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Dorothy Heathcote’s Mantle of the Expert

6th January 2018

Dorothy Heathcote died in October 2011 at the age of 85. Although an academic for most of her life, first at Durham and then at Newcastle, Heathcote continued to teach in classrooms almost up until the year she died. For her, teaching was an art, practised in the “service of a process of change” where classrooms are “laboratories… contributing to the welfare of the local community and the environment.” She hated the idea that schooling denied children social status, requiring them “to feel useless, to exist in a limbo of learning which relied solely on the de-functioning maxim that ‘one...
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Teaching Using The Circle of Progression

2nd January 2018

Ever since I first opened Dorothy Heathcote and Gavin Bolton’s 1995 book “Drama for Learning” I have been intrigued by the diagram on page 61 entitled, ‘The Circle of Progression’… Almost religious in design this icon reminds me of a compass or the astrolabe from the title sequence of Game of Thrones. There is something arcane and enigmatic about it, and it only takes a little imagination to see it carved into the stone doorway of a tomb or painted in stained glass above the altar of a church. This impression is amplified further by the strange, esoteric words placed...

Play as a medium for learning

29th May 2017

Earlier this week Tom Bennett published an article in Guardian Education, called 'Play is essential, but it takes work for children to succeed in the real world'. In this article, Tom made the case that 'learning through play' is a "powerful vehicle for "folk" learning - the basic components of understanding reality. But is not so great once you want to do anything beyond that." His argument makes four points. First, you need a teacher to learn anything beyond self-discovery. Second, learning requires hard work. Third, learning is often unpleasant. Fourth, there is a danger of learning through play becoming trivial. Now, Tom is...

Working collaboratively in the classroom

14th May 2017

There is a great deal of discussion about classroom management and how relationships should operate between the teacher and the students in the classroom. In Dorothy Heathcote’s view the classroom should be a ‘laboratory for learning’ where the students and the teacher work together on tasks that are important and urgent in the ‘now’ of the imaginary world. I find this an interesting challenge. While acknowledging that power can never be authentically equal between children and adults in a school environment, I believe we can go a long way towards making our classrooms more collaborative. The following is an extract...

Preparing the Ground for Planting Knowledge

6th May 2017

Before planting the seeds in her garden, a gardener will turn over the soil, pick out the stones and weeds, water the ground, and do whatever she can to ensure that, once they are planted, her seeds will flourish and grow. As everyone knows, seeds thrown on hard stony ground are unlike to prosper. Some might take root and find their way below the surface, but most will struggle and many will die. Planting knowledge in the minds of our students is a bit like the work of a gardener, it requires planning and the careful preparation of the ground....

The Three Modes of Teaching

9th March 2017

Following a recent discussion after reading Lee Donaghy's blog, 'Building ‘abstract generalisations’ to help yr 8 write like historians', I started to wonder if some of the disagreements we have on teaching methods are to do with a 'misalignment' of terms. By which I mean that we seem to have different meanings for the names we use to describe different teaching methods and confuse or conflate one with another. This seems to be particular true of 'inquiry' and 'discovery', which are often used interchangeably. To my mind they are quite different, since Discovery is about giving space to the students...

Thoughts on a TES ad

29th January 2017

While reading the fervent exchanges on EdTwitter surrounding the advert in the TES for a ‘Director of Detention’, I am reminded of the argument made by Jonathon Haidt in his book, ‘The Righteous Mind’. Haidt proposes good people are divided by politics and religion. We all have moral ‘taste buds’ which go a long way to guiding our responses to any particular issue, particularly ones that violently clash with or closely align with our own internal morality. He describes the moral mind as being “like a tongue with six taste receptors” - care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression. These...

The Paradox of Mantle of the Expert: “How can children be experts?”

