drama educationalist - her philosophy and methods. It includes Diploma, B.Phil, MA and PhD theses, video material- edited and unedited- of Heathcote's teaching, as well as articles, papers and artefacts produced by her students and herself.

The archive provides a central pool of co-ordinated research covering a vast amount of unpublished written and electronically recorded material throughout the world. Furthermore, it captures and preserves for posterity the uniqueness of Heathcote's teaching style and underlying methodology. Users are able to explore Heathcote's distinctive use of key concepts such as role; myth; symbol; ritual; metaphor; time; tension; sequencing and empowerment.

From here you can access Dr Sandra Hesten's Ph.D thesis, which provides a central framework for access and understanding of the archive material, and informs the wider interpretative overview of Heathcote's methodology: Its sources are drawn from information and material gathered through interviews, background notes and informal conversations with Heathcote and those who knew her over two decades. The reader is guided through a labyrinth of information providing a global perception of a drama-in-education tradition. Continuing close collaboration between Hesten and Heathcote has ensured the authentication of much of the material contained therein.

The archive, and its keyword index, formed the core of a research conference at Lancaster University (UK) in July 1993, which identified the possibility of finding a common language for discourse in drama in education.

It is envisaged that future work on the archive will enable users to access, via this website, exemplary theses illustrating Heathcote's key concepts, as located in Hesten's work..

It is also planned that a future conference will be held at the Manchester Metropolitan University in order to further this work: details to follow.