Have a question?

The following are frequently asked questions about Mantle of the Expert. If you don’t find an answer to your question, then please get in contact using the ‘Contact Us’ box at the bottom of the page.

What about learning objectives and success criteria?

“The pupils love it but I’m having problems really linking their work as detectives to the lesson objectives. It seems like two separate things at the moment.”

It is certainly difficult to reconcile the conflicting tension between, on the one hand, a view of the curriculum as emergent, negotiated in the classroom and, on the other, a view of the curriculum as objectives-lead, structured and pre-planned by the teacher.

At its most fundamental, mantle-of-the-expert is about sharing learning with the children. It is a community of inquiry approach were the situation; the enterprise; and the commission are co-constructed in collaboration between everyone in the community – adults and children. For this reason it is an open-ended and flexible way to work because the teacher has to be very responsive to the children and their ideas.

It is also quite a risky way to work because the teacher can’t know exactly how things are going to work out or what learning will emerge from the situation. There is an element of faith here, a belief that the learning, co-constructed during a moe session, will go beyond what he/she could plan for and that it will be more valuable for the children because it is contextual and embedded in a social environment.

Learning in a community of inquiry is a cultural mediation between people sharing a common experience. Not a form of transmission between someone who knows more and group of people who know less.

For this reason, pre-contrived learning objectives, shared with the children at the start of a session, are problematic for mantle-of-the-expert because they assume that the adult has a preconception of the session’s outcomes and because they clearly sign to the children their lack of agency or voice in the process. Not, I am sure, your intention.

Nevertheless, we have to be careful here not to give the impression that learning using mantle-of-the-expert is incidental and can’t be planned for or that the teacher has no power in the classroom to influence the direction of the session.

When planning a mantle-of-the-expert frame, what you want the children to learn, experience and understand are always the first considerations. The next step is to invent a coherent situation/scenario where this learning can happen. Within this planning there will always be certain ‘givens’, things that have to be non-negotiable.

The ways you introduce these non-negotiable elements to the children need to be subtle and coherent. Dorothy Heathcote calls this process ‘induction’ because it is done generously, with the agreement of the children. You are, in effect, building a contract with them, a contract where you all agree to the fiction and the limits and boundaries of the imagined world.

Beyond these ‘givens’ there is flexibility and room for ideas and negotiation. The teacher has to be open to these, while, at the same time, keeping an eye on the direction of the inquiry. If things are moving too far away from the original aims then there will be the need for discussion to get things back on track.

In effect you are always moving backwards and forwards along a continuum where at one end the curriculum is open and emergent and on the other where the curriculum is closed and prescribed. It is a challenging and complex environment, but highly dynamic and productive.

In order to make the outcomes more predictable it is a good idea to plan between five and ten steps or ‘posts’ into the story, which you can return to during the session as the next thing to happen. In between these events you can afford to explore different possibilities with the children, knowing you have something ‘up your sleeve’ to come back to.

It may help if you think of it as being a bit like telling a tradition story like Red Riding Hood. In Red Riding Hood certain things have to happen and they have to happen in a certain order. The little girl must be asked by her mother to go to her grandma’s; she must meet the wolf in the woods; the wolf must get to grandma’s house first; etc. etc. These are the posts of the story, the things that carry the narrative forward; they are pre-planned and have to happen. However, in-between the posts the story-teller can invent as much as she/he likes. Red Riding Hood, skipping through the forest, might first meet a bear in a cave or fall down a rabbit hole, or meet her father chopping wood. It wouldn’t really matter because shortly she is going to meet the wolf and the story will carry on. Billy Connolly is a master at adlibbing in this way within the structure of his jokes.

On the planning page of the site the A3 planning flowcharts could help you with this kind of planning. I could send you some other examples too, if that would help.

One other point, when evaluating a session, it is a good idea to make a list of all the learning that happened, both the learning you expected from your planning AND the learning you didn’t expect, but that emerged from the situation.

In this way you can plan for the learning you want and remain flexible to opportunities that emerge from the moment and come from the children.

What you won’t be able to do is share the Learning Objectives at the start of the session and say: “This is what you are going to be learning today.” Mantle of the Expert can’t work that way.

However, you will need to draw attention to and reflect upon the learning as it is happening with the children. You can stop the session at any point and evaluate (particularly with Year 5s). Possibly drawing up a list of the learning together.

