It’s been so rewarding to see the positive responses to this new resource from teachers in Aotearoa and around the world.

They are selling like hot cakes … around 200 copies so far – and that’s before we have officially launched in the UK!

Try This … is not strictly speaking a book about Mantle of the Expert, though quite a few teachers I know are using it to plan the activities within a Mantle. It’s useful for all kinds of Dramatic Inquiry in all kinds of settings.

To support teachers with planning and exploring the keys, Tim and I will be hosting a series of monthly meetings over zoom, looking at the keys one by one. These will start in October. Invitations are going out to everyone who has purchased or ordered a copy of the book by then. So, head to  to order yours and join the fun!



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 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  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.

Te Kura Hōtoke Winter school is something of a highlight in the PLD calendar for the DI community in Aotearoa, with its focus on Mantle of the Expert. This year was the first time we included three course levels in the one event. We were delighted to have Tim Taylor from the UK joining us to lead the Advanced Practitioners group. Tim’s group focussed on deepening their theoretical and practical understandings of Mantle. Whakarongo Tauranga from Knighton School (also our most gracious host) led the Effective Teaching group with an introduction to teaching tools and strategies. And I took the Foundations group through the fundamentals of planning.

All three groups came together for a shared Mantle experience based around the picture book The Wooden Arms by Sarah Johnstone. In a previous post, I’ve shared the original planning around this book as created by KNS staff. The planning is also discussed as part of  the podcast series Introduction to Mantle of the Expert. For Winter school 2023 Tim, Whakarongo and I revisited and reworked the original planning, as shown here. It was a real treat to share the teaching with Whakarongo and Tim and it allowed participants to experience our three very different teaching styles within the one Mantle experience.

Thanks to everyone involved in making Winter School such a success, including the Ministry of Education for NEX funding, the DI Trust for organisation, our hosts at Knighton School for their generous manaakitanga, and to all the participants for investing their time over the holidays. I really valued the opportunity to be spend time with old friends,  connect with new colleagues, and deepen my understanding of Mantle of the Expert. It appears others felt the same. Here are some of the lovely comments we received from participants:

What a special time filled with manaakitanga thank you.

It was exciting to begin to understand the process and how it could change the way I teach in a way that is not only engaging for the students but for myself.

I enjoyed identifying the techniques and strategies being used and thinking more deeply about the “craft” of teaching a Mantle.

From Day one it influenced my perspective on teaching, demonstrating how combining imaginative storytelling with thoughtful questioning can unlock the full potential of the learning process. I am excited to learn how to integrate these new insights into my teaching practice and start on the dramatic inquiry journey.

Gaining the tools and insights into the planning process was invaluable. Planning with the group gave us a range of ideas and a good foundational understanding to move forward.

Learning how to integrate the core values into a mantle was great. It was great to see how the core values fitted into a mantle and seeing how these become a guiding compass that not only drives the teaching but the learning as well.

Participating in the workshop was a transformative experience that deepened my understanding of effective teaching methods and the power of blending fiction and reality in the learning process. As a student teacher, I found this approach to be enlightening, as it offered new perspectives on engaging students.

As I reflect on this workshop, I am inspired to incorporate Dramatic Inquiry into my teaching practice. I believe this method will empower my students to become active learners, enabling them to develop a deeper understanding of various subjects and their practical applications. By immersing them in engaging narratives and encouraging them to question and explore, I hope to nurture their curiosity and passion for learning.

The facilitators were all amazing and each brought their own flavour and expertise, which was lovely.

Wonderful! It was an incredible welcoming, inclusive, friendly, inspiring and supportive PLD experience.

Everything was amazing – as such the atmosphere was warm, inviting and friendly. I look forward to continuing my journey with Mantle of the Expert!

For five weeks over July and the start of August 2023 I had the pleasure of hosting my friend and mentor Tim Taylor on a tour of the North Island of Aotearoa. We visited Whangarei, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Gisborne, Plimmerton and Auckland’s North Shore. We taught in schools, we presented workshops on our new book Try This, and we teamed up with Whakarongo Tauranga as co-facilitators of the DI Trust’s Mantle of the Expert winter school. It was a delight to connect with colleagues from around the country and a privilege to be invited into classrooms. In other posts I’ll share more detail about the content of the workshops some feedback from participants, and news about exciting new PLD opportunities and projects that have grown out of the tour. For now, though, a brief reflection on the experience of working alongside a master teacher.

