If you enjoy listening to / learning from podcasts, how about joining a listening / study group based around the Introduction to Mantle of the Expert podcast series, starting August 29th. It’s free of charge and open to anyone who is interested.

Read on for a bit more context and if you’re keen to be part of the group, send an email to mantleoftheexpertnz@gmail.com and I’ll send through the zoom links.

Background context

In 2021-2 during the second Covid lockdown Tim Taylor (UK) Whakarongo Tauranga (NZ) and I started getting together to record a podcast series An Introduction to Mantle of the Expert. You can read more about the presenters here. This was our second podcast. The previous series Effective Teaching and Learning in Mantle of the Expert was created in 2020 and released to a group of subscribers who paid to be part of a study group.

An Introduction to Mantle of the Expert  was created to align with the Foundations in Mantle of the Expert course at the Mantle of the Expert Winter School 2022/3. The first big idea was to have ten episodes, each based around one of the core elements (whenu) of Mantle of the Expert. The second big idea was to illustrate the discussion with reference to The Wooden Arms; a Mantle of the Expert experience planned and taught by staff at Knighton Normal School and also shared at the Mantle of the Expert Winter School. 

We recorded ten episodes, which I’ve been painstakingly editing over the last two years. This process is still ongoing. To date, episodes 1-5 are completed and episodes 6-10 are still in development. As each episode is completed I upload it to the ‘Buy Me a Coffee’ platform, where listeners can access them and, if they wish, pay a small donation (the price of a coffee – or several coffees) towards the cost of production.

Episodes are around 20-30 minutes long. Sound quality is mixed – but I reckon the quality of content  makes up for this! So far there’s also been a bonus track alongside each main episode, containing material that deviated away from the main topic, but was too good to delete! Each episode has accompanying notes. 

Rationale for the group

While the podcast is available to anyone to access at any time, the Dramatic Inquiry Trust is funding a free study / listening group starting on Tuesday 29th August, to provide:

  • Follow up and deeper learning for Winter School participants
  • Opportunities for ongoing planning support in Mantle of the Expert
  • Opportunities to reflect more deeply and discuss the core elements in more detail
  • A sense of community – get togethers over zoom with like minded teachers around the country
  • Focus and ‘accountability’ – a reason to listen to the next episodes and complete the series in a certain time
  • Opportunities to ask questions and chat live with the presenters and teachers featured in the episodes
  • Incentive for me to get the rest of the episodes edited and uploaded!

Dates and format

All sessions will be one hour long, held over zoom. Note, the times are NZ local time. I’ll be facilitating the sessions and Whakarongo and Tim will be dropping in from time to time as well. We’d love for you to join us.

To enrol, just email mantleoftheexpertnz@gmail.com  and I’ll send you full information and the links.

This is a gentle invitation to listen / study at your own pace and interest level with no obligation and no pressure … if you can’t make it to one of the sessions – no problem. And if you haven’t finished listening to the podcast episodes in a particular week you can still come along, enjoy the chats, and catch up later!

The listening / study group is being offered with the support of Networks of Expertise funding through the Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust.

An Introduction to Mantle of the Expert with Viv Aitken, Tim Taylor and Whakarongo Tauranga

I’m so excited to announce the launch of this new podcast which has been a labour of love for the past two years.

Join me as I indulge in a VERY enjoyable and wide ranging conversation with Tim Taylor and Whakarongo Tauranga about the ten core elements of Mantle of the Expert; how to plan for them, and how they contribute to effective teaching and learning.

Full information about the podcast series, and access to episodes can be found at this link.


We’ve decided make this project available through a ‘pay what you can afford’ approach using the ‘buy me a coffee’ platform. If you like what you hear please share the link widely.

Introduction and Episodes 1-3 (including bonus episodes) are available now. Click the FOLLOW button on “Buy Me A Coffee” and receive info about future episodes as these are published.

Our other podcast series “Effective Teaching in Mantle of the Expert” will also be republished on the platform in due course.

I know a number of teachers in NZ have an interest in Heathcote’s “Commission Model” so I’m reposting this from the UK Mantle of the Expert website about a free event hosted by London Drama coming up next week (Wednesday 30th September) Dorothy Heathcote’s Commission Model of teaching: a discussion led by David Allen. The discussion starts very early NZ time (5am!) but it is free of charge. I’m going to attend (probably in my PJs) as it sounds very interesting… If you want to join me, the enrolment page is here


About this Event

Dorothy Heathcote stated: “I have a dream that has not yet been realized; I would like students, not to learn what their teachers teach them, but to be people who solve problems in the outside world that their teachers bring to them. … This is actually a radical way of learning. I want students to be citizens of the world. The Commission Model brings Mantle of the Expert to the real world.”

The Commission Model may seem, in fact, to be a logical development from Mantle of the Expert. After all, in Mantle, a fictional client is introduced, with a fictional commission. In the Commission Model, there is a real client, and a real commission. But lots of implications follow from this. For one thing: if it is all real, where is the drama?