Isn’t Mantle of the Expert just the same as topic?

A Mantle of the Expert Inquiry always happens in context: the context will incorporate the features of MoE, the expert viewpoint, the enterprise, the client and a commission. As well as, the curriculum you want the children to explore. The skills you want them to develop, the knowledge you want them to acquire, the understanding you want them to gain and the attitude and dispositions you hope they will adopt.

A Mantle of the Expert inquiry is more than doing a “topic”. Topics don’t contextualise learning they simply create an acquaintance.

A topic on the Romans from the QCA Schemes of work might look like this:
As Heathcote and Bolton (Drama for Learning, p. 32) argue this does not offer an understanding of the wholeness of the student’s study, but rather leaves them with an impression of how many different aspects there are to the Romans.

Topics are a convenient way of organising teaching and planning. But, the structuring of a topic approach does not take into account how people learn. That is, the way effective learning makes connections and searches for meaning. Topics are less about understanding a subject, than about acquiring units of knowledge around a common theme. Their disparate form gives no real context in which to generate rich and varied connections. Learners are not in a position to investigate the subject – ask searching questions, look for meaning – but are participants in an essentially intellectual process of acquiring new knowledge.

Heathcote and Bolton criticise the topic approach for having no centre, “There is only a title and its many subdivisions.” Mantle of the Expert on the on the hand, they argue, “Provides a centre for all knowledge: it is always experienced by the students in terms of the responsible human being. Thus interconnectedness between one aspect and the whole is unquestionable. There is a sense in which an aspect is the whole and vice versa.”

What about the International Primary Curriculum and Mantle of the Expert?

Clearly IPC is designed for innovation and getting away from the dross of a static curriculum-offering many opportunities within its themes for teachers to embrace creativity. As with all approaches to learning the pedagogy is the key! With MoE approaches, the engagements with classes are based on dramatic contexts securing imaginative enquiry methods and skills that challenge teachers to teach beyond knowledge acquisition to the ‘leadership’ models explained by Dorothy Heathcote in her key note address at Newcastle and Birmingham.

The way the IPC has been set up was originally for schools in the International circuit outside the UK, but UK schools got wind of its brilliance and brought it back home.

So schools wishing to go along NEW lines of enquiry in innovation have a great deal of choice now-and that is very welcome. QCA has endorsed both MoE and IPC.

Recently Luke was training a team in Hertfordshire where a HT had bought into IPC and wanted to use MoE as well to facilitate the themes and units within the IPC designed curriculum schemes. Her school had just come out of an ofsted category and was now flying. The concerned HT felt her staff were too ‘tired’ emotionally and spiritually, to redesign the whole curriculum as this was her next big step after the inspection and perhaps too high a mountain for her staff to climb. Much better for her school, she felt, was to explore the range of planning in the IPC and run with a planned curriculum already mapped and one her staff would all sign up to. She felt she wanted to use MoE as the main pedagogy for creativity and mastery skills alongside IPC structures.

There are of course schools that feel they can map all MoE frames with the curriculum designs that will hold water for the ‘NC Entitlement’ scrutinisers at Sanctuary House and HMI. These schools often have a fluid skills based view of the curriculum anyway and are not necessarily in need of the IPC prepared landscape, as they can prepare their own and have staff with the expertise to create the design needed.

Both IPC and MoE organisations are aware that our joint paths cross almost constantly and indeed we are making these bondings even more secure for the future. What would be most useful for our MoE community would be for schools exploring either IPC and MoE or vice versa – to make contact us with messages about how they are finding the choices on offer.

Alongside IPC and MOE is of course Edison UK who also offer curriculum and school design that is highly innovative and very powerful for change. One school in Essex is embarking on MoE approaches and is a flag ship for the Edison Schools model.

Whatever is good for the learning and enjoyment of our children has to be looked at without prejudice as choices beyond a mundane curriculum diet of porridge that proved to have worked and have been evaluated are what we are in desperately in need of.

How can you deal with sensitive issues such as racism?

Four possible routes:

First, the direct way. For example, in our company we invent a person who wishes to join us from say Pakistan. This might be too direct and could reinforce racist attitudes, especially if the class are used to loose talk about race and difference. Mind you there are times when ‘action direct’ methods are entirely appropriate and we should never shirk our responsibility for confronting racism in any of its horrid guises, although it might be about ‘institutional’ racism, the kind that is in built into attitudes without people knowing.