I learned so much from observing and teaching Tim’s practice. I know all the teachers we worked with felt the same way – the children too. Great teachers open spaces for exploration and meaning-making that imprint in the memory and stay with you long afterwards. And where a great teacher is also a master in Dramatic Inquiry, as Tim is, something even more powerful can happen. It’s to do with the conscious conjuring of the aesthetic through embodiment and the senses; it’s about the paying of deep serious attention; it’s about authenticity and reciprocity; and it’s about sensing connection between what’s happening in the room right now and big human experiences in the past, present and future. It can be hard to put into words, at least in the English language. With my limited understanding of te re Māori I find myself reaching for kupu like ‘wairua’ and ‘ako’ to express these concepts and their transformative potential.

Great teaching is also ephemeral. While people in the room might remember it forever, the moment passes without trace. Sometimes we can capture a flavour of it through sound or visual recording. And sometimes, if the master teacher is generous and reflective, as Tim is, we can invite them to explain and demystify their practice for others to learn from. I’m thrilled that with the support of teachers, parents and tamariki, we were able to take dozens of photos and video clips during our tour. I’m also pleased to report that I asked lots of questions and took lots of notes. Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be working with Tim to craft these into learning stories, videos and other materials to share with you. Here be riches, folks … Watch this space!

Photo by Michelle Hall, Makaraka School, Gisborne

Just a few days to go till I collect my friend, mentor and co-author Tim Taylor from Auckland airport. It’s so exciting to be able to say this after several previous false starts due to Covid. Tim’s coming to teach on the Mantle of the Expert Winter school. He’ll also be joining me for a workshop tour around Te ika a Māui – North Island based on our new teaching resource Try This: Unlocking Learning with imagination.

Try This consists of a selection of forty tried and tested sequences, or ‘keys’ that can be adapted to teach across the curriculum. The keys have been trialled around the world, with great results. Colleagues here in Aotearoa are finding the keys particularly useful for planning with the new Histories curriculum.

Thanks to our generous hosts, we’re offering six Try This workshops – in Whangarei, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Gisborne, Wellington and Auckland. The Hamilton workshop is full but places are still available on the others. We are keen to support Beginner Teachers and Student Teachers to attend  and we know times are tough, so we’re offering places for BTs and Students at half price. If you know anyone who might be keen to take up one of these, please let them know (they can sign up using the standard form and mention the special offer to receive half price).

And if you’ve been waiting for news of the books themselves … they are due to arrive soon – about the same time as Tim! Copies can be pre-ordered at our website or grab one at the workshops. I’ve just received my approval copy and it’s gorgeous … big, hefty, and beautifully designed (thanks to illustrator Virginia, designer Emily and publisher Charlie!) I love looking at it, turning the pages and imagining the planning teachers are going to create with it.

Local history examples in Try This were crafted with input from THEN-Histories of Pāmutana, Virginia Warbrick (Pākeha) and Warren Warbrick (Rangitāne ki Manawatū, Te Arawa), who also provided invaluable cultural guidance.




Have you enrolled for the 2023 Mantle of the Expert Winter School yet? Last year’s participants described the experience as,

‘powerful, eye-opening learning’ …. ‘wonderful and inspiring’ … ‘Exciting and heartening’ … with ‘a strong sense of passion, perspective and purpose.’

This year’s event will be all of those things again. Indeed it will be extra special with three levels on offer: Foundations, Effective Teaching, and Advanced Practice. Whether you’re an absolute beginner to Mantle of the Expert, or an experienced practitioner andWinter School returnee there’s something for everyone. We’re particularly excited to welcome UK-based Tim Taylor to join us as part of the teaching team. Tim is author of Beginner’s Guide to Mantle of the Expert and a long-standing mentor to many in the Dramatic Inquiry community around the world. Tim will be teaching alongside myself and Whakarongo Tauranga. Whakarongo is well known to many in Aotearoa as co-chair Māori of the Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust and an experienced classroom practitioner. We’d love you to join us!


For full details about the event (which is being held at Knighton Normal School in Hamilton from 10-12 July) see the flyer below, then click here to register! 

The cost is very reasonable thanks to support from NEX funding from the Ministry of Education. The fee for two days + introduction / welcome evening is only $120 plus GST. That includes catering and resources.

Winter School is always such a highlight – I love how it provides a bright spot of connection and professional reinvigoration during those colder winter months. This year Tim and I are extending the fun with a road trip of workshops to promote our new book Try This More about that in another post …

Hope to see you in July


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.

What a wonderful occasion … Around 30 kaiako from all over Aotearoa gathered this week at Knighton Normal School in Kirikiriroa Hamilton, for two full days of learning in Mantle of the Expert. The weather was soggy, the setting was beautiful, the wairua and manaaki were incredible, and the ako was mighty.

