I am chuffed to report that since its launch in April, sales of my book have been going really well. NZCER tell me they have almost sold out of the first print run. You can still order a copy from them here.

There’s also an e-book version available for Kindle. It can be purchased on Amazon here.

I also have a small number of the hard copy books available if you’d prefer to buy from me (I’ll even include a friendly message inscribed in the cover!) Cost is $50 payable to the publishers plus $10 payable to me to cover postage. Email mantleoftheexpertnz@gmail.co.nz and I’ll send out to you the same day.

One of the most exciting aspects of our Networks of Expertise funding is the opportunity to expand our informal teacher-teacher Cluster meetings. We now even more of these gatherings held regularly in different regions around Aotearoa – and teachers tell us they are getting LOTS of fresh ideas for their teaching AND enjoyment from meeting like-minded colleagues with a shared passion for Dramatic Inquiry.

Full details of the cluster meetings coming up in term three can be found at THIS LINK (I’m not posting it directly into the message in case details change). The very best way to stay informed about cluster meetings in your region is to get yourself added to the mailing list. So please email YOUR local cluster leaders (addresses are included at the link above) and they’ll be happy to welcome you into the group. If you are keen but can’t see a cluster meeting in your region, please email dramaticinquirynz@gmail.com and we will get one started!

Cluster meetings are always free of charge and everyone is welcome. They are usually held at a local school – or sometimes over zoom. They last about an hour, and include afternoon tea and copies of resources.

Cluster meetings are an awesome opportunity to share stories from the classroom and to pick up some low key PLD in a safe and supportive environment. Topics vary, but to give you an idea – some of the tools to be explored in term 3 include: use of drama elements to give clear instructions, innovative assessment using teacher-in-role, the six dimensions of dramatic imagination, the teacher compass, and using frame distance to ensure safety with sensitive material.

Our first Network of Expertise – funded winter school (Foundations in Mantle of the Expert) was held in Kirikiriroa, Hamilton on 17-18 July. It was wonderful to gather with colleagues from all over the country to explore the core elements of Mantle of the Expert and beginning steps for planning. The weather outside may have been terrible but the energy in the room was fabulous, as was the food. Many thanks to Knighton Normal School and Whakarongo Tauranga, who hosted us in her beautiful classroom space. Thanks also to Vivien Smith who took care of the secondary planning group while I worked with primary teachers.

Comments from participants included:

“I’m excited and ready to get started on my planning. Thanks for a lovely weekend.”

“I feel I’ve now got the confidence to start this journey effectively – thank you!”

“There was a good balance of moving / doing and sitting – moments of drama great for consolidating thinking.”

Plans are already afoot for next year’s Winter School. The goal is to make this an annual event, with the Foundations course offered again in 2022 alongside another one focussed on Teaching in Mantle of the Expert. From 2023 a third course focussed on leadership will also be added. The details are to be confirmed, but it will most likely be held in the middle weekend of the July school holidays – so put the date in your diaries! If you know you’re keen to attend Winter School 2022 it’s not too soon to register interest – just email dramaticinquirynz@gmail.com and ask to be put on the list.

I could not be more proud and excited to make this announcement….

The Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust – formed last year by a hardworking group of volunteers from across primary, secondary and tertiary sectors – has been selected by the Ministry of Education as a Network of Expertise (NEX).

Networks of Expertise funding supports subject associations and other peer-to-peer networks to deliver support for teachers and kaiako. The DI Network Aotearoa Trust is registered as a Network to support learning across curricula and learner pathways a recognition of the way DI can create authentic, engaging, meaningful and embodied teaching and learning experiences across the curriculum and across all sectors of education.

It’s great to know that Drama New Zealand, the subject society for drama is also included as a registered NEX – we will keep working closely with them as well as other organisations and networks.

With recognition from the Ministry of Education, and the significant funding that comes with it, the DI Network will be able to continue to strengthen its existing activities and create new resources to support New Zealand teachers with an interest in dramatic play, drama for learning, process drama, Mantle of the Expert and other DI approaches – with an emphasis on culturally sustaining processes and practice.

Work has already begun, with cluster meetings, workshops, symposia, teacher-teacher support and networking opportunities being planned around the country. Details of these will, of course, be shared on this site as they are finalised. A key objective of NEX funding is to offer professional development at low-cost, or no-cost to teachers, so watch this space!

