Category: Three Chairs Research

Patterns of Recognition

Patterns of Recognition:
Our brain builds patterns as we learn and our brain looks for patterns in order to learn. Some of our learning is known as conditioning. Conditioning we receive from a range of sociological, environmental and familial influences. Some of our learning is more primal; we learn quickly to locate the source of fulfillment of basic needs such as shelter, food and warmth. Other sources of learning are self-directed; we identify the gaps between the ideal and the actual self (Goleman, Boyatzis) and take steps to follow our interests and passions and pursue knowledge in order to gain understanding and expertise.

As an event, situation or symbol of communication is repeated or re-occurs, neural networks fire and pathways connect. Over time some become indelible and stay close to the surface while others recede into lower levels of our awareness. These levels are referred to, as levels of consciousness or levels of awareness. Patterns that form over time that have moved down or situated themselves in lower levels of consciousness inform what we call habits. As humans we develop habitual thinking and habitual behaviour. One central reason this occurs is that habits tend to create familiarity, familiarity tends to create security and security tends to create comfort.

The upside of habits is that they create predictability; we can be reasonably sure that things will go as planned. The motor skills for driving a car for example (pun intended), are habitual and reliable; we’re assured of our ability to repeat these motor skills and this offers us re-assurance and a sense of confidence. The downside of these habits is that they can cause us to exclude input that might be beneficial to us. Beneficial from an evolutionary perspective and from the perspective of our wellbeing.

Praxis and Principles:

Phillip Taylor (Taylor, 2003) writes that Applied Theatre achieves a praxis of practice and theory set in connection to the people, passion and platform involved in the drama making. Praxis is a word develeoped by Brazilian educator Paulo Friere (Freire and Freire, 1973) “an ability to help one another reflect and act on their world is at the heart of sound education, and through that process transforms it into something worthwhile” (Taylor). Taylor states that put simply, “Praxis is the action, reflection and transformation of people as they engage with one another”.

Inherent in Applied Theatre drama making is the desire for an audience to generate meaning via aesthetic understanding or aesthetic learning (Abbs, 1989). The image of reality and the reality of the image (metaxis) (Boal, 1995) may be manipulated by and with the audience, the underlying contract with the audience is that this is done with the aim of achieving authenticity and recognition. Transformation, insight and deepening understanding of social and political situations, relationships and contexts occurs when the audience is engaged emotionally, psychologically and intellectually. This level of engagment engages the limbic brain (Lewis et al.) where deep learning is experienced and assimilated.

Using Taylor’s eight principles of Applied Theatre as a checklist for Three Chairs we see that:
1. Applied Theatre is thoroughly researched: we have ensured our understanding of the intended market in the planning and testing phases and have enlisted the advice of mentors with direct experience in corporate training. We are also taking steps to adjust the product through focus group feedback and reporting. We understand that as Three Chairs Develops we will see the process aligning with current trends of corporate training: for example, leadership, networking, conflict management to name a few.

2. Applied Theatre seeks incompleteness: we understand that for transformation and deep learning to occur there must be room for exploration and discovery. If we lead a session with didactic intent heading to a know destination and outcome we have introduced a short circuit into the possibility of creating new knowledge both for ourselves and for the audience. In other words we agree on the game we’re playing without having to know what the score will be at full time.

3. Applied Theatre demonstrates possible narratives: Options for which direction the story takes must exist in such a way that participants have influence on the events and possible outcomes

4. Applied Theatre is task-oriented: our audience are able to participate and intervene at various times and at varying levels – we understand that learning is doing.

5. Applied Theatre poseses dilemas: our narratives need to provoke debate and dialogue where the audience may use its collective wisdom to observe and comment on choices that are made within the context of the narrative. Influencing and witnessing various outcomes in the character’s enactment of different choices facilitates an open dialogic space. For each person this dialogue exists internally as much as it exists with others.

6. Applied Theatre interrogates futures: in Three Chairs we are seeking to ask good questions and trust that the collective wisdom of the audience will provide itself with deeper answers. More than that: we understand that by delivering the praxis of the underpinning theory’s (dramatic, learning and psychological: see notes) and the practice of Applied Theatre we act as guides. That is; we work to lead the audience to the water that might quench the desire for deeper understanding.