We began with a shared immersive experience of Mantle of the Expert, using the opening from the Wooden Arms experience that was planned and taught at Knighton two years ago. Then we divided into two groups. The foundation course led by Whakarongo Tauranga and Nicole Antoniadis focussed on identifying the core elements of Mantle of the Expert and exploring how the Wooden Arms plan could support the teaching of migration stories as part of the New Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum. This group also explored the first stages of planning. Meanwhile in the other room, I led the effective teaching course as we dived deep into teaching tools, microplanning, and strategies for critical reflection.

It’s always so humbling to see kaiako prepared to give up their precious non-contact time to come and do professional development. It seemed like everyone participated eagerly and took something away to try: a new plan, a new way of looking at a familiar tool or strategy, a deepened interest in Mantle of the Expert. It was super satisfying.

Huge thanks to Whakarongo, Nicole, Jacki and the rest of the team at Knighton who provided the venue and fed and hosted us so well. Thanks to the principals and school leaders who supported their staff to attend. Thanks to the Dramatic Inquiry Network Aotearoa Trust who ran the event – with support from the Ministry of Education. And last but not least, thanks to everyone who travelled from all over the country to be there.

If you are reading this and attended Winter School, please feel free to share your own reflections below – it would be good to hear other perspectives. If you were one of those who wanted to come but had your plans disrupted by Covid, please know we missed you and felt you with us in spirit!

Plans are already afoot for the next Winter School around the same time next year. We aim to repeat the ‘Foundation’ course and the ‘Effective Teaching tools’ course, as well as adding a third layer focussed on assessment and whole school change. This wonderful event is becoming a tradition and I for one am already looking forward to it.

Now we’re finally coming out Covid restrictions, it’s great to be experiencing face-to-face workshops again. There’s nothing like the buzz of spending time with colleagues at a really practical, fun workshop, and knowing you’ll go away with new ideas and inspiration for teaching.

The 2022 series of four Maker Day workshops from the DI Aotearoa Network (July – Sept) is going to be something rather special.

The presenters are experienced kaiako who use process drama, drama for learning, Mantle of the Expert and play regularly in their practice. And not only are the workshops face to face, they are also run over a full day, with time and materials provided so you can craft the planning and resources you need to teach back in your own setting. You’ll have a creative, hands-on day and you’ll leave with what you need to implement what you’ve learned straight away.

Full promotion materials are still in development. These will be out on the DI website and Facebook Page next week, but here’s a sneak preview including a link to the enrolment form. Cost is just $50 + GST (subsidised by Networks of Expertise funding from the Ministry of Education)

Maker day workshops are being held in a range of locations across Te Ika a Māui: 22nd July (Whangārei), 30th July (Kirikiriroa), 20th August (Whanganui-a-tara) and 10th September (Kirikiriroa).

A moment from the workshop (photo by Vivien Smith)

I really enjoyed co-presenting with Claire Edwards at the Puketāpapa Kahui Ako gathering at Dominion Road school in Auckland recently. The focus of the day was on the new Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum, and Claire and I took the opportunity to model how frame distance could be used to explore a story from local history from a range of perspectives.

Our starting point was a newspaper account of a dramatic event that happened just down the road from the school in 1872. By the end of the half-day workshop everyone was really engaged with the content … so much so, we hardly had time to discuss the way we’d used DI to teach it!

I wrote up the planning for the workshop in detail, with an explanation of each step for participants. And I thought other teachers might be interested too. Hope you find it useful … You could teach the plan as is (the story of the Cyrus Hayley affair is absolutely fascinating as a window into New Zealand society at the time). Or you could adapt the steps to explore a story from your own locality. I hope you’ll leave a comment, or get in touch to let me know what you create.

One thing to notice is how the planning deliberately avoids inviting participants to step into the shoes of historical characters. Strategies and conventions like “hotseating” and “teacher in role” may not be appropriate where real historical figures are involved. Instead, we can use frame distance to take roles as people with different viewpoints on the event. This allows us to explore the way different perspectives on an historic event change the way it is perceived. I’m encouraging all the teachers I work with to consider frame distance when teaching local histories. More on this in future posts…

Please note the curriculum links at the start of the document, including the comments about the importance of mana whenua engagement.

Thanks to Claire Edwards for finding the amazing source material about Cyrus Haley and for co-planning and co-presenting – it was great for the teachers to hear from a colleague about the impact DI has had in your school. Thanks also to Vivien Smith for taking video and photo record of the workshop, to Cat Rowlings for coming across town to attend, to participants for choosing the workshop from so many others they could have selected, and to Mike O’Reilly for his invitation to be part of the day.

As with all planning offered freely on this site, these resources belong to the original authors and are not to be on-sold for profit nor distributed in any other form.