Second, we might try to use a client’s perspective to focus on the issues, for example, a client from another country who wants to make contact but has the need for an interpreter. Again, difference is on the agenda here, a little less direct than the first example perhaps.

Third, there is the hidden-‘off beat’ way. We can imagine a scenario that any enterprise/business/company/agency would face and that is one of its client subsidiary groups being accused of hiring illegal workers. In a mantle on the Yellow Stone Park Wolf we can imagine a circumstance where our highly esteemed zoo client who we have had dealings with (from Leiston Zoo perhaps?) is at the front of the media circus being accused of hiring migrant workers, clearly overworking and underpaying them. Indeed, there are filmed moments that bear witness to the facts. We can imagine that the chief media circus reporter (teacher in role and having a strong point of view) would need to check the background of the matter, meaning that the reporter would harness the powers to report fully and without prejudice on the whole story, down to investigating whether the Park people would in future check the employment backgrounds of their clients.

We can imagine how the Park people would have an urgent need to discuss the publicity they may be involved in, among them their own policy for employing people, especially those from abroad with legitimate and illegitimate work permits.

This mode of working is an attempt to highlight the ‘playwright’ function of digging deep and in an obtuse sort of way. This allows young people to scratch away the surface with the help of their teacher and get to the heart of things, as the enquiry isn’t about race, its about the human condition and all the complexities embedded.

Were the migrant workers for example allowed to work because of compassion shown by the zoo clients?

How true are the accusations?
Could the film evidence be seen is different ways?
Is it possible there is a link between the accusations of abused workers from abroad and their position as newcomers? (Does this connect at all in classes in schools?)

This oblique way gets children empowered as they have the chance of raising the questions, with a little scaffolding of course. Bruner had a lot to say on ’empowering and questioning’…………in ‘Towards a theory of Instruction’ Harvard Press

Fourth, tackling the subject through metaphor.
For example, the Yellow Stone people could get a request to take control of an albino wolf cub?

The materials the class would tackle would be about difference, sameness, responsibility and care. This would be in the MoE circle. In the drama circle the class could experience bringing up the wolf cub and the day when the Yellow Stone Park people had to decide on its final fate.

For example, running an agency with a class of year one students with the job of finding accommodation for aliens from afar. A ‘rehousing’ organisation.

Because of the alien’s multiple needs and strange shapes-tayloring the environments might become a highly complex job and of course essential to their well being. With all the problems of finding a good home for them, considering their loneliness and what people might think of them.

The organisation might create a hot line for aliens in distress-especially for those who had faced ‘alien abuse’ (racist abuse in another guise?). In the circle of enquiry, discussions might arise about people and their attitudes to strangeness. Perhaps built on irrational fears.

Another example, a class running an ‘import-export’ business. One of the challenges faced a report of ‘quiet knocking’ on the side of a container recently arrived at the port of Ipswich from Europe. After further investigation (using the drama circle mode) people are found in a dreadful condition from other countries, being smuggled in for work and a ‘new life’. This causes the class to be on the horns of the dilemma, do they tell the police and immigration authorities, or do they say nothing. in the enquiry circle mode, the class were genuinely (and gently) ‘disturbed’ by the sequence.

How does this approach affect behaviour? How do I make sure that ALL the children come along for the ride?

Key factors for engagement:
– Something that will unashamedly hook in these children (often boys) from the start: an urgent rescue, mysterious footprints, an office burglary, etc.
– Opportunities for frequent activity i.e. making, moving, discussing, rather than just listening. Your choice of enterprise can influence this enormously.
– Careful use of drama conventions which stop the children from feeling self-conscious and, hence, resorting to silliness to protect themselves.
– The teacher modelling that children’s ideas will always be accepted and can really influence the direction of the work – the teacher using “yes, and….” instead of “yes, but…”.

As for ensuring that everyone comes along for the ride, be prepared for some children to take to it slower than others, after all it does look and feel very difficult from ‘normal’ school work.

What is the difference between mantle of the expert and the commission model?

Dorothy Heathcote has not written a great deal on the commission model. The article I find most useful is from the NATD conference in 2002, Contexts for Active Learning in which she outlines four models she describes as ‘forging links between schooling and society’.