7. Applied Theatre is an aesthetic medium: it is important to recognise and remember that our process affords each collective a means of communication that does not exist in other mediums. Our theatre focuses a torchlight on possible problems and invites the audience to embark on a collective journey to seek answers and possible solutions.

8. Applied Theatre gives voice to communities: our intention is to create dialogue not monologue: to provide a forum for the voice of each individual and each collective that it might share its knowledge and inherent wisdoms, that it might explore and discover alternatives and possibilities through an experiential and fictional medium, and that it might turn to the forming of its own solutions and resolutions.

ABBS, P. (1989) A is for aesthetic : essays on creative and aesthetic education, New York, Falmer Press.
BOAL, A. (1995) The rainbow of desire : the Boal method of theatre and therapy, London New York, Routledge.
FREIRE, P. & FREIRE, P. (1973) Education for critical consciousness, New York,, Seabury Press.
LEWIS, T., AMINI, F. & LANNON, R. (2000) A general theory of love, New York, Vintage Books A Division of Random House.
TAYLOR, P. (2003) Applied theatre : creating transformative encounters in the community, Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann.

Three Chairs Draft Statement

Three Chairs provides a suite of learning tools for workplace training and professional development. Three Chairs processes can be delivered through an interactive performance or a performed workshop. Each mode is designed to cater for specific audience needs.

Three Chairs draws from and interweaves Applied Theatre processes with Authentic and Experiential Learning models and the Transformational Psychological paradigm of ‘Voice Dialogue in Relationship with the Aware Ego Process’.

The suite of learning tools enables participants learning through processes of:

  1. Dialogue and reflection
  2. Perspective building
  3. Scenario testing.

Conventions of drama are utilised to facilitate examinations of workplace contexts, situations and relationships.

A small team of actor/facilitators present a prepared fictional scenario that acts as an initial site of enquiry stimulating discussion and reflection. From this scenario and with participant’s involvement other scenarios can be presented and unpacked as they serve the needs of the audience.

A performance-based presentation of Three Chairs is placed in a fictional yet recognisable setting. Characters in the fiction engage in various struggles and activities. The characters are assisted to grow and learn with audience assistance, who are involved in a low level of interaction. Participant’s in the workshop version are more hands on and may work with settings designed specifically, depending on the groups particular interests and the commissioning brief.

The goal in either mode is for participants to enhance interpersonal skills, grow self awareness and confidence in professional and personal communications, solve problems of communication, build and practise communication skills and test change processes in a fictive yet active space. Change processes can be tested and prototyped in ‘low risk’ high gain settings. Three Chairs establishes the fictional space to facilitate and provide a site for deep learning.

Deep learning occurs when Metaxis is created and interrogated. Metaxis can be explained as ‘fictional reality’ – when we experience “the reality of the image and the image of reality” (Boal), we are able to both engage emotionally and evaluate scientifically. We are engaging the limbic brain and the neo-cortical brain (Lewis, Amini, Lannon) in the learning cycle (Zull).

Three Chairs is a powerful learning tool allowing participants to:

• Extract the value of past experience through reflection, observation and discussion

• Enhance present relationships by building perspective, empathy and communication skill sets

• Enable future possibilities to be prototyped ad tested in ‘low risk’ high gain fictive settings

Three Chairs learning is authentic and experiential: thoughts and ideas develop hypotheses, hypotheses are applied and tested, applications are observed and reflected upon as new thoughts and ideas emerge; and so continues the cycle in the spirit of collaboration and open minded enquiry based on the lived experience. As a form of Applied Theatre, Three Chairs is an application for ‘Doing Learning’.

Plato and Applied Theatre

Reading Plato’s dialogues I came across this in the forward by W.H.D Rouse:

“Socrates himself described his object as that of a midwife, to bring other men’s thoughts to birth, to stimulate them to think and to criticise themselves, not to instruct them.”

More and more I see the power of non didactic learning through forms of applied theatre – how through dialogue, metaphor and the creation of a recognisable fictional world we facilitate the transposition of an actual world and interweave it with the consideration of new perspectives, alternate possibilities and trialled scenarios.

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