Score ❷ Hat Mapping Exercise

Written by Samantha Hookway (HDK-Valand), Danielle Heath (HDK-Valand) and Xavier Gorgol (erg), with contributions by: Nonto Tshabalala (HDK-Valand), Emmanuelle Nsunda (erg), Sylvain Souklaye (ISBA).

Edited by Eva Weinmayr John Moseley

  • institutional body, entering institutions, scores, pedagogy, group work support, methods

What it is

This score is a guided interaction in order to get to know each other when starting a collaboration. It entails the mapping of the various “hats” individuals wear when entering a group situation or collaboration.

Each group member creates an individual presentation of themselves in which they reveal the many hats (a.k.a. roles and representations) they might wear.

Collected screenshot of testing/performing The Hat-Mapping Exercise at an early stage of the “Institutional Body” working group’s collaboration. The image shows each group member sharing the different roles, positions, interests and lived and embodied experiences interacting within the arts institutions they each are part of. The participants also expressed any and all expectations each may have for the project we were about to embark upon.

Why it is

We found that the beginning of group work is often fraught with assumptions we make about each other. These are informed by the power dynamics created by the institutional framing of roles and responsibilities and by the various social norms and biases embodied by each group member.

In our small TTTT working group, we asked ourselves: Where do we start? How do we enter a collaboration? How might we create an exercise for sharing our lived experiences? How can we facilitate a moment where we each puts on the table the many roles, expectations, worries, boundaries and social positions to which we are subject so they can be addressed as starting points rather than becoming breaking points?

The “hat descriptions” created by each participant are intended to create a snapshot of the past, the present and the future, i.e., the inspiration and the desires of each individual inside group work.

How it works

Participants may include the hats they have worn in the past, that they wear now in the present (including in this project) and also the hats they want to wear in the future.

The hats include roles and representations such as the following:

  1. within the institution i.e. formal, informal roles each participant may represent such as “Student Union Representative,” “Class Mom,” or “Mediator” etc.
  2. within society i.e. social status, gender, race, economic status such as “cisgender grew up with married parents in a small town,” “private school educated with full scholarship along the way,” or “Black attended public school and first generation university student,” “queer and grew up in a large apartment in a city of 10 million people” etc.
  3. within group work i.e. emotional-bearing, plan-making, and/or responsibility-bearing such as “project leader,” “peacemaker,” “the worrier about grades” etc.


The exercise can be used in student projects, coursework, staff development projects or projects such as TTTT, which is a mix of staff and student participants. It is meant to be a deepening tool for group members who have already begun group work, rather than an introductory tool. It can be a source of bonding and project-team-building, while also preparing participants to embark on a deeper institutional investigation together.

It is not recommended as an introductory exercise for the first day of group work, particularly because time for the individual reflection is needed to create productive discussions. We recommend you conduct it after the first few meetings – meeting three or after. The idea is to go deeper into the different roles individuals embody only once group members have already begun to get to know one another.




What we learned – Practical tips to take elsewhere

Background, Influences

This exercise takes inspiration from Elisabeth (Dori) Tunstall1 and her work with the notion of respectful design. Tunstall, collaborating with Norm Sheehan, Deirdre Barron and Frank Fisher, created a framework that made “respect” central in the design (and education) process. Moreover, she uses this ethos to describe her individual and social positioning, stating:

There are truly polyvariant meanings and that’s actually part of being respectful, because what you need to understand or share or communicate respect might be different from what I am imagining, based on my position, based on my discipline, based on how I want to enact respect in the world. The thing we can agree about is the need for respect. (Tunstall 2021, 98).

This emphasis on respect towards the multiple positions we each enact, perhaps, could also be a way of describing other key elements needed for collaborative work such as expectations, time limitations, learning process needs, etc. All of these positions, roles, and imaginings are potentially helpful when communicated at the start of group project work.


  1. Deem Journal Issue two – Pedagogy for a New World (link it) currently Dean of Ontario College of Art and Design