The four models are: Drama used to explore people; Mantle of the Expert; Rolling Role; and the Commission Model. The defining link between all four is what Heathcote calls ‘social politics’ that is they all establish, through close collaboration, communities of inquiry where ‘people business is central’.

In mantle of the expert the context is entirely fictional. The client, the commission to be fulfilled, the team of experts themselves, often even the ‘products’ the experts produce, are all invented within the imaginary setting. This allows enormous flexibility and potential. The class can be literally anyone, anywhere, at any time, doing anything. The only limits are their own imagination.

Of course, there are various responsibilities within the fiction, which prevent the work becoming frivolous, but essentially there are no penalties, no real-world clients to satisfy or disappoint.

In the commission model the work the children are engaged in ‘breaks-out’ into the real world. “The commission model carries the social element present in other models right out into the community beyond the school interests and environs.” The work the children are involved in is real work. There is always something to be published and presented at the end.

In Contexts for Active Learning Heathcote explains that although these commissions might come from outside the school, others, especially in the early stages can come from inside. These she calls ‘domestic’ and can be invented by the teachers to enable the children to explore particular areas of the curriculum. They might vary in size from the very small to the very large.

The more ambitious commissions, however, will come from outside of the school, from the wider community. They will demand high standards and high quality because their final publication will be submitted to the real world clients at the end of the work.

Heathcote is at pains to differentiate between this model of commissioning children’s work and ‘project work’ which she has no time for. The commission model, she argues, is different because it is underpinned by what she calls the ‘three teaching values’ built in from the start with all the participants, teachers and children. “These are rigour, responsibility and realisation.” Realisation, she maintains, is the most significant because it embodies a factor often missed out of schooling, “realising now what we have learned, can understand, and put to use in our lives, that previously we had not recognised.”

This idea is fundamental to Heathcote’s philosophy of teaching. Elsewhere she bemoans how modern schooling has denied children opportunities to establish their usefulness to society. How our current education system “requires children over many years to be content with an absence of status, to feel useless, to exist in a limbo of learning which relies solely on the de-functioning maxim that ‘one day, you’ll be good enough to really do it’ but never today.” (Quoted in G. Bolton, Dorothy Heathcote’s Story, pg. 126)

By using the commission model, she argues, schools will be able to develop organisations of emergent-design. These will “create learning cultures, by encouraging continual questioning and reward for innovation… creating conditions [for learning], rather than giving directions.”

Further drawing on this idea, from Fritzof Carpra, she argues that schools using this model will develop emergent structures that will adapt, develop and evolve as ‘expressions of the communities collective creativity’. They will incorporate methods of reflections, evaluation and change as they learn from their mistakes. They will create opportunities for children to be authentic agents in their own learning and to make genuine and valuable contributions both to school and the wider community.

“There are literally thousands of commissions waiting to be taken up so that schools and community become more and more and interdependent. I have this dream that if that could ever be possible children would not have to spend thirteen years of their lives being denied protected responsibility and without power to influence how they spend their time in school. Neither would they be expected to suddenly emerge at eighteen like Pallas Athena out of Zeus’s head, as mature responsible members of their community. Mantle of the Expert and Rolling Role work allow them to test their capacities as maturing human beings, and certainly to demonstrate their interests and abilities. A commissions school would make a seamless link between the two worlds of work and active participation in learning together.”

Although the commission model is still evolving and changing, there does seem to be some defining characteristics that can be identified from this article:

1. Working as a community of learners is essential to the work.
2. The structure of this community is essentially emergent and leadership is defined in terms of the way it facilitates this emergent process. Leadership is not concentrated in the hands of one person, but is distributed throughout the community. The children are not ‘good little workers’.
3. The client is usually real. Although In the early stages of developing the use of the model it might be advantageous for teachers to invent clients in order to better ‘temper’ the work to suit the needs of the group, the time-span available and the curriculum to be explored.
4. The work is always built on the ‘3Rs’ – Rigour, Responsibility and Realisation.
5. The essential and defining distinction between mantle of the expert and the commission model is that in the commission model there is always a published outcome. Something that is made and presented in the real world, even if the client is fictional.
6. This is not drama, although drama is used (and we would recommend used extensively) to explore the different dimensions and possibilities inherent in the work of the commission.

