In MoE the children are not pretending to be experts.
Mantle of the Expert does not mean the students are magically endowed with expertise. In the real world they are still children. It is only inside the fiction they work ‘as if’ they are experts. That is in the sense that they take on the powers and responsibilities of a team of experts, working on important assignments, caring about the things they do, and taking pride in their status. For more on this read – The Paradox of Mantle of the Expert: “How can children be experts?”
Inside the fiction the teacher and the students work collaboratively as people working for the same team on the same commission. This means the teacher (inside the fiction) deliberately changes their relationship with the students to one of equal power and authority. In this way decisions are made through discussion and distributed leadership. It is important to remember, outside the fiction, the teacher’s authority remains unaffected. For more on collaborative teaching in MoE, read – Working collaboratively in the classroom.
A Safe Zone
The creation of a fictional context where the students experiment with making decisions, taking on responsibilities, and meeting challenging situations, is a kind of ‘safe zone’ within the classroom. Unlike in the real world, where children would rarely, if ever, have the kinds of experiences generated by MoE, in an imaginary world they can explore, discuss, and evaluate them as if they were real. For Heathcote this is what she meant when she described her ideal classroom as a laboratory – “when you enter such a lab you bring in your knowledge and training with you and take on the mantle of responsibility that goes with the character of the setting. Above all, you know that the result of what you do there matters to someone other than yourself. Such settings are cells effecting change in society.” – Bolton, G. (2003) Dorothy Heathcote’s Story: the biography of a remarkable drama teacher