Dorothy insisted, in fact, that is a drama mode. This may seem paradoxical. The system works, however, through drama “episodes,” and utilises Dorothy’s “conventions” for dramatic action.

The Commission Model occupies, then, a grey area between real and fiction. This is what makes it so interesting, important and revealing in terms of Dorothy’s work as a whole.

This session will be led by David Allen (Midland Actors Theatre). David is currently leading an Erasmus Plus project on the Commission Model, with partners across Europe. The session will introduce participants to the system; provide examples of the system in practice; and highlight some of the practical drama strategies which the system employs.

Information on the Erasmus+ project can be found on the website www.mantlenetwork.com; and the Facebook group, www.facebook.com/groups/commissionmodel.

David Allen is Artistic Director of Midland Actors Theatre. He undertakes regular schools projects with a particular focus on drama and history. He has been team leader on three Erasmus+ Plus KA201 projects, looking at innovation in education: “Mantle of the Expert”; “Breaking Down Barriers” and “The Commission Model.” He has published numerous articles and books on drama including ‘Performing Chekhov’and ‘Stanislavksi for Beginners’.

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: lynne@atc.co.nz

The National Literacy conference was held last week at Rangi Ruru school in Christchurch with the theme of “Arts as a Bridge to Literacy”. As promised, here’s a PDF of slides from Viv’s keynote address with notes to help make sense of the visuals. There are also links you can click to further information.

Many many thanks to the fabulous teachers of Knighton Normal and Hillcrest Normal Schools in Hamilton who contributed clips for the video used during the presentation.

This one is a real blast from the past … a video made in 2008 (woah, more than a decade ago) about IDEA drama group in Hamilton. This group, which ran for over 5 years, was for adults with intellectual disability and was all about exploring stories through process drama. Occasionally these process dramas were developed into informal performances for sharing with the public. This film drops in on the final stages of rehearsing for one of these shows. The folks from Attitude TV who made this documentary focussed on the family story at the start but for me the real value comes later in the video where members of the cast talk about what it means to them to take high status roles in the process drama: As Aaron says, “In real life I’m a trolley collector but in the play I like to be the manager.”

This video gives a pretty thorough biographical account of Dorothy Heathcote’s life and career, including the development of Mantle of the Expert. Thanks to mantleoftheexpert.com for making this available.

Here’s one of the most famous videos ever made of Dorothy Heathcote’s work.

Three Looms Waiting, shot in 1970, was a BBC documentary about Heathcote and shows examples of her methods at that time. While none of the episodes show Mantle of the Expert (as she hadn’t invented it yet) there is lots to learn from watching Heathcote’s work at this period. Particularly stunning is the first episode, where she works with a group of boys from a community home. Heathcote later said she disliked the high status “commandant” role she took here, but the way she handles the group and fosters their ownership of the material is amazing to behold.

Just back from a lovely writing retreat in Taupo with 6 colleagues who previously attended the Mantle summer school. It was a  rich time of conversation, reconnection and affirmation of the huge value of our mahi in drama and dramatic inquiry. Not everyone was writing on mantle-related topics but we all found the focus we needed to progress our various writing projects. For my part, I started the planning chapter for book on Mantle I’m writing for NZCER. As part of this I’ve made a few changes to the ‘prezi’ that I know some of you use for pre-planning. Check out the new version here. There’s nothing radically different but I added a new circle for ‘framing / backstory’ and also changed some of the wording here and there, which I hope makes it easier to use. I love how this tool has evolved and changed with the input of lots of people over time. It’s still evolving … so I’d definitely welcome your thoughts on this version.

A very stimulating part of the weekend was the opportunity to re-watch the 2016 documentary HeArt of the Matter. This is a profound and fascinating film about efforts after World War II to introduce ‘thoroughly Arts-rich and bicultural teaching’ in New Zealand. While not specifically related to Mantle of the Expert there is much here to inspire – particularly the advocacy for playful learning, the TIME given to children to create and express through the Arts, the honouring of Maori culture and the evidence of impacts this had on other learning, particularly literacy. Extracts of this documentary can be seen here https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/heart-of-the-matter-2016  along with links to further information. If you get a chance to watch the whole documentary, it’s definitely worth it!

This video from D4LC (Drama for learning and creativity – a UK-based initiative by Patrice Baldwin) shows classroom teacher Terri English using teacher-in-role to teach maths with her class of new entrants.

While not a full-blown mantle, the video provides a really useful illustration of ‘mantle-esque’ aspects of drama (taking a low status role and asking students for help, introducing a fictional context for learning, using tensions and conventions). A great model lesson to try, especially for student teachers and those taking their first steps into using teacher-in-role.

[Just a couple of things to consider: Terri operates in shadow role and pretends she found a letter in the real world – given my recent post about clear signalling, I’d probably advocate being clearer from the start that Chef Jeff is an imagined character. Also, while the other teachers clearly enjoyed donning their chef outfits, it’s not necessary to hire any special costume to teach in role.]


Thanks to Terri and Patrice for a great resource… we need more like this!