How can you plan coverage using Mantle of the Expert?

It is difficult to give direct advice as the way your curriculum is organised will depend very much on your school. However, below are some general guidelines I find useful.

First – Look at the week as a whole, not day by day. Put into your timetable anything that’s fixed, ie time in the hall, sessions with others, PPA etc

Second – decide how much numeracy you can fit in. I generally plan numeracy separately and timetable as a session a day. You don’t want to miss it out. If you have someone else taking your class for PPA or supply etc. then you could pass on the numeracy to them.

Third – Look at literacy. I usually separate the skills/acquisition work from the application/development work. I then timetable the skills/acquisition sessions for first thing in the morning, get it out of the way. The application/development work might fit into the moe inquiry (and often does, particularly when I’ve been running one for a while) but my advice is don’t force it! If it feels in any way coercive or incoherent then do something else. Retaining the trust and collaboration of the children while using moe is more important.

Fourth – Consider the scale of your moe inquiry. If it is very ambitious then you will need to look long term at how much time you will have to allocate to it to fulfill the commission. Be careful not to run out time before it’s finished. The children won’t easily forgive disappointment, particularly if they have invested a lot.

Fifth – Plan how much of the rest of the curriculum you think will be explored during the inquiry. Of course this will change and shift into unexpected directions over time, but you can make some intelligent guesses at the beginning. I usually draw up a mind-map with activities and curriculum areas. From experience I can usually be confident to cover most of the rest of the curriculum, science, art, D&T, PSHE, history (depending on the topic), geography, ICT, music. And many other areas besides. I record these in my own copy of the national curriculum, which I annotate as I go along. You might want to design your own way of tracking and recording as it is obviously very important that the children get a broad and balanced curriculum and are not missing out on important areas of study.

Sixth – If I notice that some areas are not being covered sufficiently within the moe inquiry then I plan and teach those separately. Again this might be something you can pass on to your PPA cover.

Seventh – I try and avoid thinking of the subjects as distinct knowledge domains, but look at the way they overlap and combine. When I evaluate and record a session I think holistically and look at how the sign systems (in particular writing, drawing and enacting) are used by the children to represent their thinking and understanding. In this way I find we often cover large areas of the curriculum (and beyond) very quickly. Jerome Harste’s article – “What Education as Inquiry Is and Isn’t” is very useful in this regard (see the articles page).

Eighth – I’m also diligent at planning, noticing and recording the skills and dimensions of learning the children are using and applying. In particular, the key skills, thinking skills and social and emotional aspects of learning. Since these are fundamental to the children developing as learners and the main reason we use moe.Tim

I’ve just started planning my Mantle for this term and I found scanning through the Mantle website planning section really useful to get ideas as to how to structure it.
As far as coverage is concerned I started with knowing I was going to work alongside teachers looking at Culture in the Countryside. As I am not a huge rural fan I started thinking about what human stories I could use with this. Then I was hooked in and started researching the effects of the displacement of agricultural workers in early Victorian times.
So I was aware that my Mantle would be largely history based (my team will become time travelling archaeologists) so I was able to plan in the more obvious NC History strands. Then I looked at what Geography strands could be covered, then other subjects. Maths could be plotted in, otherwise it can be taught alone. As for Literacy all the usual objectives would be covered as there are so many good opportunities for writing arising from almost every session.
These were all strands that could be plotted at the beginning. I intend to highlight the areas covered and organise separate teaching sessions for the areas I haven’t. So, some planning is in advance and some in retrospect. I am constantly surprised at how much more I cover this way.
Hope this is of help to you! Dene

What is the difference between a sign, a symbol, and an iconic image?

You might find it easiest to think of them all first as resources. The client is a resource for the children to think of another point of view, so when they are working on the commission they are minded to consider how the work will be seen by the client and make adjustments accordingly.

The email or letter are resources for introducing the client and the work ahead.

The phone call is a resource for making contact with the client.

I’m aware this doesn’t answer your question, but it helps me not to worry too much about the jargon!

More technically speaking, the way you introduce or represent the resources could be by the use of sign – symbolic, iconic or enactive. For example if you have a telephone in your office (within the fiction) then you can ‘sign’ it in a number of ways. You could use a play phone, or a real (deactivated) phone, or a drawing of a phone, or a model of a phone. Each of these would (within the imaginary world) ‘represent’ a real phone.

