Mantle of the Expert is an education approach that uses imaginary contexts to generate purposeful and engaging activities for learning.
Mantle of the Expert works by the teacher planning a fictional context where the students take on the responsibilities of an expert team. As the team, they are commissioned by a client to work on a assignment, which has been planned to generate tasks and activities that will involve them in studying and developing wide areas of the curriculum.
For example, a class of students are cast as a team of archaeologists excavating an Egyptian tomb for the Cairo Museum. To complete the commission the students will need to research ancient Egyptian history – finding out about tombs, artefacts, and rituals – and, in the process, will study wide areas of the curriculum including, history, geography, art, design and RE, as well as developing skills in reading, writing, problem solving, and inquiry. Mantle of the Expert is not designed to teach the entire curriculum, all the time, but is rather an approach to be used selectively by the teacher along with a range of other methods.
From the beginning the students are aware they are involved in a fiction and Mantle of the Expert is not a simulation invented by the teacher to trick them into thinking what is going on is real. Consciously going in and coming out of the fiction is an important dimension of the Mantle of the Expert approach. And much like imaginative play, the participants are always aware that the fiction is something that can stop and start as a when they or the teacher decides.
In this way an activity inside the fiction can create a purpose for curriculum learning
outside. The teacher can introduce a task to the students ‘as if’ they are the expert team – such as writing a report to the museum or planning how to create an exhibition – and then stop the story and come out of the fiction in order to teach them directly the knowledge and skills they need to complete the tasks. Once the
tasks are complete, the teacher can restart the story and the students can see how their work has an effect inside the context. It is this process of going in and coming out of the fiction that defines Mantle of the Expert as a teaching and learning approach.