Gaining NEX status marks an exciting time for education in Aoteaora and a significant turning point in the growth of Dramatic Inquiry in New Zealand. The growth of DI in Aotearoa has been a slow unfurling over many years. It has taken the passion and dedication of many wonderful teachers, mentors, researchers, teacher educators, and school leaders and this moment is a credit to everyone involved. Now many more teachers and kaiako can be supported to join our community – and countless ākongo will have opportunities to collaborate, engage, think with their whole bodies, question, create, explore multiple perspectives, and grapple with complexity as they enjoy learning in imagined worlds.

Ngā mihinui.

Viv Aitken (co-chair, awhi rito)

See also: From 'Underground' to Trust 
The story of Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa

Term one’s Dramatic Inquiry cluster meetings were a great success, with face-to-face gatherings in Hamilton, Auckland, and Wellington – and a rich discussion over zoom between colleagues from secondary settings. As always, the low-key PLD and sharing of practice within these meetings was so valuable. Topics included: Planning in Mantle of the Expert, process dramas and drama conventions, creating drama for learning moments, Dramatic Inquiry and assessment – and a lot more besides. Special thanks to the various hosts. We couldn’t do it without you!

Meetings will be held again in term two, with folk gathering again in Hamilton, Auckland and Wellington PLUS another secondary zoom call AND two more meetings in Whangarei and New Plymouth. It’s great to see how, with teacher support, we can manage get togethers in so many different settings.

All the details for Term 2 cluster meetings can be found here. Please note this google doc will be updated as information is finalised and details are subject to change. You can also check the events calendar on the website for information.

As always, cluster meetings are free of charge and all are welcome.

Planning is underway for a much anticipated event in the Dramatic Inquiry Network’s calendar for 2021. Our first symposium for many years will be held in Gisborne in the October school holidays (8th – 10th October). Past symposia have been amazing events, in which teachers have shared practice and learned from each other. With so many exciting projects happening in classrooms around Aotearoa, we’re thrilled to be able to set up this opportunity for teachers to come together once again and continue the ako within dramatic play, drama for learning, process drama, Mantle of the Expert and the other DI approaches.

The beautiful setting of Whāngārā marae (40 minutes from Gisborne – the setting for the Whale Rider movie) will provide a special space for us to explore what it means to work with DI in the unique cultural context of Aoteaora. A key focus for the gathering will be considering culturally sustaining practice within our teaching and within our processes as a Trust. To this end, we will be asking everyone who attends to stay on the marae and enjoy the complete experience.

The weekend will also include the AGM of the Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust and sessions where we plan for the future activities of the Trust. These are open to anyone interested.

Many thanks to the busy team already working hard to bring this exciting event together. We will be doing all we can to make this a low cost / no cost event for teachers. More information will be shared soon. For now, please put the dates in your diary and please get in touch if you would be interested in presenting on your your practice as part of the symposium.

For expressions of interest or more information, please email dramaticinquirynz@gmail.com and include ‘Symposium’ in the subject line.

Here’s news about an exciting professional development event coming up in Kirikiriroa, Hamilton on the weekend of July 17-18.

To go straight to the registration form, click here

Questions? Get in touch: dramaticinquirynz@gmail.com

Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa is a not-for profit Trust. Any profits from this event will be used for future professional development and networking opportunities.

This new book by Viv Aitken, is available from NZCER from 14th April 2021

Drawing on a decade of classroom practice, research and professional development, the book will be of interest to teachers and researchers around the world. However, it is written specifically with the local education context in mind, with references to the New Zealand curriculum, and familiar metaphors of weaving used throughout.

Viv explains that the book’s title emerged from a classroom conversation:

‘A few years ago I was teaching a Mantle of the Expert experience to a class of 9-year olds. One of the children asked whether what we were doing was real or made up and I replied, “we’re creating a story together using imagination”. The child seemed satisfied with this clarification. Just then another boy in the class spoke up:  “It’s real” he said quietly and emphatically, “in all the ways that matter.” His words capture the depth and complexity of Mantle of the Expert so perfectly I could think of no better title for this book.’