A ‘symbol’ of the phone is generally considered to be more abstract, perhaps a drawing of a phone box on a map or a graphic on a floor plan.

An ‘iconic image’ – is a drawing of the phone.

An ‘icon’ would be something like a model of the phone.

A ‘sign’ is more complex because Dorothy Heathcote uses the word sign in a number of different ways. In one sense, ‘to sign’ something, like a phone, is to use some form of imagery, either iconic or symbolic.
But she also uses ‘signing’ in the enactive form. That is, ‘to sign’ a phone by picking up an imaginary phone ‘as if’ it was real (not pretending, which would be ironic). If the sign works then everyone present will understand that the person in role is using a phone, even though the phone only exists in their imagination.

She also talks of ‘signing something up’, which is to use signs (iconic, symbolic or enactive) to clearly indicate to those involved what is being represented. For example, when you invented the email from the client you would have ‘signed it up’ to look authentic – typed on a computer (not handwritten), laid-out graphically to look like a proper email, with: ‘From’; ‘Subject’; ‘Date’; ‘To’ etc. and written in the correct formal (or informal) style depending on how you wanted it to sound.

All of these signs help the children to suspend their disbelieve and to agree to the fiction (so long as they know it is a fiction and are not so beguiled as to think the email is real. That wouldn’t be good!).

It is a very complex field, not helped because different experts use the words in different ways. As teachers I think it is best for us not to worry too much about the precise terminology, but just to keep thinking of lots of different ways to make the work more exciting, challenging and authentic for the children, both inside and outside the fiction.

Further – Let go of the terminology unless it helps you with planning or reflecting on your work. The idea is to engage children in inquiry about the world (including the curriculum) and to use drama to do this.

‘Signs’ can be classified as ‘symbolic’, ‘iconic’. or ‘enactive’. Symbolic signs use symbol systems — languages — e.g. the words (and any attachments or photos) in any email are all symbolic of more than the actual words or images themselves. Iconic signs represent something one-to-one — e.g. a piece of paper held up with ’email’ written on it stands in for an email. Enactive signs are anything that is moving and usually talking as if in the life of someone not actually present — e.g. a video recording of someone emailing someone else.

In any use of ‘drama’ you are always creating an imagined-and-everyday space that you are hoping will ‘grow’ into an imagined-and-everyday world. Imagined spaces are always ‘signed’ by ‘signs’ that point to spaces that are not actually there e.g. the world of a book or the world of a group of experts. Because they are always lived through by you and the children they are always -everyday spaces as well as being imagined. You negotiate the use a signs with children in the everyday world of the classroom to open up imagined-and-everyday spaces. Children have to know what they are looking at — they have to ‘see’ what the sign signifies and you have to negotiate that with them. ‘When I sit down here I’m going to imagine that I’m writing an email. OK?’ ‘If you look at this piece of paper can we agree it represents an email?’ ‘Listen to me read this email. Who do you think wrote it? What do you think they want?’

Ask yourself – ‘Where do you want to go in imagination with the children?’ and ‘How can you use signs to open up those imagined-and-everyday spaces?’

Try reflecting on what you do and how you use signs. You can consider other ways of doing the same thing if what you did worked/didn’t ‘work’.

If you think of ‘signs’ as ‘texts’ this may help you understand how to most effectively use them.

Texts are written/composed and read/interpreted. An enactive sign (you as if on a video or you as if you are another person actually talking with the children) is ‘written’ as you talk and move etc). An iconic sign is ‘written’ or composed when you draw it or choose it from a book. A symbolic sign is the language you are using — the words themselves, the music you play, the formal gesture you use etc. The language has been written by others and you choose to use the language to communicate.

All texts are used to communicate. So an important question is, ‘What do you want the children to “read” in your sign?’ ‘What do you want it to do for you and for them?’

This takes you to content and context. Why are you using drama in the first place? Where are you imagining you are?

Any sign you use is a text that has to be ‘read’ and interpreted. Icons always stand still. Photographs, drawings, maps etc. are relatively ‘easy’ to read because they don’t move around.

Symbolic signs have to be decoded to make sense (we read the English language) we have to know the languages of maths or dance to know what is being said etc. So symbolic signs are often harder to read — they assume readers already know a lot and they may be ‘saying’ more than you intended (in the language of an email, for example).

