Auckland theatre company has a long history of creating quality theatre for adults and young people. Now it’s developing a brand new programme for young children from years 1-3 called ‘Storyworlds.’ In this approach, children are taken on a creative adventure by actor-teachers, who use a range of dramatic inquiry strategies (including teacher in role, drama conventions, storytelling and significant artefacts) to bring storybooks to life. Children are involved as active participants in the adventure; helping to solve problems and decide the direction for the story to take.

A really exciting thing about the programme is that it is tailored for each school and also involves professional development in dramatic inquiry. Teachers are involved in the planning – which is different for every setting. They are also given opportunities to co-teach in the dramatic inquiry aspects of the programme and are supported to continue to use the strategies and conventions of drama after the project has finished. That’s such a rich and unique model, bringing together expertise in theatre-making and education for the benefit of children and teachers.

Here’s a short video about Storyworlds. If you’d be interested in finding out more or hosting a Storyworlds adventure in your school, please email lynne at Auckland Theatre Company:

These slides are from Renee Downey’s presentation at Drama New Zealand conference in Christchurch, April 14th 2019, with findings from her Masters research. Renee wanted to know whether students from her class (who had experienced 4 years of learning through Mantle of the Expert) felt prepared for inquiry learning at Intermediate. So, she interviewed them, their teachers and another control group of students who had not experienced drama at primary. Findings are presented here, along with quotes from the students.

This research is an important contribution to the field, offering data to assist teachers and school leaders and reassure parents. We really need more research like this looking at long term impacts of dramatic inquiry

Kia Ora Renee … Hope you will write this one up for publication before long!?

These slides – presented at the Drama New Zealand conference in Christchurch on 14th April, 2019 – reveal exciting new findings from a two year research project exploring dramatic inquiry and culturally responsive pedagogy in a Northland primary school.

Here’s a quick guide to what’s inside:

Slides 1-10 provide background information about the school and research team (names are shared with consent)

Slides 11-16 give findings from the teachers’ TLIF inquiry including this gorgeous poster / metaphor encapsulating the teacher’s understandings of culturally responsive teaching within Mantle of the Expert at their school.

Slides 17-20 give findings from data analysed in a larger research project. These include THIRTY FIVE benefits for students’ writing mentioned by teachers, and more than FIFTY other benefits observed in the key competencies. Non-confirming and surprise findings are also listed.

Slide 21 shows the huge list of new things the teachers tried in the 2 years of the project.

Slides 22-24 discuss implications and possibilities for future research as well as listing references.

You are welcome to share this information but please acknowledge the original authors.

We will be writing up findings for publication in a peer reviewed journal shortly.

In 2016-17 A team of teachers at Otaika Valley school in Northland, lead by project leader Renee Downey conducted a really exciting TLIF funded inquiry exploring the use of dramatic inquiry to enhance writing outcomes for their students – including the high number of Māori learners in the school. Professional learning in drama and mantle of the expert was combined with learning about Te Ao Māori and culturally responsive pedagogy, supported by cultural mentors Maia Heteraka (Auckland University) and Matua Charles (Wānanga). Results were impressive and the school has gone on to embed dramatic inquiry across the school and in its curriculum documents.

You can read the final TLIF report here – it’s a credit to the hard work and commitment of Renee and the rest of the team – Deputy principal Heidi Neiddu and classroom teachers Courtney DeBoer and Hayley Alchin. Principal Terry Brock also carried used his sabbatical study leave to learn more about dramatic inquiry – particularly Mantle of the Expert. His report is here. How fantastic for the school to have a leader so keen to learn more and support the work.

Results from a research project run parallel to the TLIF and led by me (Viv Aitken) will be shared with the staff at the school soon, then in conference presentations and papers beginning in 2019.

In 2018 Renee went on to carry out further research at Masters level and these results, too, will be published shortly.

This has been a significant piece of work by the hardworking team of teachers at Otaika Valley, led with skill by Renee with great support from Terry. It was a huge privilege to be part of this mahi – thanks so much to everyone involved.

Miguel Garcia is a beginning teacher based in New Plymouth. He’s embarking on his second Mantle of the Expert this term.

Check out this blog where Miguel and Viv discuss planning and teaching as the adventures unfold with this class. Should be of particular interest to beginners – though more experienced practitioners are also invited to view, comment and offer advice.

Only a handful of posts to read so far, but if you subscribe (see top right corner of blog) you can stay in touch with updates over the final few weeks…

Please note, as yet the blog doesn’t include any photos – these will be added once all the parent’s permission slips are in.

Thanks Miguel for being brave enough to share the ups and downs of this journey!



In 2009 Dorothy Heathcote presented me with a handwritten document entitled “Mantle of the Expert – my current understanding”. This was her keynote for the Weaving our Stories conference held in Hamilton, New Zealand in that year. Her words as she handed me the document were, “I thought you might want to do something with this.”

After some time, I decided the best thing to do was to publish the keynote in a form that would be freely available to everyone. First step was to transcribe it from handwritten to typewritten form. Dianna Elvin generously offered to do this – thanks Dianna – and the full transcript can be found here.

Next, I thought it would be useful to look at the address in ‘bite sized chunks’ and offer commentary and interpretation. I have started this process in an occasional blog series –  you’ll find that here. 

I hope this will be an interesting and useful read whether you are a teacher, a scholars or just an interested passerby. Please join in with any comments, questions and responses…

Ka kite!

In my report from the Heathcote conference I mentioned the digital rolling role project that had been trialled by teachers from a range of countries.

Of particular interest to secondary colleagues, this project is an exciting example of how online spaces can be used for drama collaboration. Sue Davis has now kindly shared her slides on slideshare. Well worth a look.