24th January 2017

This extract is from, "A Beginner's Guide to Mantle of the Expert" On the face of it Mantle of the Expert seems to involve a paradox: how can we expect children to be experts when they know so little? Doesn’t being an expert require long years of dedicated study, experience, and reflective practice? Won’t asking children to think and act like experts be a silly pretence and a waste of valuable teaching time? This is a serious objection and if you are intending to use Mantle of the Expert you need to be clear in your own mind what the...

Using a painting to start an inquiry

16th January 2017

Over the weekend I read an excellent blog by Harry Fletcher-Wood called, ‘Starting a Lesson With Initial Stimulus Material’. Harry’s blog got me thinking about how I use images with students as a way to generate thinking, grab their interest, and communicate knowledge. This blog is my response. Harry uses three examples of images to illustrate his approach; the second is this one of Henry VII. Harry suggests we could start by asking the students to make inferences: “What can you tell about Henry VII from this painting?” He calls this a ‘classic starter’ but warns of its limitations, “…examples...

Some background on Mantle of the Expert

2nd October 2016

This article was originally published in the BERA blog, 'Research Matters'. Dorothy Heathcote died in October 2011 at the age of 85. Although an academic for most of her life, first at Durham and then at Newcastle, Heathcote continued to teach in classrooms almost up until the year she died. For her, teaching was an art, practised in the “service of a process of change” where classrooms are “laboratories… contributing to the welfare of the local community and the environment.” She hated the idea that schooling denied children social status, requiring them “to feel useless, to exist in a limbo...

‘Ways to use Pokemon Go in the Classroom’ – The wrong answer to the right question

18th September 2016

This weekend an EdTwitter discussion (some might call it a spat) broke out along the usual Trad v Prog lines after Carl Hendrick drew everyone’s attention to a website called ‘Ways to use Pokemon Go in the Classroom’. During the conversation I found myself falling out with nearly everyone, which was a bit uncomfortable, so I decided to write a blog as an attempt to explain my thinking. I want to start by saying as clearly as I can, while I am criticising the content of the plans on the Pokemon website I am in no way attacking the teachers...

Vikings

17th September 2016

Author: Tim Taylor Theme: Vikings Age Range: KS2 Main curriculum focus: History - the Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the Kingdom of England to the time of Edward the Confessor Inquiry Questions: What was distinct about Viking culture? What were their beliefs and how did these affect their view of the world? Expert Team: Scriptwriters Client: BBC Commission: To write the outline of a script for the BBC telling the story of a Viking burial site discovered recently in rural England. In this context the students learn about the discovery of a Viking burial tomb hidden inside a hill in rural...

Is research-based classroom practice realistic and is it desirable?

30th August 2016

On Thursday myself and several other twitter folk were invited to Optimus HQ to discuss the role of research in education. In preparation for the meeting I wrote a short blog trying to capture some of my current thinking on the subject... Is research-based classroom practice realistic? For me there has always been a fundamental problem with the idea of research in education. In the late-90s I got very interested in research and became involved in various projects, some in collaboration with the Centre For Applied Research in Education at the UEA, some independently. I attend BERA conferences and started...

A Brief Introduction to Mantle of the Expert

29th April 2016

Mantle of the Expert is an education approach that uses imaginary contexts to generate purposeful and engaging activities for learning. Within the fiction the students are cast as a team of experts working for a client on a commission. The commission is designed by the teacher to generate tasks and activities that fulfil the requirements of the client as well as create opportunities for students to study wide areas of the curriculum. For example, a class of students are cast (within the fiction) as a team of archaeologists excavating an Egyptian tomb for the Cairo Museum. To complete the commission...

Indiana Jones and the Pragmatic Teacher

23rd April 2016

There is a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark[1] where Indiana Jones runs into a bazaar in pursuit of the Nazis who have kidnapped his ‘girlfriend’. Looking this way and that, he jumps up onto a cart full of straw to get a better view, but there is no sign of them and with a heavy sigh, frustrated and hot, he jumps back down. At that moment the crowd parts to reveal a six foot five sword-wielding assassin, dressed from head to foot in black. Smiling manically, the assassin twirls his scimitar from one hand to the other, inviting...

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