Enactive signs don’t stand still either unless you ‘freeze’ them or slow them down. Reading a person’s movements is hard because once it’s ‘enacted’ it’s over. But if you have a s sequence of photographs or a video of them you can read and reread that text and have the time to interpret it.

All of this happens in everyday life. Which often passes children without being examined. The wonder of the arts and especially of drama (and MoE as a system that uses drama) is that you can create your own texts and interpret them.

BUT if you don’t know what you’re inquiry is all about — why you are doing the work — then you won’t know what you’re trying to communicate and have the children think and reflect about.

So, as you try to make sense of signs go back to purposes. Ask yourself why you are using drama and then you can ask HOW can I use signs to assist me to do that.

how do I group the children?

The beauty of working with MoE is that you can group children according to the type of session you are running. I’ll tell you what I do.

Mainly I work whole class group for the main sessions. Because this approach pulls in the children’s responses and works with them you need all the children to take part. It’s not just the verbal responses that count here and that means they can access what is going on at their own level. The important part is that they work as a team and because of the tension in the drama they need to work together.

There are many times when they will need to follow up doing research, drawing or writing up and here is an opportunity to group as you normally would, in pairs, ability groups or groups that need support. Mainly though, I tap into the co-operative nature of MoE and work the children in friendship groups.

Can I use a story to start an moe inquiry?

I think the main advantage with starting moe with a story is that it supplies the rules of the ‘universe’ where the rest of the work will develop. This can be very helpful if you want to explore a universe with rules different from our own. For example, one where animals speak or magic is real.
The story creates the primary text, as it where. These are the non-negotiated ‘givens’. For example, the primary text for Red Riding Hood, is that wolves can talk and question the girl and that Grandma’s can be swallowed and live inside wolves’ bellies. But this wouldn’t be true in the Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls’.
The secondary text is the one negotiated with the children. If you are using moe then one of the children’s points of view needs to be as experts. They don’t have be ‘a company’ by this I mean a business, but they do need to be a team of experts, with the responsibilities that go with expertise. For example, if a class of young children are exploring the structure and characters of fairy tales, through Red Riding Hood, then it might make sense for them to be a team of problem solvers, who are commissioned by the village to protect and educate their children from the dangerous wolves who inhabit the forest. Or (for older children) exploring childhood fears and prejudice (through the The Wolves in the Walls) it might make sense for them to work as an animal welfare team with the task of relocating a pack of wolves (or maybe foxes) who have been driven into the city by hunger and hunting.
The third (or tertiary) text is the level that the children invent for themselves, either individually or with one or two others, but which is never agreed to be part of the larger ‘story’. For example, they might draw pictures of what they think the wolf (wolves) look like, or imagine the sound they make, their breathing, their howling; they might invent the stories of what drove the wolves to act so recklessly and to take such risks. The difference between the tertiary and the secondary text is that although these thoughts and ideas can be shared with the class as a whole they are are never agreed as being the they only way it is, just possible ways. This is important because it allows children the space to see that there are many ways to see and to interpret the world.
I find the best way to start an moe inquiry when using a story is to ask the children to image something that was not on the page. For example, in Red Riding Hood, I might ask, where does the wolf live or what kinds of things do people in the village say about the wolves in the forest or what jobs were the girl’s parents doing that meant they were so busy they couldn’t go with her into the dangerous forest? In this way I can first build the context and then introduce someone from the village who will ask the question that will get us the expert team: “We’re so worried about these wolves. We know they are hungry and desperate and we don’t know how to protect our children.” Of course, later on, the problem solvers might also get a visit from the wolves pack: “We’re hungry and the human’s hunt us, we need meat to feed our young, what can we do?”
I hope this helps. Tim

When I was new to the approach, using a book was the best way I could find to start. I think I ended up doing 2 terms that started with Owl Babies (KS1) and went through rescuing fallen owls, to setting up a hedgehog rescue and information service. Mantle is all about stories, the sort of stories that matter and ones that can be related to. Words of warning, though, less is more and slow it down! It may not be so much about finding out what happens in the book but following the questions (lines of enquiry) that come from it.
I would visualise it with the book as a thin layer of cheese at the heart of a big doorstep sandwich (Mantle being the bread). Dene

With less time in secondary classes and a different age group, how the Mantle of the expert model could be effectively applied?

