Archive | Articles & books

Learning and development in Dramatic Inquiry

Here’s something I’ve been working on for some time with input from teachers and colleagues in NZ and beyond. It’s a work in progress that I’m updating and improving as more people contribute their ideas … I’d love to get your thoughts, suggestions and refinements and I can add your name to the long list of acknowledgements…!

The document is an attempt to offer answers to some of the most common questions asked by people who want to understand Mantle of the Expert, especially those wanting to use it across the whole school: “What does it look like in my context?” “How does it relate to other drama in education approaches?” and “What’s the fit with development?”

There’s a diagram on the first page, then a sort of table with definitions and examples. Not perfect, but so far people seem to be finding it pretty useful. Check it out at the link below, and let me know what you think.


Article all about the “Mantle Underground”

Some time ago I was invited to write a chapter for a book on University-school partnerships. I had never really thought of our activities as being worthy of academic attention, but I was tickled to be asked and I wrote the chapter – with help from a bunch of other people including Delia Baskerville, Renee Downey, Stephen Hall, Jon Jenner, Robin Kermode, Jodie Moore, Sophie Stevenson, Gaenor Stoate and Carrie Swanson…

After quite a few delays, the book finally came out in October last year. I’ve been given permission to share our chapter on this website… and you’ll find it here . Big thanks to those who helped with comments and input.

P.S. I nearly called the chapter “It’s not what we’re teaching, it’s how we’re teaching!” which was a bit of a catchphrase for the ‘Mantle Underground’ in the early days… but as you’ll see I went with something a bit more conventional in the end. Enjoy!



Books on Mantle available

Kia Ora colleagues

Many of you will be familiar with these Mantle-related books. Thanks to the generous publishers, I have a few copies for sale at a discounted price (within New Zealand only)

Connecting Curriculum, Linking Learning (2013) by Deb Fraser, Barb Whyte and myself. It shares examples of practice from by NZ primary teachers using Arts-based integration approaches. The book includes several examples of Mantle of the Expert and has a separate chapter introducing Mantle. Usual price $44.95. Available for $40 incl postage within NZ


A Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert (2016) is by UK-based practitioner Tim Taylor. You may remember Tim from his wonderful presentations at Weaving our stories conference 2009 or follow him as ‘imagineinquiry’ on twitter. This is a very accessible book with practical advice on planning and teaching. Usual price around $60 from UK. Available for $55 incl postage within NZ.

To purchase copies for yourself or your school please email 




Mantle makes its mark

Kia Ora colleagues

Here’s a lovely article from Susan Battye – published in the latest edition of Tomorrow’s School’s Today NZ magazine. Susan reports on our recent symposium Te Aho Tapu and shares stories from NZ teachers on how Mantle is making its mark in their classrooms … Thanks Susan!

Dorothy Heathcote’s influence in Aotearoa NZ

Researching for  a chapter I’m writing on the history and development of Mantle of the Expert in NZ, I rediscovered this short piece by Susan Battye from a few years ago. It’s worth sharing again as it gives a bit of context about how Heathcote’s work has impacted on the NZ curriculum and teaching more generally. [She also says nice things about our work at Waikato… which is very cool !] It’s the final sentence that resonates most with me: “Mantle of the Expert is for many teachers, and not just teachers of drama. It is an idea for which the time has come.” So true!       Kia Ora Susan…

Click here for link



New article on Mantle of the Expert

I promised a bit of a flurry of posts this week… here’s the next one. Sharing an article written for NZ teachers using the metaphor of the korowai to help explain Mantle of the Expert. This article has just been published in Drama Research International as part of a commemorative edition on the life and legacy of Dorothy Heathcote. Thanks to the editors for allowing us to reproduce it here. Do check out the other articles in the journal – which can be accessed by clicking here 

DR Article 10 Aitken_ Risking HeuristicsScreen shot 2014-05-14 at 12.24.56 PM


On the importance of not tricking children….

I have had some requests for this article, which was originally published in 2009 but can be hard to find online. It talks about why it is so important to signal the fiction when working in drama.  It’s a long read but hopefully of interest – particularly the later sections on ‘deliberate misframing’ in the classroom. Your comments are welcome.

The article was originally published in the e journal New Zealand Journal of Research in Performing Arts and Education: Nga Mahi a Rehia volume 1, 2009

Borat FINAL copy


Useful books for Drama and restorative practice

Greetings colleagues

At a recent cluster meeting Sue Bleaken (Deputy Principal of Melville Intermediate School) was kind enough to share a list of books she has found particularly useful in planning drama for restorative practice in her school. Sue has provided us with a PDF of this list – attached here. Sincere thanks to Sue for sharing this useful resource.

Contact Sue via the school if you would like more information about her work bringing together drama and restorative practices. Sue also wrote a Master’s thesis on her approach, which can be accessed via the University of Waikato library.

Sue B’s books for drama and restorative practice


Recommended – New drama books

What a good turn out at the cluster meeting last night in Hamilton. Great to see such good numbers. THANKS FOLKS…. Pic at the bottom of this message. Next meeting at Aberdeen school on 17th October – put it in the diary now! We are going to share our best “hook” ideas…..

Meanwhile I promised to post the titles of new drama publications that were launched at the “Heathcote Reconsidered” Conference in London. So – here goes. My apologies – these are not full citations – but should be enough to help you track the books down. All are recommended. It’s exciting to see so many new titles coming out in drama ed!

Juliana Saxton and Monica Prendergast Applied Theatre Intellect Books

Juliana Saxton and Monica Prendergast Applied Drama Intellect Books

Michael Anderson, Julie Dun How Drama Activates Learning: Contemporary Research and Practice

Edmiston, B. (2014).   Transforming Teaching and Learning with Active and Dramatic Approaches: Engaging Students Across the Curriculum.  New York & London: Routledge.  (To be published in August 2013)

Pamela Bowell and Briap Heap Planning Process Drama  (a new revised edition of this book)

Margaret Burke. Gavin Bolton’s Contextual Drama: A road less travelled  (To be published in August 2013)

David Booth, (with Barris & Barton)  This book is not about drama – it’s about new ways to inspire students. 


Danny Braventmar Playing a Part: Drama and Citizenship

J. Neelands Drama IT

Hillary Claire & Cthie Holden The Challenge of teaching Controversial issues (Trentham books)

Dave Sherratt, Melanie Peter Developing play and drama in children with autism spectrum disorders




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Book launch at Te Kore Conference

This new book may be of interest. To be launched at the Drama New Zealand Te Kore Conference on Saturday 27th April.

Published by NZCER, Connecting Curriculum, Linking Learning by Fraser, Aitken and Whyte is a collection of case studies describing Arts-based integration in primary schools. There is a strong emphasis on Mantle of the Expert – as used by teachers new to the approach. There is also a chapter introducing Mantle of the Expert and describing how the core elements of fiction, company, client, commission etc work together to support learning.