Friday, 5 December 2014

The Mantle of the Expert

".... One of the greatest teachers of the twentieth century." - (Heston, S, 1993)

Developed by professor Dorothy Heathcote in the 1980's, the Mantle of the Expert was a student-centred approach to learning, with drama and immagination at the heart. 

Pupils became imaginative 'experts' of their curriculum; providing them with the opportunity to learn independently, with first hand experiences. This approach to learning stems from experimentation through inquiry, drama and role play. Inquiry based learning provides children with the chance to problem solve, ask questions, trial things, and conduct their own research. 

A typical lesson within this approach would require the pupils to step into the role of an expert, becoming fully engaged into the 'imaginative world' the lesson has created. Investigation into new areas of learning in there designated roles encourages socialisation, sharing responsibility and encouraging language and individual developments. For example, pupils become part of an imaginary enterprise, and each have a role within that business, together, with the leadership of the teacher, each pupil will take on their role of the business, and work together to tackle all the problems they may face. As in, working in a dress making shop would require them to work out how much material would be needed to make different size dresses etc; using a range of skills and development areas across the curriculum. 
Heathcote (1995) suggested that there are seven core elements of the 'Mantle of the expert' approach. These include:
  • Learner gradually take on responsibility for running an enterprise in a fictional world.
  • Learners care enough about long term goals of the fictional client that they engage in activities, through which they begin to imagine the fictional world.
  • Learners and teachers together must interact predominantly as 'themselves', imagine  that they are interacting as experts who run the enterprise, and imagine that they are interacting as other people in the world with whom the experts are concerned.
  •  Over time the pupils engage in activities that are at the same time both curriculum tasks and that would be professional practices in the fictional enterprise. 
  • The teacher must share power to position the students (individually and collectively) as knowledgable and competent colleagues, and also ensure that children position one another similarly.
  • The children must reflect to make meaning. 
Here is an example of this teaching method, 'The Shoe Factory'.

The teacher needs to be conscious of all three of these modes of teaching and incorporate them into their approach to learning. The chart below came from Abbott (2007) and demonstrates all the required areas: 

Inquisitive Learning overcomes problem solving, allows questioning and conducting individual research. Whilst drama for learning involves both students and teachers working in and out of roles. It requires the consideration of other points of view, other than their own. Expert framing asks the children to evaluate their own learning. 

In our seminar group we trialled the Mantle of the Expert approach and took on various roles of a construction company to plan, and build our very own bridge. We were given 3 seminar sessions to complete the task, and we're only allowed to use lollipop sticks and glue. We overcame problems, and successfully created our very own bridge. Here are some photographs from our sessions; illustrating our results and successfully using this learning approach of creative learning. 

Dorothy's Mantle of the Expert, allows children to take control of their learning, exploring conventional ideas, and it actively grasps the attention of its learners.

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