The text is wide ranging, including chapters on the history and development of Mantle of the Expert, the steps required to plan and implement a Mantle of the Expert experience, tools for enhancing teaching, tips and advice for getting started, and a section on why Mantle of the Expert is such a good fit for the goals of twenty-first century education.

Real in all the ways that matter has received very positive comments from reviewers, including this from Prof Brian Edmiston (Ohio State)

“Open this book to discover why and how you can transform your classroom with the Mantle of the Expert approach to dramatic inquiry. The theoretical sections and the descriptions of practice are as carefully created, presented, and engaging as Viv’s masterful teaching. Inquire, savor, and then share this gem with your teaching colleagues.”

Copies of Real in all the ways that matter can be ordered from NZCER at this link. Cost is $55.00 NZ

When we think about teaching in role, or putting participants in role it can be easy to assume that must be done in ‘full role’ – where the person in role moves, walks, talks and responds exactly like someone would in real life. However, that’s only one option. Dorothy Heathcote suggested 33 different ways of bringing someone from the imagined world ‘to life’ in the classroom. Here’s her list, in a colour coded version that was a handout at the 2009 Weaving our Stories Conference (thanks to Allana Taylor for this version). For more explanation of the colour coding, check out this post


The resource is a great way to think creatively about how roles can be represented by the teacher or by participants during drama activities.

For example, imagine you want to explore an event from New Zealand history – such as the chopping down of the flagpole in Kororāreka. You might think “I want to use teacher in role for this”. Now, you could go into full role as Hone Heke (convention 1) but to add a bit more frame distance and artistry, and to show some respect to this culturally significant figure, you might choose one of the more abstract conventions, such as slowly creating in front of the children a drawing of Heke beside the damaged flagpole (convention 9) and using the ‘teacher-in-role’ voice to narrate events from his perspective… “Aue – I had my reasons, and they were good ones…” Another option would be to invite children to close their eyes and ‘listen in’ to account of Heke’s deeds reported next day by one of his followers (convention 25). These are still examples of “teaching in role” but in a more abstract form.

Tim Taylor has recently written a blog post with an excellent guide to Heathcote’s role conventions (which he refers to as the conventions of dramatic action). The guide includes lots of illustrated examples of how the conventions can be used to select roles for the teacher AND participants. Find Tim’s guide here.

New Zealand colleagues may be interested in this event on 13th March. It’s scheduled for UK time but available internationally. Worth staying up all night for…!

Here’s the blurb from the UK site. More details at THIS LINK

Designed for an international audience this event will provide attendees with practical and imaginative ideas to use Mantle of the Expert in the classroom. The emphasis will be on teaching and learning, and how Mantle of the Expert can bring the curriculum alive for children between the ages of 5 and 11.

Attendees can choose from a range of workshops designed to introduce, develop, and expand their understanding of the approach.

Workshop themes will include:

  • Getting started with Mantle of the Expert
  • Intermediate development of Mantle of the Expert
  • Mantle of the Expert for advanced users – the use of framing and frame distance
  • Using Mantle of the Expert: developing a context and what to do if you get stuck!
  • Developing empathy and making ethical choices using Mantle of the Expert
  • The use of questioning techniques and inquiry in Mantle of the Expert
  • Where do your ideas come from? Getting started and finding inspiration.
  • The development of a curriculum of Hope – how can Mantle of the Expert empower children to change the world?
  • Tension, the magic ingredient of Mantle of the Expert
  • Concern and the Continuum of Engagement – making learning matter

Workshop leaders:

Debra Kidd – is an author and teacher who has been working in Education for 26 years across all age groups. She has a doctorate in education and is the author of four books, the latest of which is Curriculum of Hope.

Louise Ryan – is an international educator and Mantle of the Expert coach who has been using Mantle of the Expert in classrooms across the world for the past 5 years.

Tim Taylor – is the author of A Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert, editor of mantleoftheexpert.com, and a lead trainer in the approach.

Luke Abbott – is an internationally renowned expert on the use and development of the Mantle of the Expert. A student of Dorothy Heathcote’s in the 1980s, Luke has been promoting Mantle of the Expert ever since and has taught hundreds of teachers across the world how to use the approach.

Richard Kieran – is the headteacher of Woodrow First School, Redditch UK. Richard introduced Mantle of the Expert eleven years ago and the approach is now used in every classroom. In 2012 Woodrow became a Mantle of the Expert Training School.