Mantle of the Expert in Greece
28th January 2018
…then Mantle of the Expert came along…
English as a foreign language (Efl) has been incorporated in Greek Primary Education since 1985. Working as an Efl teacher for the past twenty four years has given me the opportunity to teach students of various socio cultural backgrounds, age groups, and learning styles in a number of practice contexts. My students have always been learners with unique personalities, eager to communicate in a new language despite their different learning profiles. To my realization over the years, they have always been confronted with school books and teaching practices that deprived them from the opportunity to learn now-use now. Instead they have always been trapped as passive recipients of information in learning environments featured mainly by teacher centered practices.
Drama was incorporated as a school subject in Greek Primary Education in 2002. It is a discouraging fact that at present it is taught only to the fifth and sixth grade. Students are engaged in dramatic play activities and a few theatrical techniques such role play, still image, embodiment, character outline. A brief performance is usually produced at the end of the school year. For unspecified reasons Mantle of the Expert remains officially absent.
So far the Greek Ministry of Education has made worthwhile adaptations in Efl school books in an effort to achieve a more child centered approach to teaching. Moreover, in 2015 the Institute of Educational Policy conducted a school books evaluation, a detailed process where I was actively engaged as a member of the evaluation committee. As a result of this evaluation the curriculum has been rationalized and restructured. Unfortunately there is still no research findings in this field. Despite the Ministry attempts for curriculum rationalization and reconstruction it is a contradictory fact, not to say a disappointing one at least, that teaching hours for English as a foreign language, Drama and other school subjects have been reduced since 2017. The specific decision was a consequence of the state’s financial inability to employ the number of educators needed to teach school subjects both in Primary and Secondary Education, as has been officially justified by governmental representatives.
My journey with Mantle of the Expert dates back in 2013. It all began during the 60 hour in service THEDUARTE (theatre as educative, educational good and artistic expression in education and society) workshops at Democritus University of Thrace. Dr. Simos Papadopoulos, coordinator of the workshops (Assistant Professor in Drama at Democritus University of Thrace) instilled me the stimulus to purse doctoral studies in Mantle. Since 2016 he has been the supervisor of my doctoral thesis entitled: Drama techniques and their didactic exploitation in teaching English as a foreign language in primary education: the Mantle of the Expert paradigm.
I conducted my first Mantle of the Expert project in 2016 entitled Athletes of the past. It was a brief qualitative action research in Primary Education. The results of that research are due to be published in the April 2018 issue of Drama Research Journal. In 2017 followed Orpheus and Eurydice, my doctoral research in Mantle of the Expert. Both projects were carried out with the helpful guidance and encouragement of Tim Taylor, who was the critical friend of the researches. Currently I am conducting a Mantle of the Expert action research in Secondary Vocational Education entitled Wellness drops. Professors Brian Edmiston and Viv Aitken were kind enough to support the initial steps of the project with their useful clarifications and practical advice
So far I was given the opportunity to present my Mantle of the Expert experience in two international conferences held in Greece: The Post Graduate Program of the Democritus University of Thrace, Diversity and Theatre Pedagogy, organized an international conference entitled Arts and Education in Alexandroupoli, 22-24 June 2017. Collaboration Action Research Network (CARN) held an international conference on Reflecting on Action Research in an unequal world: an alternative perspective towards democracy in Rethymno, 20-22 October 2017.
My next presentation of a Mantle of the Expert project is going to take place during the International Conference on Performing Arts in Education (supported by IDEA) in Athens, 23-25 November 2018.
It is my desire and the prime target of my work with Mantle of the Expert to inspire more teachers in Greece so that they experience the Mantle journey becoming Mantle practitioners themselves.
PhD Candidate in Drama (Faculty of Education & Psychology, Democritus University of Thrace), Efl teacher