Thank you for this question. Making moe work as effectively in secondary schools as it does it primary is an ongoing challenge. There are a number of secondary schools in the UK that are experimenting with a number of different models. Most involve re-designing the timetable to allow teachers more contact with students and more time to build cross-curricular links that allow students opportunities to work longer on inquiry projects and develop deeper learning experiences. The use of moe in secondary schools, as a cross-curricular inquiry approach, is still in its early days. It will be very interesting to see how innovative teachers and school leaders tackle the challenges of traditional secondary school curriculum design and pedagogy.

What is the difference or the distinction between role and frame for the participants in a drama?

Thank you for your question, unfortunately there is no simple answer. I guess different drama practitioners would answer it in different ways. The way I understand it, in drama for learning and mantle of the expert, is:

1. Role(s) is the point of view adopted by the teacher and/or the students.

2. Within a single episode there my be a number of different roles adopted for different purposes or functions.

3. Frame represents the context of the drama, that is the time, place, tension and people involved.

4. Those involved co-create the events of the drama, within the frame, representing different points of view.

For example, some work I did yesterday with my class of year 5 and 6 students. The frame was a situation in a medieval city in 1349 where the plague has recently arrived. The city councillors (one of the students’ roles) have decided to order the quarantine of any person seen in the city with the signs of the plague. Using the drama convention of events told by the city chronicle, the students worked in groups representing different events happening as a consequence of the quarantine rules, each answering a different question – what happened to the dead? Were there any exceptions? Who was given the job of enforcing the quarantine? etc.

In each scene the students represented different roles (for example, people held in quarantine, soldiers, priests, family etc) and then reflected on the effects of the quarantine laws, both as city councillors (role) and themselves.

I hope that helps… However, there is a complication. Dorothy Heathcote, as well as using frame in the sense I’ve described above, also used frame in another way. She often referred to Goffman’s use of frame. For Goffman people are constantly ‘framing’ the world and adopting different positions (or ways of behaving) in relation to the context. For example, I behave differently at school with children and parents than I do in the pub with my friends. I am still the same person but the context effects my language and actions.

This effect is magnified within drama because the change in language and actions caused by context can be stopped, highlighted and examined – like in a lab.

Heathcote applied Goffman’s use of frame within drama, in particular the way actions and language changed the further the person is from the event in time and space. She created a model to illustrate this effect, called Frame Distance.

In the model she gives examples of the kinds of role that might represent the points of view of people at that distance from the event – participant, observer, priest, recorder, researcher etc. And this might be were the confusion between role and frame has occurred.

What do you do if any of the children, particularly those with SEN, that believe in the drama literally?

This can happen quite easily and not just to children with SEN, or even very young children. I remember making this mistake with a class of year 6 the term before they were going up to High school. We were starting up a team of divers defusing unexploded bombs on WW2 warships in the Thames estuary. Everything seemed to be going well until break time. But when the class came back in they were arguing about whether the story was real or not. I knew immediately I’d got it wrong by not making it clear enough that we were engaging in a story.

And that is the answer. Whatever the age of the children, when starting up an moe context it is essential the students understand they are involved in a fiction. It will not spoil the experience or hold them back in terms of engaging with the drama.

I hope this helps

Am I meant to intergate maths (yr 2) into the whole approach? Or step out of the stiuation to do some skills and drills (that need covering)?

The answer is both, as you see fit. I tend to teach most of the skills outside of the context and then use the context to create opportunities for using and applying. There is no hard and fast rule.

How long should a project last? Are they supposed to be term-long ‘topics’ or shorter activities?

Mantle of the Expert is very flexible and can be adapted to many different situations. Many teachers find that as their confidence with MoE grows, they start to plan longer MoE frames that will cover more areas of the curriculum. When starting out, you may want to focus on a specific curriculum area for a limited time, say a day or a week. You may then find that you can see broader possibilities, and may after time want to plan a frame that will explore an area such as the Romans over a prolonged period – a term, or even two… For decriptions of long projects please refer to Julia Walshaw’s – Undersea Savers and The Golden Elizabeth – Exploration of a Mantle of the Expert Frame – on the articels page and the Sea Company blog by Jenny Burrell on the Blogs page.